Farnaught Lime Kiln is possibly the most ornate and well-designed lime kilns in Ireland. In a period when most lime kilns consisted of an open-topped chamber built into the side of a hill, Farnaght kiln is an architectural exemplar within a model estate demense, concealing the kiln within a well-built T-shaped house.
Lime kilns were one of the commonest structures found in the Irish countryside from the medieval period to the mid-twentieth century. Most lime kilns were normally simple structures dug into rising ground with a charging hole above to load stone and fuel, and a draw-hole below to extract quicklime. Farnaught Lime Kiln is exceptional, concealing a brick-lined continuous draw kiln within a well-built stone house forming part of the model Lough Rynn estate of William Sydney Clements, the 3rd Earl of Leitrim.
The building presents its best face towards the road, showing ashlar masonry and a segmental arch formed with stone voussoirs rising to a slated roof and topped by a circular brick chimney, while in contrast, the sides of the building were more crudely formed fashioned from dressed rubble masonry and simple clamp-fired brick openings. The building contains only three rooms – a covered loading area at the back where fuel and limestone were loaded into the kiln, a vault at ground level where quicklime was extracted, and a warm but unfurnished room above providing basic shelter for the lime-burners during the long days and nights of firing.
To produce the quicklime, limestone was brought up a now-lost ramp from the east to a doorway into the rear part of the building where alternating layers of limestone and fuel were ‘charged’ in the kiln. A fire was lit at the base of the kiln within the barrel-vaulted room, and the charge left to burn until the stone changed into lime. The quicklime was extracted from the draw-hole and loaded onto carts for use as fertilizer and also for building. Lime-burning was considered an ‘unwholesome’ job, requiring hard labour to load and unload the furnace for 1-3 days, enveloped in noxious and potentially fatal fumes with lime dust burning exposed skin. However, the lime produced helped to transform the surrounding landscape, making stony pasture and boggy ground into fertile fields for tillage, pasture, tree plantations and pheasantries as well as producing building mortars, renders and plasters for the construction and decoration of building throughout the Lough Rynn estate.
This project was undertaken on behalf of Leitrim County Council as part of the Border Uplands Project 2014-2015. The kiln was opened to the public in April 2015.