A hidden gem of industrial history

Well, I admit it, I got a bit obsessed. With a Hoffmann kiln out of all things. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a special kind of kiln (a type of “oven” that produces very high temperatures) that was used for the production of bricks or, in this case, for lime-burning. It’s basically THE super kiln (and invented by a German; hey, we are known for being efficient).

It had all started with several visits to the Minera Limeworks, not far from where I live, where several other kilns can still be seen. When I did a bit of research and read about it, I came across the Hoffmann kiln, its history and the fact that there are only a few left in the British Isles. I still have no idea where the remains in Minera are (I probably just went right past them) but I wanted to see one and so visited the Llnymynech Heritage Area near Oswestry one day, where they have a marvellous example. And what a splendid day it turned out to be.

Llanymynech stables

The limeworks stables – horses, mules and donkeys pulled trucks of stone on tramways around the quarries and limeworks

Reconstructed tramway

Reconstructed tramway

Llanymynech kiln

Chimney and (conventional) kilns

Llanymynech is literally on the border between Powys, Wales and Shropshire, England with the border running along its main street and even right trough a now closed pub. The car park of the heritage site is quite easy to miss, I had to discover, but I met some very helpful people who could even provide me with a leaflet of the site.

Now, I am not a very big fan of mining though if you live here in North Wales you can’t miss it (and if they name a pub “The Lime Kiln” it tells you a lot about the area), but this heritage site is really interesting and very well made. I found my Hoffmann kiln (well, it’s hard to miss as it is quite big) and could even step inside.

Llanymynech Hoffmann Kiln

The object of my obsession – the Hoffmann kiln

Llanymynech Hoffmann Kiln2

You really get a sense of scale when you walk inside the Hoffmann kiln

Sculptures by David Howorth of lime workers taking a break

Sculptures by David Howorth of lime workers taking a break

And all the other processes from the quarries to the transport of the final product were explained in an easy to understand and visual way. If you walk up the quite steep path to the quarries – there are two, an English and Welsh quarry side by side, linked by a now blocked tunnel – you get some beautiful views into Shropshire as well. And in my case heavy rain, but never mind.

Llanymynech Tally House2

The Tally House – there was a weighbridge in front of the house, so each truck of limestone from the quarries could be weighed and directed to the kilns

Pushing an imaginary truck

Pushing an imaginary truck

Llanymynech English Brake Drum House

The Brake Drum House on the English side of the quarry. A cable around the brake drum controlled the descent of the heavy stone-filled trucks, while at the other end of the cable the empties were hauled back up the hill

Llanymynech English Quarry

The English quarry – now a beautiful walk

Llanymynech English Quarry2

The sculpture are spread throughout the whole heritage site and help explaining the work that was carried out

Llanymynech English Quarry3

There are lime kilns everywhere, sometimes just visible as deep holes in the ground

Llanymynech Welsh Quarry

The Welsh quarry with the brake drum house to the left

Llanymynech Welsh Quarry2

Welsh side of the tunnel linking the two quarries

Llanymynech Golf Course3

You get some spectacular views up there…

Llanymynech Golf Course2

…and you can find out what the weather has in store for you. For me it was rain.

Llanymynech golf course

There is a golf course on top of the cliffs. Why is it they are always in the nicest locations?

I can only say, I was positively surprised by this hidden gem, so if you’re ever in the area visit the Llanymynech Heritage Site, it is a bit educational but you get some beautiful walks too.

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