All fired up to save South Tyneside’s historic lime kilns

AT RISK ...Marsden's lime kilns.
AT RISK ...Marsden's lime kilns.

AN at-risk South Tyneside landmark could enjoy a rebirth within months, it has emerged.

The Marsden Lime Kilns site is a scheduled monument of national importance – one of only three in the borough, alongside Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields and St Paul’s Monastery in Jarrow.

But it also features on English Heritage’s Buildings At Risk list due to its poor condition.

The massive structures, essentially large ovens, dating from the 1870s, were an offshoot industry of the former Whitburn Colliery.

The stone of the kilns was used in some notable local buildings, including Whitburn windmill.

Layers of limestone and coal were poured in the top and burnt slowly, and the resulting quicklime would be extracted at the bottom and loaded onto railway wagons.

The quicklime was then carried on railway wagons to the docks at South Shields.

The rail line also brought in coal from the nearby colliery at Whitburn to fire the kilns.

But when the colliery closed in 1968, the lime kilns went with it.

Now South Tyneside Council, along with English Heritage and site owners Owen Pugh, hope to secure funding from English Heritage to restore the kilns to something like their former glory and attract more visitors to the site.

As part of the bid, a survey of the area has been carried out.

It found the kilns were not in as bad condition as originally thought, but a restoration was required.

In a report to next week’s East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum, David Cramond, the council’s corporate director of economic regeneration, says: “Because the kilns are on English Heritage’s risk register, this qualified the owner Owen Pugh for a heritage grant towards a study to identify what needs to be done to secure their repair.

“This study got the seal of approval from English Heritage in March this year, and since then the council’s historic environment officer has held discussions with English Heritage and Owen Pugh, regarding the submission of a larger grant application to carry out works to the lime kilns.

“English Heritage has allocated a case officer, who is helping to advise Owen Pugh.

“A bat survey is being carried out this summer, in advance of a grant application being submitted in September.

“In the meantime, Owen Pugh has appointed its own in-house project manager to start pulling together all the information that English Heritage will require.

“If successful, a project could start on site as early as spring 2014.”

East Shields and Whitburn CAFF meets on Thursday, July 11, from 6pm in St Gregory’s Church at The Nook.