‘At-risk’ lime kilns heritage site to get £450,000 restoration

Marsden lime kilns
Marsden lime kilns

An at-risk industrial landmark is to enjoy a near half of a million pound renaissance, it has emerged.

The Marsden Lime Kilns site is a ‘scheduled monument of national importance’ – one of only three in the borough of South Tyneside, 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 square kilns, built in the 1870s, produced quicklime which was used in agriculture to neutralise soil.

Now it has emerged that Historic England and the owners of the kilns site, Owen Pugh, are to jointly fund a restoration programme, expected to begin next spring.

The aim is to restore the kilns and attract more visitors to the site.

The project costs are in the region of £450,000, to be shared equally between Historic England and Owen Pugh.

John Dickson, chairman of the Owen Pugh Group which owns Marsden Quarry where the lime kilns are located, said: “Marsden Lime Kilns have been a significant feature in South Tyneside’s landscape since the 1870s and a visible reminder of our industrial past. We are delighted to provide funding, alongside grant aid from Historic England, to ensure the long-term preservation of this important local landmark.”

Carol Pyrah, of Historic England, added: “We are delighted to be able to help save this important local landmark and this work will lead to its removal from the Heritage at Risk register.”

 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: “Owen Pugh will be the main contractor, overseen by a team of conservation specialists, with additional advice being provided by Historic England and officers from South Tyneside Council.

“Work will include making the structure safe by removing a number of dangerous elements and carrying out strengthening works to ensure its survival for the enjoyment of future generations.”

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

When in operation, 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 the 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 ceased to operate.