The old Parish of Lowick was once the most important limestone burning district of North Northumberland. There were four major limestone quarries to the north of Lowick and at least eight limekilns/limeworks. The Dryburn Limeworks is unique in that its structure is mainly intact and its quarry has been filled in, whereas there is little left of the other limekilns/limeworks but their quarries. Indeed, there used to be six public houses in Lowick for the workers to slake their thirst rather than the lime (old lime worker’s joke!). Currently there are none, but we hope that two will re-open.
Before more of Lowick’s industrial heritage disappears apart from the holes in ground, John Daniels, Chairman of the Lowick Heritage Group, asked me if I would be the ‘Lead Person’ for what has become the ‘Dryburn Limeworks Conservation Project’ (as you may have guessed by now, I foolishly accepted). Thanks to the generous offer of Michael Sutherland, the owner of the Dryburn Limekiln and the land surrounding it, there is now the possibility that this structure will be conserved and made accessible to all.
The main threat to the Limekiln is the vegetation growing about it. This annotated picture was taken earlier this year:
The field to the left of the Dryburn Limeworks and above the Lime Workers’ Cottages used to be part of the quarry before it was used for landfill. The trees and bushes around and inside the limekiln have, in the main, grown since the Millennium and threaten to tear the stonework apart with their roots.
However, merely saving this man-made structure from nature and telling its story and that of the Limeworks industry in Lowick is not enough. The Dry Burn has been anything but dry in recent months and one of the challenges of accessing the Limeworks will be to cross it, possibly twice. Creating a path from the Lime Worker’s Cottages, that will be accessible to all, may well be as difficult as conserving the structure itself.
It’s not going to be a simple project, but the Lowick Heritage Group are passionate about preserving this piece of Lowick’s past.