Craven and Murgatroyd Limeworks

Langcliffe, Settle, North Yorkshire BD24, UK
Posted on 2nd June 2016 / 654 Listing verified as genuine
Site Type : Relic
Category : Hoffmann Kiln / Limekiln
Industry Type : Agricultural, Chemical Manufacture
Public or Private Site? : Public Access
Condition : Ruins and Remnants

The Hoffmann here is the best preserved Hoffmann in the country!

The site also includes remains of two other kiln types as well as quarries, transport infrastructure and a wide range of associated features.

The Craven and Murgatroyd Limeworks is a scheduled ancient monument and lies between the Settle-Carlisle railway line and the natural outcrop called Stainforth Scar. At a site known as Langcliffe, it includes remains of two separately operated but immediately adjacent limeworks: the Murgatroyd works and the Craven Lime Company works. It boasts 1 of only 3 Hoffmann kilns that were purpose-built for lime burning left in the UK! The other2 can be found at Minera in North Wales and Llanymynech Limeworks.

The Hoffmann kiln (named after its designer, Friedrich Hoffmann) was a horizontal ring kiln originally developed for brick making, but applied to the lime industry – which it revolutionised by enabling the large scale, continuous, production of lime.

The Murgatroyd and Craven lime works actually have impressive remains of all 3 main kiln types of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as extensive and well-preserved remains of the wider lime works and makes a major contribution to the understanding of the development of the technology and of the industry as a whole!

The Hoffmann kiln at the Craven and Murgatroyd Limeworks was initially built with 16 chambers, but extended to 22 in the late 1890s – when the kiln’s flue system was substantially modified. The kiln roof was removed at the same time and the water-balance hoist system for lifting coal wagons on to the kiln top was also rebuilt to a more efficient design.

Many of the surviving ruins contain a range of internal fittings, which give an insight into the detail of their operation.

The remains at the Craven and Murgatroyd Limeworks include;

  • the awesome Hoffmann kiln,
  • the remains of a twin battery of Spencer 1900-patent steel-clad kilns,
  • remains of a crushing plant,
  • ancillary buildings, such as the site office/manager’s house/workshop,
  • the engine shed,
  • former stables,
  • two inclines,
  • several tramway beds,
  • one tramway tunnel,
  • remains of an incline drum house,
  • a buried network of railway sidings, and
  • two linear rail docks!

There is no evidence of lime working at the site prior to the establishment of the Murgatroyd and Craven works, both of which opened in 1872.

The works established by Thomas Murgatroyd and operated by the North Ribblesdale Limestone and Limeworks Co, employed draw kiln technology to create lime for fluxing purposes. Murgatroyd went bankrupt in 1887 and the lease was taken over by the Craven Lime Company, but the Murgatroyd operations were out of use by 1892.

The Craven Lime Company on the other hand was a far more successful operation. It was established by John Clark, Michael Wilson and Charles H. Charlesworth who had been operating a successful lime works at the nearby Meal Bank Lime Works, since the 1860s.  The first kiln built by Clark and Wilson here was the horizontal ring kiln known as a Hoffmann kiln. This design had revolutionised lime processing by enabling large-scale, continuous production and the first one in the country was theirs , installed at Meal Bank. At Langcliffe they built an even larger version, which incorporated some modifications and refinements.

Work on the kiln commenced in 1872 and by 1873 it was producing lime that was being sent to Bradford on the newly constructed Settle-Carlisle railway.

The kiln is lined with firebricks to withstand the intense heat produced inside. Behind the firebricks is a limestone rubble core, which helped to keep the heat in. In the roof are the small chutes down which crushed coal was dropped to keep the limestone burning. At floor level, there are flue holes in the walls. Air was drawn from the outside under the burning limestone and the smoke went up the central core of the kiln to the chimney. Iron dampers on the roof allowed workers to regulate the draught in the flue system.

The yard outside the kiln had a network of rail tracks which were used to bring coal into the kiln and take the process limestone (now burnt lime) away. South of the kiln was a water balance hoist, used to lift wagons of coal onto the top of the kiln. There was also a huge chimney.

The complicated flue system allowed the heat and speed of the burn around the kiln to be carefully regulated. As one chamber burned, waste heat warmed limestone blocks in the next two or three chambers. Behind the burning zone, two or three chambers were left to cool down before the lime could be shoveled out and loaded onto railway wagons waiting in the sidings beside the kiln.

Limestone was burned continuously in a circuit around the kiln and it took an average of 6 weeks to complete 1 whole circuit!

4 men worked inside one chamber. They packed fist-sized lumps of limestone up to the roof and it could take as much as 5 days to fill a chamber.

At the other end of the process were the ‘drawers’. They were paid a higher wage because their job of emptying (drawing) the kiln was considered to be one of the worst. The burnt lime in the chamber still looked like lumps of stone but because of the chemical changes that took place during the burning the process it became much lighter.

Powered lime often ended up in the men’s clothes and boots, and it stuck to their moist skin causing an itchy rash. The dust could also become airborne and so got into their throats and lungs.

These terrible working conditions helped the demise of Hoffmann kilns because no mechanical method for emptying the chambers was ever used.

Between 1900 and 1907 a pair of Spencer kilns (of a design patented by William Spencer in 1900) were built on the eastern side of the railway sidings. These vertical kilns operated in tandem with the Hoffmann kiln.

The quarry stopped working during the General Strike in 1926, although the Hoffmann kiln remained lit. The Hoffmann kiln ceased production 5 years later, in 1931. The vertical Spencer kilns were decommissioned in 1927.

The quarry was reopened in 1937 and the Hoffmann kiln operated for a short while again between 1938 and 1939.

During World War II the Hoffmann kiln was used as a store for chemicals associated with explosives!

In 1939 the assets of the Craven Lime Company were taken over by Settle Limes Ltd who continued to work the quarry for a while but ceased operations, using the quarry floor as a stocking ground for stone quarried from another of the company’s quarries at Helwith Bridge.

In 1951, arrangements had been made to ceremoniously demolish the chimney, but it came down of its own accord the day before with no one there to see it.

Sadly, since the late 1960s the site was used by the council as a rubbish tip, but preservation of the important works has ensued since. Despite the years, the lime works at Langcliffe survive extremely well!

You can download the Langcliffe Hoffmann Limekiln Factsheet by Craven Museum – HERE!



Langcliffe, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24 9NU

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