Occupations - Lime Mining
Various limestones can be sought in the carboniferous belt of the
Midland Valley, stretching from Ayrshire, through Lanarkshire and
Stirlingshire, to the Lothians and Fife.
The geological features of limestone can provide important information
of the period from which it was formed, for most are comprised in
origin, of organic remains, such as shell and coral. However, through
metamorphism and recrystallization of the original mineral
constituents, differing qualities of limestone evolve. Most limestone
seams are thin and were in general reached by mining. For economic
purposes the value of limestone depends greatly upon the total quantity
of calcium carbonate contained within the stone.
In Scotland limestone has been quarried and mined for many industries
such as agriculture, building, paper making, stone dusting in coal
mines and iron and steel manufacturers. In agriculture, the addition of
lime to cultivated earth is essential to ensure the satisfactory growth
of crops, as the calcium it contains is a valuable plant nutrient.
Where the soil is deficient in lime, this can be addressed by adding
some form of calcium carbonate, such as, Marl (ground limestone), burnt
lime or slaked (wet) lime. Unfortunately, Marl was not cost effective,
as large quantities were needed to obtain the desired effect with the
soil. However, burnt or slaked lime has twice the strength, and breaks
down to a finer, more applicable substance when added to the soil.
In the building industry lime is used for mortar and plaster and was
produced locally where demand existed. Stonehouse was very much self
sufficient in this respect, with the sandstone quarry at Overwood
supplying not only local demand but providing sandstone for many fine
buildings in Glasgow, such as, the St.Andrew Halls in Barclay Street
(Mitchell Library), the Stock Exchange in Buchanan Street and Charles
Rennie Macintosh’s Herald Building, which has recently been converted
into the ‘Light house’; Scotland’s Centre for architecture, design and
Mixing shale with the correct amount of lime will combine to form the
chemical composition of cement. Lime is also an ingredient in the paper
making industry, however, the quality of the lime content is not of
In some parts of Scotland limestones are used as road stones. Whilst
limestones are neither known for their hardness and toughness;
characteristic of many igneous stones, they have an advantage in other
respects, as they bind more readily with tar and on water bound roads,
where the limestone dust has considerable cementing value.
During Scotland’s former coal mining
industry, vast amounts of ground
limestone (Marl) were used in the coal mines for diluting, or covering
up fine coal dust, which was dangerous and capable of causing coal dust
Around 1850 there were nearly 50 working limestone mines operating in
Lanarkshire, by 1950 however there were none in production. The demise
of the lime mining industry was not the lack of limestone, but the
exhaustion of readily available supplies, coupled with the increasing
cost of production when mining replaced quarrying. The development of
the railway and road transport also became more convenient and cost
effective in obtaining supplies from further afield, thus local lime
burning became redundant.
The Stonehouse seam forms an outcrop of the Carboniferous limestone
series from North-West Glasgow, South-Eastward through East Kilbride to
Lesmahagow, and thereon to Auchenheath, Crossford and Carluke.
Within the parish there exist several visible remains of former
limestone mining works. The main limestone seam can be seen on the Avon
river, 300 metres South of Waukmill, and half a mile further East along
the Fairy Burn next to the Fairy Burn Bridge, on the Stonehouse to
There existed another mine on the North bank of the Avon between
Glassford bridge and Cot castle (Bankhead lime works), as well as
quarries along the opposite bank. The thickness of the limestone here
is four to five feet at the mine, but boring holes in the area have
recorded seams of up to ten feet. Further down the river, about 400
metres North-East of Avonholm House the main limestone seam appears
again, forming an islet in the river.
The oldest records of lime mining in the parish date to the statistical
accounts of 1790 when the Rev. James
Morehead stated “The parish
abounds in lime, which has been much used of late, for the purposes of
farming. It is generally sold in shells, at L.2: 10 to the kiln, and to
the tenants of the proprietors, at L. 15. A kiln contains 100 bolls of
The limestone mine at Cot castle dates back
to at least 1816, as does a
limestone mine to the East of the Yards farm near Couplaw. In 1836 Rev.
Hugh Dewar recorded a statistical account for Stonehouse, where he
stated that “there is an abundance of
lime of the highest quality”.
This was extracted locally and burned using a small seam of coal, mined
solely for the purpose of lime burning. The statistical account of this
year also record that there were 14 lime burners employed for this
task. The census records of Stonehouse states the following men were
employed in lime extraction:
When the limestone mines ceased production is unclear, but the 1861
statistical account of Stonehouse indicate coal was still being mined
principally for the limeworks, though, as shown above, only one miner
is recorded as employed from the parish. Possibly the majority of
employees were located in Glassford, or, this was an indication of the
demise of the limeworks. An account of
Stonehouse in 1904, state the
limekilns were not in use and the 1881 census show no one was employed
from the parish in the production of lime.
Today the remains of two lime kilns can still be viewed on the banks of
the Avon, running under the A71, both of which have been infilled for
the safety of visitors. These are described as, “a pair of single-draw
lime kilns set into a bank, with elliptically arched draw holes and
projecting buttresses”. The kilns can be accessed either by Cot
or by following the river from the Glassford bridge. The kilns are
worth a visit if you are interested in local history and the industrial
development of our village’s past.