Ardwick Lime Works

Manchester

Ardwick Lime Works was sited over an outcrop of limestone lying to the east of the river Medlock and north of Ashton Old Road. Access to the works was along Limekiln Lane from Pin Mill Brow. A map of East Manchester for 1848 shows that the lime works was established by this time but there is evidence that limestone was being mined here by the 1790s, particularly for canal construction purposes, and probably earlier than this.

In 1795/96 a moiety of a limestone quarry in Ardwick belonging to the late Thomas Birch was offered for sale and sold.

During the 1790s local canals, such as the Ashton Canal, were under construction and it was said that the lime manufactured in the kilns at Ardwick was suitable for making mortar used in the construction of aqueducts and other works on canals. In water it became as hard and solid as stone and it was in widespread use throughout the country. Initially limestone was raised from the mine using horse gins but it is not known whether this method of winding was ever replaced by steam winding engines†.

The two main shafts were sunk through three seams of limestone in the outcrop. In order of depth these were the Four Feet Mine, Yard Mine and Great Mine. The latter was the thickest seam at 8 feet 4 inches and consequently it was the most important. This was reached at a depth of about 100 yards. From the shafts the seams rose at a gradient of 1:3 in an easterly direction.

Ardwick Lime Works was lastly operated by Messrs William Brocklehurst & Co and a mine plan‡ recorded that on the 22 November 1888 limestone extraction in the Great Mine ceased. Following this the works went into decline and in 1896 the Mine Inspector for the Manchester District, John Gerrard, recorded that the company had just one employee working underground. This implies that the works was probably closed by this time.

The limestone outcrop at Ardwick is embedded in the Upper Coal Measure and an analysis of c.1839 found that it consisted of Calcium carbonate (84%), Magnesium carbonate (2%), Aluminium oxide (4%), Ferrous oxide (5%) and residue (5%). The residue would have contained silica (Silicon dioxide) and other trace elements. This type of limestone, when burnt in a kiln, produces a natural hydraulic lime after slaking with water. It is the presence of silica and other trace elements that causes the hydraulic set of mortar made with it.

† Aitken, John: ‘A Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles Round Manchester’ (John Stockdale, 1793)
‡ Oates? J A: ‘Plan of the Great Mine Workings’, Messrs J Grundy & Sons, Mining Engineers of Radcliffe (Sep 1899)
The proprietor of this mining company was Jesse Grundy (1864-29 January 1938).

Map of 1848 showing the site of Ardwick Lime Works off Limekiln Lane to the east of the river Medlock and north of Ashton Old Road.

Map of 1858 with the limestone outcrop overlaid on it showing its extent and rise to the east at a gradient of 1:3. See Section X1 - X2 on the diagram below.

The lime works had a system of tram roads that connected various features of the complex together. These features are not shown on this map but it is known that they consisted of:

  1. An undetermined number of lime kilns.
  2. The two main shafts and probably a number of abandoned shallow shafts.
  3. Lime Pits. In the context of this lime works these pits were most likely used to slake lime burnt in the kilns in order to produce quicklime used in traditional building methods to make mortar, plaster and limewash. Less likely possibilities are that they referred to:
    1. Small disused quarries where the limestone outcrop was at, or near, the surface.
    2. Abandoned shafts sunk to the seams.
  4. A Pump House used for mine drainage purposes. This was sited at the northernmost extent of the complex where there was also a kiln.

Section of the limestone mine dated 1899, probably after its closure, showing that the easternmost shaft had a horizontal inset tunnel to the Great Mine. The purpose of this was to increase the number of limestone faces that could be worked simultaneously.