for early lime-burning
| From Roman
times until probably well into the 17th century, the main demand
for lime was for building mortar, limewash, lime plaster or mixed
with clay as a binder. However, apart from prestige structures such
as churches, castles and bridges, most buildings would not have been
of stone but of timber or wattle, reeds, and thatch, and coated or
infilled with various combinations of clay and lime.
From the mid 17th century, lime began to be used as a soil conditioner
and a means of reducing soil acidity. To supply the lime, several
hundred small limekilns sprang up across Mendip, most in the hundred
years to 1875. Over 70 have been identified in Priddy parish alone.
The vast majority of these limekilns were small, often seasonal,
and in many cases serving a single farmer's needs or at most, a hamlet
or village. They were built where limestone occurs adjacent to lime-poor rocks such as the Portishead Formation (Old Red Sandstone),
or where there was a thick cover of acidic, loess-rich, clay soil
overlying the limestone.
|| Industrial kilns serving
a commercial market did not really develop until after about 1870
when larger operations were established by about 1900 in Vallis Vale
near Frome, Vobster, Sandford Hill, near Winscombe and Gurney Slade
(Binegar). The East Mendip kilns had the advantage of local coal
supplies. Contrary to some accounts cement was never produced in
Mendip on any commercial scale.
By the 1920s, the lime industry was largely restricted to Callow
Hill (Shipham) and Gurney Slade. By the late 1960s, the industry
was almost dead, Portland cement having more or less superseded lime
as building mortar. However in 1974, an entirely new technically
refined lime plant was commissioned at Batts Coombe Quarry near Cheddar,
to supply the South Wales steel industry.