The Hoffman Kiln

If you fancy a little bit of industrial history, there’s a treat for you very close to Layhead.  Just a short drive away (approximately 5 miles) on the border of the village of Langcliffe stands the Hoffmann Kiln, which was once the source of a key local industry.

Built in 1823 this giant lime kiln is now dormant, but is a huge reminder of the industrial past of the area.

The Hoffmann Continuous kiln had been patented in 1858 by its German inventor Friedrich Hoffmann. The version built at Langcliffe had 22 individual burning chambers. Langcliffe’s Hoffmann kiln is unique to Britain; most others of this kind that once existed have either been demolished or have simply crumbled away.

The kiln which processed limestone into burnt lime was bought by many different industries. Farmers who didn’t have limestone on their land or couldn’t burn it themselves, used lime on their fields to correct the soil acidity, and therefore help crops to grow. Many local building companies used lime in their mortar. Lime was also used in local industries such as tanning (leather making), textiles and paper making.

Working at the kiln was hard labour.  There were four men who worked inside one chamber. They packed fist sized lumps of limestone up to the roof, which could take 5 days to fill.

At the other end of the process men worked as ‘drawers’.  These men had to break up the lime with picks then remove the pieces with shovels and forks. This work was hot and dangerous as the kiln would still be hot when the men entered, not to mention the effects of lime dust on the men’s skin and lungs.

The kiln closed down permanently in 1939 due to competition from elsewhere and a downturn in sales.

You can visit the Hoffman Kiln and wander around it, mesmerised by its huge scale and admiring the bravery of the men who worked there.

Source of information: Craven Museum & Gallery



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