Aisholt Lime Kiln

A project to preserve an historic lime kiln located at Aisholt in the Quantock Hills, has recently been completed. Robert White, of Durborough Farm and brother-in-law, Peter Baker, have been working on the preservation project over the last eighteen months, along with expert stone conservator Paul Quinn leading the masonry repairs. Bob Croft from the South West Heritage Trust provided guidance as to the best way to go about conserving the structure. Repairs to the masonry were made using traditional lime mortar mixed up to particular specifications and rebuilding done using the fallen stone on site or found nearby. The lime kiln has been redundant for the last hundred years and left abandoned. Over the years vegetation had invaded the site obscuring it from sight and tree roots had caused much damage to the masonry structure.

The project has involved clearing the invasive vegetation, repairing the masonry and creating a public access area for visitors to view and learn about the lime kiln and its role in the local industrial heritage. Information interpretation boards have been installed and a wooden bench for people to sit at the site to enjoy the surrounding landscape.

The project was undertaken within the ‘Farming in Protected Landscape Programme’, a scheme created by DEFRA as part of the Government’s Agricultural Transition Plan. This scheme allows farmers and land managers to work with the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team to provide benefits for nature, climate, people and places.

Lime kilns were once very important local industrial structures for manufacturing lime for both the building industry and agriculture. Their purpose was to strongly heat locally quarried limestone rock so converting it to quick lime, which could then be slaked by adding water to make slaked lime. This would then be used to make mortar, white wash paint, treat animal hides and spread on the land to neutralise acidic soil, improving fertility.

The lime kiln dates back to at least the mid 17th century. There is a document in the Somerset Records Office, dated 1652 recording the granting of a licence, “ to Elisabeth Elliott, alias Crouch widow, to continue her lime kiln in Aisholt for three years from the date here of (Lady Day) paying yearly all the same, always at Michaelmas 10 shillings”.

There is the possibility that the kiln may date back further than this as Aisholt church, a little way down the road, was built in the twelfth century. Stone was used for its construction which may have been acquired from the now dis-used quarry near the lime kiln site and much mortar would have been needed to cement the stones together. Logic would suggest a lime kiln would have been needed nearby to produce the lime needed to make the mortar. 

The preserved lime kiln is easily found being roadside in Aisholt and should provide an interesting site to visit for those out and about exploring the Quantock Hills. There are two interpretation boards at the site explaining about the preservation project and how the lime kiln worked. A water colour painting, by local artist Clare DuVergier, is included that portrays an imagined scene of activity at the lime kiln when it was working. A third display board has some mounted material fragments of interest, found on the site during preservation work.

Although the lime kiln is on private land, a viewing area around the kiln has been created. Janet White, the owner, has granted free public access to this area and welcomes locals and folk from further afield, to visit the site to view and learn about this important historic monument of industrial heritage in our locality.