The Country Connection The Pinecone Forest Country Roads Maps Country Cabin Books
The Country Connection Magazine Story

Digital Sample Digital Subscription

AddThis Feed Button
AddThis Share Button

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Magazine Fund for the creation of this website.

Forlorn but Not Forgotten:
The Kilns of Limehouse

by Rosaleen Egan Garneau

Lime set kilns huddle side-by-side in the undergrowth on the Niagara Escarpment at Limehouse. A nearby draw kiln, originally 16 metres high, struggles to hold itself together. These kilns are testaments to the spirit of entrepreneurship and the industrial development of early Ontario.

These crumbling, but extraordinary, stone structures stand on Credit Valley Conservation land alongside remnants of a powder magazine, loading dock, millwork walls along Black Creek and the ghost of the quarry that provided stone for the limeworks dating from about 1840. Each of the structures is in imminent danger of ruin.

Limehouse, originally named Fountain Green, is part of Esquesing Township. It grew along the Guelph Road that ran between Toronto and Guelph. Later the Grand Trunk Railway ran through town. Canadian National Railway still uses the track blasted out of the escarpment.

The area was attractive to lime companies because of its easy access to markets. The natural erosion of stone on the Niagara Escarpment meant that large boulders were readily available at ground level. By 1856, Limehouse boasted a gristmill, a sawmill, and two lime operations.

The production of lime created a lot of smoke as chunks of rock were heated in kilns fired with wood. The draw kiln process used in the 1870s proved more efficient than the earlier set or pot kiln since it could operate on a more continuous basis.

Hunks of heated limestone from the kilns were slaked with water, and ground like grain. The resulting lime was mixed with sand and cow hair to be used as mortar. Lime was also used to remove oil and grease from wool and in alkali paints such as whitewash.

In 1893, a fire destroyed the woollen mill, a paint factory and 100 cords of wood at the waterlime mill in Limehouse. This was a huge economic setback. In the meantime, lime operations encroached on residential development. By 1917, after a change in ownership, the lime industry closed, although it continued in nearby Dolly Varden until 1931. Today, there are aggregate and sandstone quarry operations in the area.

The Limehouse Kiln Society (LKS) was formed more than three years ago under the leadership of resident Mary Sheir to "promote and preserve the historic significance of the lime industry in Limehouse through education, restoration and accessibility." Members include residents, municipal government officials and agencies, and local business representatives.

The group hopes to preserve the site through restoration or re-creation, to increase accessibility through the existing trail system, and to develop interpretive signage, brochures, and educational materials.

A master plan was prepared last year by Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Limited to consolidate historical data, map the site, and determine interpretation themes. The plan suggests possible partners and fundraising suggestions. Subsequently, the LKS submitted an application to have the area designated as a national historic site because of the lime industry's influence in the "early development of Canada's industrial and commercial heartland," i.e., the building of Toronto.

Visitors have access to most of what remains of an industry that gave Limehouse its name. Some of the oldest kilns are on private property, however, and access is denied. The Bruce Trail Association, through the Toronto Bruce Trail Club, maintains existing paths in the area that are easily accessible at the Limehouse Memorial Hall. The kilns are a short walk in.

Limehouse is situated between Georgetown and Acton in Halton Hills at the intersection of Regional Road 43 and Concession 5.

For more information visit the Limehouse Kiln Society website.

This is an original story, first published in The Country Connection Magazine, Issue 42, Spring 2003. Copyright Rosaleen Egan Garneau.




Reach us at Pinecone or write PO Box 100, Boulter ON K0L 1G0, Canada • Phone: 613-332-3651
Copyright 2010 Pinecone Publishing, all rights reserved. Web construction by Zylstra Design