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27 November 2014

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You are in: Wear > Coast > Point 1 - The limekilns and the Marsden Rattler

The disused limekilns at Marsden

These kilns were used to burn limestone

Point 1 - The limekilns and the Marsden Rattler

The coastal cliff tops may be a green and peaceful place now, but the remains of the limekilns are perhaps the most visible reminder of this area's industrial past.

Limestone has been quarried at Marsden for many years. The stone was used in some notable local buildings, including Whitburn windmill which you will see further along the walk.

These limekilns were built in the 1870s, taking advantage of a nearby colliery which provided fuel for burning the limestone to make quick or unslaked lime (calcium oxide). Quicklime was used to neutralise soil, and to make cement and concrete. It was also important for the steel and chemical industries.

You can still see two types of limekilns here. The older ones are in the square shaped building, and the later ones are circular. The bands around the circular kilns are made of iron and were designed to reinforce the structures.

Heavy industry

The kilns were essentially large ovens. Layers of limestone and coal were poured in the top and burnt slowly. The resulting quicklime would be extracted at the bottom and loaded onto railway wagons.

The Marsden Rattler and a trolley bus in the 1950s

Marsden Rattler and trolley bus: 1950s

 This was almost a continuous process, with more limestone and coal being added at the top, as quicklime was taken out at the bottom.

The quicklime was carried on railway wagons to the docks at South Shields. The rail line also brought in coal from the nearby colliery at Whitburn to fire the kilns.

The limekilns ceased production in 1960, although stone is still cut from the quarry behind.

The South Shields Marsden and Whitburn Colliery Railway mineral line opened in 1879, to serve the colliery and to transport miners to and from South Shields. In 1888, passengers were also allowed to use the line which ran roughly where the Coast Road is now.

The Marsden Rattler

The carriages and rolling stock were gleaned from various different railway companies and were pulled by a steam engine. Because of the mixture of wagons, the train was very noisy and was known affectionately as the Marsden Rattler.

Its nearest stop was Marsden Cottage Station, which was known as the smallest station in England. The platform was only the length of one carriage. But by the 1950s, the train’s passengers were using buses and trolley buses to make their journeys.

Officially the last passenger service for the Marsden Rattler ran in 1953, but such was the affection for this rackety old train that, on 7 September 1968, after the closure of the colliery, it made its final journey crowded with passengers.

So let's get on with the walk, and move on to discover the location of a vanishing village.

last updated: 19/02/2008 at 12:15
created: 05/07/2005

You are in: Wear > Coast > Point 1 - The limekilns and the Marsden Rattler

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