Forgotten Industry on the Bannockburn

by Robert Aitken 8th March 2008

The Bannock Burn arises north of Earl's Hill and falls roughly southeast to meet the Cringate road. From this 1000 foot vantage point on a summers day, looking down past the tinkling stream, you can see the heather moor land, the forests, the crags high above the shimmering water of North Third and can only think "what a perfect landscape". Hidden in that landscape is the remains of the forgotten industry of lime burning. Go down the burn half a mile to its junction with a small stream from the west and you are now at Swallowhaugh Quarry, limestone workings extending a mile along both banks.

The quarry faces are hidden by spoil and later collapse. Among the spoil are around forty lime clamps built as simple stone structures. Leaving the quarry we reach the road and the Bannock turns north then east. At the foot of the crags several kilns can be seen, one 22 feet in diameter and 6 foot high, other structures of varying sizes are nearby. Further downstream we come to Craigend Lime Works, a bank of kilns with front draw arches and high tunnel-mouths. Further lime works can be seen at Murrayshall, similar to Craigend, forming a long bank of kilns.

At its height in the 18th and 19th century at Craigend and Murrrayshall the lime industry would produce one ton of quicklime (calcium oxide) for every two tons of rock burned. Ten to fifteen tons of lime was needed for each two to five acres of field and as most of Stirling was under cultivation as well as the demand for mortar these kilns were in use for most of the year. In spring and summer they would burn day and night. Part payment for lime burners was a quart of beer, thirsty work!

Quick lime was a dangerous product, it could cause severe burns and if it entered the eyes blindness would often be the result. Asphyxiation was also a real hazard for the lime burners. In winter vagrants would seek the warmth of the kilns, but some fell victim to the fumes and others actually fell into the kiln itself. Adding water produces slaked lime (calcium hydroxide). The further addition of sand forms a superior mortar for building purposes. It was common practise for farmers to load lump lime onto carts to take directly to the fields, dump it in piles then cover it with soil to allow it to slake then later spread the powder, sometimes the lime would get wet prematurely and the subsequent reaction would set the cart on fire.

Despite the problems, lime burning on the Bannock helped to build Stirling in all senses of the word. So if you are lucky enough to pass through or look on that landscape spare a moment to remember the people who worked here.

It is understood that some locals refer to the Bannockburn upstream of the North Third reservoir as the Swallowhaugh or Swallowhall.

We would be happy to hear from anyone from Bannockburn or further afield who has knowledge of these place names or of lime burning in this area of the Bannock.

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