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Limestone Industry


Lime is a by product of limestone, and the production of lime therefore became prevalent where large deposits of limestone were to be found, which includes much of North West Leicestershire.


Lime was made by heating limestone in a kiln at temperatures over 425 centigrade, which had the effect of burning off carbon dioxide and water, resulting in a fine powdery substance.


The history of burning limestone can be traced back to Roman times in Britain when it was principally use to produce mortar for stone built buildings, which were few and far between at this time.   As stone built building became the norm, its use increased, and it was also used to limewash walls.  It was also recognised as a good soil improver, and from the agrarian revolution of the 18th century its use as a soil conditioner and a means of reducing soil acidity grew enormously, and a vast number of lime kilns were built to supply the demand, often at a purely local level.


From the mid 19th century cement started to supersede lime mixtures as a ‘binder’ in building and by the end of the second world war cement based mortars had completely replaced lime based mortars.  By the late 20th century it was also superseded as a soil improver by other types of commercially available fertiliser.


It is known that by the mid 18th century limestone was being quarried at Barrow Hill near Osgathorpe for the purpose of producing lime and that there were also at least two quarries in Osgathorpe itself.  All probably had kilns on site.  However Barrow Hill and Osgathorpe quarries were thought to have closed in the mid 19th century as a result of the difficulty of transporting the lime beyond the local area and the dominance of larger concerns like Breedon Cloud Hill.  Any remains have largely been reclaimed by nature although the indents where the limestone was quarried can still be seen.

The Bostock family lived and farmed in Osgathorpe during the 1800's and were involved in the limestone burning industry at Cloud Hill and Breedon Quarries.


A much more comprehensive account of limestone burning in North West Leicestershire can be found  at A History of Limestone Burning in NW Leicestershire by Samuel T Stewart.

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