Rinneen Kiln is a historic lime kiln located near the village of Kinvara. This circular stone structure, built around 1900, is a rare example of a corbelled kiln, which resembles a medieval beehive hut. It was once used to produce lime, a versatile material that had many uses in agriculture and construction.
Lime kilns were common in Ireland, especially in rural areas where limestone was abundant. Lime was made by burning limestone at high temperatures, which drove off carbon dioxide and left behind calcium oxide, also known as quicklime. Quicklime was then slaked with water to produce hydrated lime, which could be used as mortar, plaster, limewash or fertilizer.
Rinneen Kiln was part of a larger industrial complex that included a tidal flour mill, built in 1804 by the Vicomte de Basterot, a French aristocrat who owned extensive lands in the area. The mill was powered by water from the nearby Rinneen River, which flowed into Kinvara Bay. The mill and the kiln were connected by a tramway that transported limestone and coal to the kiln and lime to the mill.
The kiln has a round plan with an external diameter of about 6 meters and an internal diameter of about 3 meters. It has a domed roof with a central opening for loading the limestone and coal. The kiln has two fireboxes at the base, where the fuel was ignited. The hot air and gases rose through the kiln, heating up the limestone and producing lime. The lime was then extracted from the bottom of the kiln through a draw hole.
The kiln is made of local limestone blocks, carefully fitted together without mortar. The blocks are arranged in concentric rings that gradually taper towards the top, forming a corbelled vault. This technique is similar to that used to build ancient monuments such as Newgrange or Poulnabrone Dolmen. The kiln has a rough exterior with some projecting stones, while the interior is smoother and more regular.
Rinneen Kiln is a fascinating example of industrial heritage in Galway, showcasing the skills and ingenuity of the local people who built and operated it. It is also a testament to the importance of lime in Irish history and culture, as it helped shape the landscape and the buildings of the country.
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