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Friday, 26 August 2011

Limestone and Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is world-famous for its limestone cliffs, which have yielded countless fossils of ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and other ancient creatures. However, the name of the town comes from the local river, the Lim... which simply means "river" in the local dialect and has no connection with the mineral lime!

The picture on the left shows the junction of the Blue Lias (above) and White Lias (below). Both Blue Lias and White Lias were quarried in Lyme Regis up until the time of the First World War, and were widely used for building work in the town. Both types of stone were used for kerbs and paving: most of the paving in Broad Street is Blue Lias, but Pound Street has a long run of White Lias on its northern side. Lyme’s old sea walls around the Museum and Theatre were built of Blue Lias limestone, but they suffered from severe erosion  until the new sea walls were built in front of them in the 1990s.

Limestone had other applications besides being used as building stone. It was an important ingredient in cement, which was manufactured in the Cement Works on Monmouth Beach in the latter half of the 19th century. It was also used for making whitewash to waterproof walls, in agriculture to improve the quality of soil, and as "quicklime" to speed up the decay of dead animals!

Lime was burnt in lime-kilns such as the one shown on the right, which can still be seen in Uplyme (appropriately enough, in Lime Kiln Lane). The ground level is much higher than it used to be, so the fire grate is now below ground level. Coal and limestone were fed into the kiln from above; lime was drawn out above the fire grate.

In 1842, an inhabitant of nearby Charmouth found a novel use for a lime kiln which he owned. He wanted to vote in the Parliamentary election for Lyme Regis Constituency, but in those days only people who owned property in excess of a certain value were allowed to cast a vote. Since this individual's most valuable asset was his lime-kiln, he bribed a surveyor to value it above the threshold! He was allowed to vote, but the Parliamentary Select Committee (not being quite sure what a lime kiln was) came to investigate... and when they saw what it was his vote was struck off!

If you would like to know more about Lyme's lime industry, take a look at Richard Bull's research papers on Industrial Lyme -- from which all the above information comes.

1 comment:

Stacey Lang said...

Pretty cool place to be. On the other hand, I have this landscape design ideas using Limestone remnants which for me was a pretty simple project. My thoughts anyway - my husband didn't necessarily see it that way. I did pick out the stone, haul concrete bags, mix it and cut the rocks so they fit. Angle grinder with a diamond blade works awesome! ;-)