Froncysyllte East Limekiln Bank


The canal opened new markets for local products.


Limestone quarrying has taken place in the landscape of the World Heritage Site since the sixteenth century. The stone was burned with coal in kilns to make quicklime. This white, powdery material was used in plaster and cement for buildings or it could be scattered on fields as fertiliser. Limestone was also used in iron smelting. Many farms and villages had small limekilns for local use.

With the development of a canal network, it became easier and cheaper to move raw materials and finished products. Quicklime could now be produced on an industrial scale.

The best surviving examples of limekilns are at Froncysyllte. They look like a huge wall, with arches at the base. Limestone was brought from quarries behind the village on horse-drawn tramways. Coal was brought on the canal, or later by train. The stone and coal were loaded in layers into the top of a kiln. A fire was lit underneath. After burning the kiln at high temperatures for many days, the lime was raked out of the arches you can see at the base.

The kilns were disused by 1899 but limestone was still quarried and transported from Froncysyllte by canal boats until 1954.

A limekiln at Halkyn Mountain

This video reconstructs a limekiln at Halkyn Mountain, about 20 miles north of Froncysyllte. The principle of how all limekilns worked is the same. At Halkyn everything had to be transported by wagon. Much more could be moved by canal boat at Froncysyllte. Click here to see the video.

More Information About Limekilns

Three photographs showing the wharf beside the limekilns at Froncysyllte in the early 1900s, 1965 and 2021. The canal basin which formed the wharf was filled in during the 1930s, to form the yard you can see today.

C19th photo of kiln site
C19th photo of kiln site: Courtesy Keith Sinclair (Please get in touch if you own this image)
1969 photo of kiln site
1969 photo of kiln site © Alistair Holt/KDH Archive
Contemporary photo of kiln site
Contemporary photo of kiln site ©Andrew Deathe

This painting by Welsh artist William Williams (1738-1817) shows a limekiln at night. The fires were kept burning for many days. The light and smoke could be seen for miles.

Painting of lime kiln working
Painting of lime kiln working: By permission of The National Library of Wales

In this early watercolour of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, by John Ingleby (1749-1808), you can see smoke from the Froncysyllte limekilns on the hill to the right.

Painting of aqueduct with limekilns to one side
Painting of aqueduct with limekilns to one side: By permission of The National Library of Wales

A sculpture at Froncysyllte Basin commemorates the limekilns, quarries and workers. Look for the quarrying tools embedded in it. How many are there and what were they used for?

Sculpture at Fron Basin
Sculpture at Fron Basin ©Andrew Deathe

Small limekilns are now hidden in the trees by the towpath at Afon Bradley, near Chirk Marina. They made quicklime for the mortar used to build the canal.

Afon Bradley kilns
Afon Bradley kilns ©Crown copyright: RCAHMW

The limekilns at Trevor Uchaf, were up the hill, near the quarries. The quicklime was transported down to the canal on an incline tramway. The weight of full trams coming down pulled wagons of coal up. You can see the line of the tramroad and a bridge over it from the towpath at Sun Trevor bridge.

Trevor Uchaf incline
Trevor Uchaf incline ©Crown copyright: RCAHMW

The limekilns at Tŷ Craig, west of Llangollen are now hidden in undergrowth between the towpath and the river but you can see the house of the works’ manager next to the canal.

Tŷ Craig kiln manager's house
Tŷ Craig kiln manager’s house ©Crown copyright: RCAHMW

The western bank of limekilns at Froncysyllte are probably older than the bigger ones to the east.

Froncysyllte west limekiln bank
Froncysyllte west limekiln bank ©Andrew Deathe

Pisgah Quarry, near the top of the village, is now a nature reserve. It’s a good place to spot birds, as well as the remains of old quarry workings.

Quarry nature reserves
Quarry nature reserves ©Crown copyright: RCAHMW

This was the wharf at Sun Trevor Bridge in the early 20th century. Look at how dusty and dirty with quicklime it was compared to the fields today. When you visit the area, look for the extra arch in the bridge. This was to let a horse-drawn tramroad through.

Sun Trevor wharf
Sun Trevor wharf ©North East Wales Archives (Ruthin)


Wharf under fields
Wharf under fields ©Crown copyright: RCAHMW

Limestone is made up from the remains of sea creatures which died millions of years ago. Sometimes you can see fossils of them in the stone, usually shells or tube-like structures. These are rare in the stone from Froncysyllte but can be found at Trevor Uchaf.