No stone is being left unturned in the restoration of an industrial landmark.
Work is well under way to restore Marsden's imposing lime kilns by a team of stone and brick conservation specialists.
Months have been spent researching the original construction of the coastal lime kilns, built in the 1870s as an offshoot industry of the former Whitburn Colliery. When the colliery closed in 1968, the lime kilns stopped operating and then fell into disrepair.
After featuring on English Heritage's 'Buildings at Risk list due to its poor condition, £450,000 is being ploughed into the site's restoration.
Team Force Restoration are now hard at work restoring the kilns, once used to produce quicklime which was used in agriculture to neutralise soil as well as in the steel and chemical industries, to their former glory.
As part of the project, being funded by Historic England and the kilns' owners Owen Pugh Group, the team is reviving an ancient formula for hot lime mortar, paving the way for a new approach to stone restoration. The latest research in the field of stone restoration shows that hot lime can not only replicate historic mortars, but can also contribute to a dryer structure and has better preservation qualities.
Skilled stone masons and craftsmen from Team Force Restoration are repointing and consolidating the ragged, uneven tops of the kilns. They are also conserving walls, protecting features and safeguarding the brick and stonework in strict accordance with the style of the times.
Managing director of Team Force Restoration, Brendan Teasdale, said: “Team Force Restoration is committed to leading the field when it comes to the use of historic mortars and we are re-creating our own 'hot lime' mortars based on the latest studies.
"Test areas are being prepared and hot lime will be used to consolidate areas of random stone walling. The ingredients of the mortars will all differ slightly so as to ascertain the best mix. The sample mortars will be monitored over a period of twelve months and if proven successful this could provide an alternative to the hydraulic lime mortars currently used today where matching mortars for historic purposes is essential.
"In time, hot limes could prove to be essential for masonry conservation in the UK, and as far as I am concerned this is a must for the protection of our built heritage."
Robin Armstrong, group logistics director of the Owen Pugh Group, said: “Marsden Lime Kilns have been a significant feature in South Tyneside’s landscape since the 1870s so we are pleased that the preservation work is stepping up apace.
"Conservation specialists Team Force are highly experienced in the preservation and restoration of historic structures, including work on numerous lime kilns, so we are delighted that they are leading on this project to ensure the long-term future of what is an important reminder of our industrial past. We were delighted that they enlisted Owen Pugh’s earthworks team to undertake the site clearance works.”
Restoration of the kilns is due to be completed by autumn.