Lime kilns at Betchworth Quarry


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mole Valley (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 20746 51395, TQ 20773 51491, TQ 20788 51295, TQ 20803 51401

Reasons for Designation

Limestone or chalk has been the basic ingredient for lime mortar from at least Roman times. Since the medieval period, lime has also been used as agricultural fertiliser and, since the early 19th century, widely used in a variety of other industries: as a flux in blast furnaces, in the production of gas and oil, and in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries. The lime industry is defined as the processes of preparing and producing lime by burning and slaking. The basic raw material for producing lime is limestone or chalk: when burnt at high temperature (roasted or calcined), these rocks release carbon dioxide, leaving `quicklime' which, by chemical reaction when mixed with water (`slaking'), can be turned into a stable powder - lime. Lime burning sites varied in scale from individual small lime kilns adjacent to a quarry, to large-scale works designed to operate commercially for an extended market and often associated with long distance water or rail transport. Lime burning as an industry displays well-developed regional characteristics, borne out by the regional styles of East Anglia, West Gloucestershire or Derbyshire. The form of kilns used for lime burning evolved throughout the history of the industry, from small intermittent clamp and flare kilns, to large continuously fired draw kilns that could satisfy increased demand from urban development, industrial growth and agricultural improvement. Small-scale rural lime production continued in the later 19th and 20th centuries, but this period of the industry is mainly characterised by large-scale production and the transfer of technologies from the cement and other industries. The demand for mortars grew steadily during the 19th and 20th centuries. The successful production of mortars made with artificial cement represented an economic challenge to lime production and gradually replaced the use of lime mortars in major construction and engineering projects. From a highly selective sample made at national level, around 200 lime industry sites have been defined as being of national importance. These have been defined to represent the industry's chronological depth, technological breadth and regional diversity.

The standing remains of the lime kilns at Betchworth Quarry survive in remarkably good condition, representing the rare survival of a wide variety of kiln types at one site. The flare kilns in the eastern battery are exceptionally well-preserved examples of industrial-scale flare kilns, while the later Dietzsch and Smidth kilns are unique survivals in Great Britain of kilns of those types. Their structures and fittings, together with the artefactual remains preserved within them, demonstrate the technological development of the lime burning industry at this site over a period of over a century. Alterations to the southern battery in the 20th century have resulted in the rare preservation of the remains of one of the earliest known industrial-scale hydrating plants, together with a separate-feed kiln of which very few examples are known to survive. As a result of detailed documentary research, all of these developments are quite well understood. Limited excavation of the kiln contents has revealed a high level of preservation for kiln furniture and other artefacts, while the burial of the two Hoffman kilns beneath later landfill will have ensured the protection of these remains relatively intact. The standing lime kilns are prominent landscape features which, located adjacent to the North Downs Way, have the potential to serve as an important amenity and educational resource.


The monument includes a group of lime kilns at Betchworth Quarry, situated in the Betchworth Hills on the south side of the North Downs. The standing and buried remains of the lime kilns represent part of Betchworth Lime Works, operated by the Dorking Greystone Lime Company from 1865 to 1959. Lime burning ceased at the site in the 1970s. The lime kilns date from the late 19th century and include the buried remains of two Hoffman kilns (built 1865 and 1867), the standing remains of two batteries of flare kilns (1867 and 1872) with later Dietzsch kilns (1887 and 1897), and a Smidth kiln of about 1901, also still standing. All of the standing lime kilns are Listed Buildings Grade II. The remains of other buildings associated with the lime works, including a lime grinding building and engineering works, are not considered to be appropriately protected by scheduling and are therefore not included in the scheduled area. The lime kilns are in four separate areas of protection. In the first area, at the southern end of the site, is a battery of six flare kilns aligned approximately east-west, built in about 1867. The kilns are arranged in three pairs with an access tunnel serving each pair, opening onto a railway platform on the south side where the quicklime was loaded at a standard-gauge siding linked to the main Reigate-Reading line. On the north side of the battery is a raised platform by which chalk was brought to the kilns by narrow-gauge railway from the quarries to the north. In 1887 the southern battery's westernmost kiln (no.1) was rebuilt to create a pair of Dietzsch kilns, one each side of the earlier flare-kiln chamber, which was adapted to serve as a lime discharge area. Ten years later another pair of Dietzsch kilns was built at kiln no.3. Each pair of Dietzsch kilns has a single brick tower enclosing two chimneys, one from each kiln. Chalk was introduced into the chimneys at the upper level, where it was pre-heated by gases rising from the kiln chambers below. At the beginning of the 20th century a gantry was erected between the two towers and chalk was delivered to the upper level by an aerial ropeway; the remains of this gantry are still evident. Fuel was fed in at the bottom of the pre-heating zone, i.e. at the shoulder of the tower, where corrugated iron shelters provided cover for fuelling; parts of these shelters also survive. The Dietzsch kilns went out of use in 1934. The eastern half of the southern battery was altered in 1924 to house a hydrator plant. The upper parts of kilns 4, 5 and 6 were demolished and the lower parts linked together with their access tunnels to create a basement for the plant. Although the upper parts of the plant have been removed since its closure in 1960, parts of the plant structure are still visible in kilns 4 and 5, together with some of the fixtures and fittings. Finally, kiln 2 was adapted in 1938 as a separate-feed kiln; the pulley-wheels and chain for operating the lifting door are still evident. The second area of protection includes the eastern battery at Betchworth Quarry, which is a rectangular building of brick and stone construction aligned approximately north-south. It contains six kilns, originally built about 1872 as flare kilns, arranged like the southern battery in three pairs with a central access tunnel for each pair. Here the access tunnels opened onto the western side of the battery where a lean-to provided shelter for the loading of quicklime at the adjacent railway siding. During the 1920s and 1930s the kilns were progressively rebuilt as continuous-burning kilns of the Brockham-patent type, and the access tunnels blocked up. While the northernmost kiln survives as a Brockham-patent kiln, the remaining five were rebuilt in the 1950s-60s as standard draw kilns. One of the kiln pots survives to its full height, including the remains of a metal hopper through which the chalk was fed into the kiln. On the eastern side of the battery is a raised platform on which the chalk was delivered by narrow-gauge railway from the adjacent quarry. The eastern battery remained in use until the 1960s. The third area of protection is situated to the west of the eastern battery, where a single brick tower represents a Smidth kiln of about 1901. This lime kiln was an experimental modification of the Dietzsch kiln, comprising two chimneys encased in a single tower, but serving only one firing chamber. Internal inspection of the kiln has demonstrated that it was never fired. Above the firing chamber is an arched opening running through the full width of the tower; this was the firing-floor from which fuel was to be introduced directly into the chamber below. At the base of the tower, now partly buried, are two archways through which the quicklime was to be drawn off. The floor level of the kiln is thought to be about 4m-5m below the modern ground surface. The Smidth kiln overlies the buried remains of an earlier lime kiln built in 1867; the remains of a similar buried lime kiln, built in 1865, lie in a fourth protected area approximately 100m to the north east. These are the remains of the first two Hoffman kilns to be built in Britain, adapted here for lime burning from an earlier German patent for brick making. The Hoffman kiln was a `ring' kiln in which chalk was burned in a series of adjoining chambers arranged in a circle. The base of the kiln was originally below ground level, and, following later landfill activity in both areas, the remains of the kilns are now buried even more deeply.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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