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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1989

1. Burnt Lime

1. Burnt Lime

(a) The Stoke Quarry

Burning lime must have been one of the first industrial activities undertaken in the new settlement of Nelson. The Nelson Examiner of 2nd December 1843 promotes the use of lime on ploughed lands, and details the facilities for obtaining it. A stratum of shelly limestone, of variable quality, still runs roughly along the line of the Ridgeway at Stoke. The earliest road from Nelson to the Waimea Plains ran along this line, and passed through Section 42, which is quoted in the paper.

It goes on to say that "Limestone, as most of our colonists are aware, is already quarried and burnt in Section 42, Suburban South District. The tenants of that section (Palmer and Ladd) would, no doubt, contract to raise a large quantity of stone, say 100 tons, and deliver it at the waterside, either burnt or unburnt as might be required; from whence it might be carried in large boats, at a small expense, to any farms having a water frontage. If parties requiring lime prefer quarrying for themselves, the formation, it is believed, creeps out near the surface, in the adjoining sections, numbers 41 and 29. The development of the strata, and the introduction into general use of this valuable element of production in soil, would amply remunerate the proprietor of any section containing it for any quantity which would be removed in the first twelve months. If application were made to the Resident Agent of the Company, a shorter road would probably be made along the boundary of sections 43 and 24 to the most available arm of the sea. At present the stone could be carted along a road already laid out, and passable in summer, which intersects and terminates in section number 4, on the coast."

And a week later it says – "The present limeburners in Suburban South district (Messrs Palmer and Ladd) are now prepared to supply agriculturists with lime at the kiln at £1 a ton, on condition that all carts come laden with wood; or they will deliver the stone at the waterside at 15s. per ton. As it is believed by many of our agriculturists that lime will be highly beneficial to fern land, we hope they will not neglect the present opportunity of introducing it into general use."

Later, in August 1859, it is recorded that the noted Austrian geologist Dr Ferdinand von Hochstetter, amongst other activities, inspected the limestone quarry at Stoke. This quarry finally became the site of Hall's limeworks.

(b) Wooded Peak

Another early extraction of limestone in the district was from a small quarry on Wooded Peak, east of Nelson. Near its top end, between Third and Fourth Houses, the Dun Mountain Railway passed through the Maitai Limestone belt. In 1863 a kiln for burning limestone was built beside the track, and a quarry to supply stone was opened just above it. The resulting burnt lime was sold page 4for ls 9d per bushel (34 litres). Sales in early 1865 had reached 4 tons per week but, in the same year, Joseph Cock expressed the opinion that this kiln was poorly sited and that, if a new one were built, a saving of 5s per ton could be achieved. At this rate, the new kiln could pay for itself in a year. These figures imply a capital cost of £50 to build a new kiln. Times were uncertain, the trade declined and, by 1870, wagons could no longer negotiate the upper part of the incline to reach the quarry and kiln. A recent inspection of the quarry suggests that not more than 200 tons of stone was extracted from it.

Edwin H. Lukins. Tyree Collection NPM

Edwin H. Lukins. Tyree Collection NPM

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(C) Lukins' Lime-Kiln

The other early source of burnt lime was from Lukins' lime-kiln, established on the hillside at Port Nelson, opposite the present site of Reliance Engineering Limited. This kiln was used fairly consistently until 1957, using stone from a variety of sources. It was operated by a series of owners or lessees for a period of over 70 years, and was undoubtedly the most important source of burnt lime in the district, for most of that time.

(i) James Lukins

James Lukins came to Nelson in about 1858. He was engaged in gold-mining at the Glengyle claim at Parapara, before purchasing a ketch, Rapid, and a schooner. Dove, which he sailed between Nelson and New Plymouth. On 26th July 1880 he purchased about a quarter of an original town acre, numbered section 37, in Haven Road. This was just across the road from the jetty which carried his name, and was presumably the base for his shipping business. The house and property were later transferred to his daughter, Mrs Amelia Ann Charles, who lived there for the rest of her long life, together with her son, Lewis J. Charles, who spent his whole life as a limeburner.

On 19th March 1883, Lukins bought the rest of section 37, apart from a small portion, which had been purchased by Bishop Suter, and on which a small church survived. Lukins was then aged 57, but continued the operation of a lime-kiln on the property, which he apparently first leased from a Mr Carter on 1st December 1860, and maintained a business in burnt lime. Lew Charles used to talk about limestone being quarried on the Tata Islands in Golden Bay, brought to Nelson on a scow, unloaded at Lukins wharf and carried by wheelbarrow across the road to the kiln.

For all the years of operation of the works, limestone and fuel, latterly coke, were hauled up the hill on a steeply inclined tramline and tipped at the top. Lukins apparently built the wooden winch equipment himself, including a large spoked driving wheel.

(ii) Edwin H. Lukins

During the later years of James Lukins, the lime business was handled mainly by his son, Edwin. He inherited the enterprise on the death of his father on 16th July 1897 at the age of 71, having been a well respected older settler.

(iii) H. R. Duncan

On the 19th May 1910, Edwin Lukins sold the limeworks to the well-known Nelson brewer, Henry Richard Duncan, and it remained in the Duncan family for the remaining period of its operation,

(iv) F. W. Greenslade

For some period between 1910 and the mid 1920's, the works was leased and operated by Frank. W. Greenslade, who also owned ships. He apparently used marble from the Kairuru quarry on the Takaka Hill, which he shipped from the Sandy Bay wharf to Nelson.

A Waimea West farmer, W. D. Dron, records paying Greenslade £5.10.0 with a cheque dated 9th October 1919 for two tons of lime, but there was some dissatisfaction, because the lime would not run through the drill. Included in the amount paid was £1 for the sacks.

(v) W. L. Lawry

Sometime in the mid 1920 's the kiln was closed up. W. Leslie Lawry at that time needed burnt lime for the manufacture of lime-sulphur, so he took over the lease, and ran the kiln until it was closed down in 1957. Initially, stone was carted by W. V. (Bill) Snow from a fan in the Teal Valley, formed by stone washed out of the Maitai limestone belt, higher up the valley.

Later it was found that marble from the Takaka Hill produced a higher quality of burnt lime, and stone was quarried from several points close to the road on the hill. One small but well – developed quarry can still be seen, just above the road which goes to Canaan.

From about 1936, stone from a newly opened quarry in the Maitai belt, in the Lee Valley, was used for the production of slaked lime, used mainly in agriculture.

When the works was closed in 1957, the property was sold to Guard's Sea Services. The old kiln and buildings were dismantled.

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(d) W. L. Lawry Limited

In 1956, the company W. L. Lawry Limited built an electrically heated burnt lime kiln at Brightwater. It used about 1 ton of stone each 24 hours and produced a very high quality burnt lime. The general opinion was that electricity was too expensive to use in a kiln but, because it was fully automated, it worked very satisfactorily to produce quick lime for the manufacture of lime-sulphur, until 1968. At about that time, the use of lime-sulphur in Nelson had almost ceased, so the business was sold to McDonald's Lime Co. Ltd. from the North Island and production of quick lime ended.

(e) Other Lime Kilns

Burning lime seems to have been a fairly common operation about or prior to the time of World War I. The kilns I have been able to find out about are: -

(i)One in Pig Valley owned and operated by Albert Tuck. Remains of this one can still be seen, close to the Maitai limestone outcrop in the Valley.
(ii)One in the Lee Valley, below the present quarry, at which George F. Williams worked. I do not know who owned it, or when it operated.
(iii)One in the Wairoa Gorge, just below the junction of the Lee and Wairoa Rivers, built at his home by George Williams.
(iv)Subsequent to the establishment of the crushing plant at Kaka, a kiln was built about a kilometre away by Hugh Gully and Jack Andrews of Brightwater. Attempts to burn lime with wood were apparently not successful, and the project was abandoned, with very little burnt lime having been produced.
(v)Another kiln was operated on the site which was later the location of the crushed lime works of the Motueka Lime Co. Ltd., probably at the time of World War I, or earlier.
(vi)About 1930, as one of his first excursions into the mineral industry, T. J. McKee operated a kiln for a short time on the Takaka Hill.