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Sedgwick – Webster Road Lime Kiln

In 2009 it came to the attention of the Douro-Dummer Historical Committee that an old lime kiln was located on the south side of Webster Road, just west of the corner with County Road 40. Further investigation was done by talking to some of the neighbours and referring to the historical book, Origins – The History of Dummer Township written by Jean Murray Cole in 1993.

The lime kiln was constructed of local limestone by the Sedgwick brothers, Robert, Ralph and William, in the 1880’s on their farm for the main purpose of providing slake lime for the tannery in Hastings. It was used until the late1920’s until becoming commercially non-viable. The kiln is approximately 12ft. in diameter with a 7ft. opening. It was built into the side of a small ridge and stands about 15ft. high from the base to the top.

This kiln by its construction and use is known generically as a periodic lime kiln. As this type was developed in the 19th Century it is also known as a Victorian Lime Kiln. The use of the lime kiln is to heat limestone rocks to a high enough temperature, 1000ºF, that drives out carbon dioxide and leaves calcium oxide, quick lime. Quicklime has a variety of usages, including building mortar, floor construction, a stabilizer, agricultural land treatment and hide tanning for the garment industry.

Quicklime, however, is unstable and hazardous to handle. It releases much heat when it contacts waters. Therefore, water was usually added to the quicklime right away in a process called slackening to create calcium-hydroxide, a more stable and useful material.

The kiln was loaded from the top alternately with limestone and hardwood (used as a fuel) until it was filled. The fire was started through a small opening at the bottom from which the finished product was extracted. The difficulty was achieving the required temperature, but not higher as the rocks would become burnt and useless. The heat was controlled by regulating the amount of air flow through the bottom opening. The process continued from several hours up to a few days depending on the size of the kiln until all the wood fuel was burnt and the results achieved. The quicklime was then extracted through the bottom opening by shovel and loaded onto wagons for transport to Hastings.

The Sedgwick Lime Kiln is one of the finest examples of an agricultural kiln used for commercial purposes in Ontario. There are only a few intact lime kilns remaining in Ontario. In fact, there were several lime kilns located locally, but all the others are lost. Examples are found in Cranbrook, the Flood Lime Kiln in Ottawa, Mill Pond Conservation Area near Portland, and in Limehouse, Ontario. The latter is a restored industrial scale lime kiln.

Much historic value is placed on these kilns because they were commonly used by farmers and businessmen to provide a useful product for local needs over one hundred years ago. The vast majority of lime kilns were allowed to deteriorate or they were ploughed under when no longer useful. Douro-Dummer is fortunate to have a fully intact agricultural lime kiln that is easily accessible by everyone.

Because of the lime kiln’s historic importance, the Township of Douro-Dummer purchased a 70ft. x 175ft. section of land, from Gary and Christina Armstrong earlier this year in which the lime kiln is located. The intent is to fully restore the kiln for people to view and make the property into a township park. It is hoped that the community will come together in the next year to begin converting this beautiful example of our rural history into a historic site in which we may be all proud.