Blantyre Limepits


2009-lime-pit-greenhall-blantyre wmLimepits – During the 1870’s coal mining was a fledgling and growing business in Blantyre. Exploratory work to determine the new coal seams often uncovered other interesting minerals that could be commercially mined. This included iron and lime. Dotted all over the High Blantyre area of Crossbasket, Basket, Calderwood and Auchentibber are small crater like holes a few metres in diameter that were once lime pits.

Lime was excavated and sold on for it’s use in mortars and cements and the iron ore, useful for producing iron girders, (well preceding steel, and at the peak of the industrial age, used extensively for building trains, railway tracks, bridges and ships).

The pits were often known as Bell pits, due to the shape of an inverted bell as pictured here near Greenhall in 2009 by Jim Brown. In times of heavy rainfall, they were prone to flooding and certainly now they are no longer in use, have become deep, water logged pools. With rainfall, the water can often become milky, a sign of the lime present in the pit. They also attract frogs as a suitable spawning area and can be swamped by tadpoles.

The function of the sinkholes were to provide either access or ventilation shafts down a considerable depth to a more substantial mine. They also offered an alternative method of egress usually vertical.

Today at ground level, these dangerous pits are often partially filled in or overgrown with the murky water appearing white due to the lime content. During the 1960’s and 1970’s rumours were abound in Blantyre that these pits were the craters of “small bombs” dropped from World War 2 German planes trying to hit the grand house at Crossbasket, but this is absolutely not true.

The Agricultural revolution of the 18th Century created an enormous demand for lime. The substance reduced the acidity of the soil and made a good fertiliser. Before it could be used in the soil, the lime had to be be burned in kilns, the largest of which is still intact in High Blantyre at Auchentibber.

Lime was later used in cement and mortar, which saw it mined to exhaustion around Blantyre in the 19th Century. Mr Robert Grieg employed men in ‘Russell’s Lime Works’ at Auchintibber in 1866.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul D Veverka (c) 2016

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Jim Cochrane We were always told to avoid going anywhere near these as Children when we were off exploring.
The Blantyre Project i bet some of them are hugely deep!
Chris Ladds Bell pits are low effort access to near surface lime and not the work of extensive firms. Although they bear resemblance to flooded shaft openings at the surface, the two should not be confused. Case in point is the 21 bell pits side by side at Four Oaks in Calderglen. These are 18th century pits from earlier endeavours. The boom in the 1800s was due to a waterproof type of cementstone being found at Mauchlinehole, and from then the Roman Cement Industry took off. It will be part of my Hermitage tour. This seam was known as the Calderwood seam as it was first found at Calderwood before being exploited further afield. Most of the largest quarries were mid to late 18th century and mostly undocumented so the earlier boom took off big time here in the 1700s, but as you say that was more industrial after draining and peat removal had occured. The boom was so big it led to many of the roads still around the district today.

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