FISHERIES FIELD KILN
The Fisheries Field Kiln is a large lime kiln that was built around 1820 and is located on the grounds of the University of Galway (NUIG). A lime kiln is a structure where limestone (calcium carbonate) is heated to produce quicklime (calcium oxide), which is used for various purposes such as building, agriculture, and chemical industries. Lime kilns were common in Ireland from the 18th to the 20th century, as lime was an essential material for construction, especially for mortar, plaster, and whitewash. Lime was also used to improve the fertility of acidic soils and to neutralize harmful substances in water and waste.
Lime kilns were usually built near the source of limestone and the demand for lime. They were often circular or oval in shape, with a domed or conical roof and an opening at the top for loading the limestone and fuel (usually wood or coal). The kiln had one or more openings at the bottom or side for raking out the quicklime and for ventilation. The kiln was operated by filling it with alternating layers of limestone and fuel, then setting fire to the fuel and maintaining a high temperature for several hours or days until the limestone was calcined into quicklime.
The Fisheries Field Kiln is one of the largest and best-preserved lime kilns in Galway. It was built around 1820, during a period of rapid urban expansion and public health improvement in the city. The kiln was associated with the construction of a nearby Fever Hospital, which was opened in 1821 to treat patients suffering from typhus, cholera, and other infectious diseases. The lime produced by the kiln was used for building and sanitizing the hospital, as well as for whitewashing the walls and fences of the surrounding area.
The kiln is made of dressed limestone to the lower courses and rubble stone above. It has a slightly battered shape, with buttresses to the south and west sides. The east side was partly rebuilt at some point. The kiln has a camber-arched opening to the front, with roughly dressed stone voussoirs, rubbed brick arch, and corbelled stone slabs over the raking out opening. There are recent plaques to the archway with information about the kiln and its history. There is also a recent iron gate to prevent unauthorized access.
The kiln is located on a site known as Fisheries Field, which was originally part of an estate owned by the Martin family, one of the Tribes of Galway. The site was leased to NUIG in 1849 by Richard Martin, a famous animal rights activist and politician who was nicknamed “Humanity Dick”. The site was used for various purposes by the university over the years, such as sports grounds, botanical gardens, and research facilities. The kiln is now part of the heritage trail that showcases some of the historic buildings and features on the university campus.
The Fisheries Field Kiln is open to the public and can be accessed from University Road or Distillery Road. The Fisheries Field Kiln is a fascinating example of Galway’s industrial heritage and a reminder of how lime played a vital role in shaping the city’s history and environment.
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