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Factaraidh Aoil, An Sàilean, Lios Mòr / Lime works, An Sailean, Lismore

A Scheduled Monument in Oban North and Lorn, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.5152 / 56°30'54"N

Longitude: -5.5189 / 5°31'8"W

OS Eastings: 183607

OS Northings: 741450

OS Grid: NM836414

Mapcode National: GBR DCRH.GV0

Mapcode Global: WH0FZ.6H6R

Entry Name: Factaraidh Aoil, An Sàilean, Lios Mòr / Lime works, An Sailean, Lismore

Scheduled Date: 19 February 2024

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13779

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Industrial: kiln, furnace, oven

Location: Lismore and Appin/Lismore and Appin

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises the remains of a 19th century lime works consisting of lime kilns, limestone quarry, managers' house with office, coal store with yard, associated workers' cottages, explosives store and a quay with adjacent ballast dumps. The site on west coast of the island of Lismore, is located across the Mean Low Water Spring Mark to 35m above sea level. 

The lime works at An Sailean are depicted on the Ordnance Survey First Edition map, surveyed in 1871. However, it is known that the works were in operation at least from the mid-19th century. At the centre of the site stand a pair of lime kilns that together measure around 13.5m across and up to 8.5m high. Both kilns are constructed from roughly dressed masonry and rubble, with some dressed granite quoins. Abutting these kilns to the northeast, is the remains of a third, smaller kiln which survives as a low rectangular stone-built structure with a slight depression in the centre  To the southeast of the kilns is a substantial and imposing limestone quarry, with tracks entering from the northeast and southwest. Southwest of the kilns are the remains of a stone-built coal store and yard and immediately southwest of this are the remains of the manager's house and office. To the north and northwest of the lime works are the remains of workers' cottages surviving as a roofless cottage and byre running southwest-northeast with a single structure, probably a store, at its northeast end. At the southwest of the site is a substantial stone quay, and to the north and south of the quay, in the intertidal area  are large spreads of stone identified as ballast dumps from the vessels serving the lime works. Around 150m southwest of the kilns is a small, thick-walled structure, likely the remains of an explosives store, that is set beside the low remains of a possibly earlier structure at the mouth of a small quarry or cleft in the limestone crags. 

The scheduled area is in two parts; the larger area is irregular and the smaller area is square measuring 15m by 15m. The area includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The schedule also includes the intertidal area, between the low and high mean watermarks, around the quay. All fences, gates and signs are specifically excluded from the schedule. The top 30cm of the roughly surfaced track, running northeast-southwest across the scheduled area, is also excluded from the schedule.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a.  The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the industrial heritage of Scotland, in particular the history of 19th century lime production and the exploitation of its natural resources. Lime production was a significant industry to Scotland in the pre-industrial and industrial revolution periods. Lismore has a unique place within the heritage of the Scottish lime industry due to the unusually high concentration of industrial scale sites on the relatively small island. An Sailean was the largest example on the island, and the key industrial site that contributed to lime production.

b.   The monument retains structural, architectural, decorative or other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The surviving elements help us understand the functions and processes of lime works operating in 19th century Scotland. An Sailean is a particularly complete example of a lime works with evidence for almost every aspect of lime production.  

c.   The monument is a rare example of a substantial lime works with upstanding remains covering many of the contemporary industrial functions. The level of survival of the related ancillary structures, such as the managers' house and office, coal yard and store and explosives store, is particularly rare, especially the completeness of the site layout.

d.   The monument is a very well-preserved example of a fairly standardised industrial practice that had a key role in local, regional and national economic trade in 19th century Scotland and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. Lime was a crucial component for mortar in construction and as part of the fertilisation and improvement of land for agriculture.

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The remains reflect the development and peak of the Scottish lime production industry; An Sailean continued production into the 1930s and was the last functioning lime works on Lismore.

f.   The monument makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and/or our understanding of the historic landscape by serving as a physical reminder of the importance of lime production in 19th century Scotland and its role in society and the economy. The monument is part of a wider nation-wide lime production effort, that is still visible, on the island of Lismore. The limestone coast of the island sits in a wider, generally granitic, coastal landscape so the exploitation of lime on Lismore was highly concentrated and an important resource in the 19th to early 20th century. There was a large market for lime on the nearby west coast of Scotland and Lismore was ideally located to meet this demand. The intensive lime production industry flourished due to the ready supply of the raw material (limestone) and the convenient location of the island.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The lime works at An Sailean, consisting of a pair of kilns, quarry, various related ancillary buildings and stone-built quay are depicted on the Ordnance Survey 1st Edition map (surveyed 1871). However, there is evidence for lime works on Lismore from the later 18th century and the first confirmed date of a kiln on the island is from 1804. The An Sailean kilns were established and in use around the mid-19th century. The Glasgow Herald ran an advertisement for grazing land to let at Salen (Anglicised placename for An Sailean) lime works on 27 August 1858, so the works were clearly well established by this date.

The key component of producing lime is limestone which needs to be quarried and broken down.  It is then burnt to chemically break it down and cause the reaction needed to produce lime. The burning takes place in a kiln, or series of kilns. The kilns at An Sailean are of a 'draw kiln' design. The kiln is typically constructed against the sloping ground, the front face has a draw opening where the lime is collected at the end of the burning. The top of the kiln has a round opening, this is the access to the pot where alternate layers of limestone and fuel, usually coal, would be stacked. Draw kilns had a permanent grate fixed over the hearth and limestone and fuel was stacked above this. As the fuel burned the calcified limestone dropped down and was raked out, while new layers of fuel and limestone were added at the top of the kiln. The fire in the pot could be kept burning for long periods and this offered the opportunity for potentially continuous burning and improved efficiency and potential economic output. This industrial method of production was most commonly used from the late 18th century onwards. Once the lime was produced it had to be stored and kept dry before being exported. At An Sailean, export was by sea and the lime works had its own quay.

The most prominent remains on the site are the pair of kilns which measure around 13.5m across their front faces, stand up to 8.5m high at the front and the sides project around 10.5m back into the slope. They are typical 19th century draw kiln design, constructed in rubble masonry using local stone, with some roughly dressed quoins. The top of the kilns has a 30cm high stone parapet on the front and sides and the surface is roughly paved. The pot of each kiln, where the quarried limestone was filled and stacked for burning, is open at the top and each measures around 2.4m and 3.7m across. The northern pot has stone capping around the opening and is lined with yellow coloured bricks. The southern pot lacks a stone capped edge and is lined with stone. The rear of the kilns has been extended with vertically set stones with an abutment for a bridge leading to the quarry behind, and also formed a ramp for the loading of coal brought from the coal yard. This shows how the process of lime burning was organised; limestone was brought direct to the kilns from the quarry, by the bridge spanning the access road to the quarry-face, while coal brought up via the ramp from the coal store where it would have been kept having been shipped in by boat  The burnt lime would have been removed from the drawholes at the base of the kilns and then stored before being shipped off the island via the quay.

The remains of a third smaller kiln abuts the pair of kilns to the north, and is set back from the front face. This structure is far less well preserved and is possibly earlier in date. Historic Ordnance Survey mapping depicts three pot kilns in 1871 and two in 1897, reflecting the now visible remains, and indicating when the smaller kiln went out of use.

The substantial limestone quarry, blasted out from the limestone cliffs standing up to 50m above sea level, lies immediately southeast of the kilns. This is the largest limestone quarry on Lismore. A trackway leads into the quarry from the northeast, passing behind the kilns and heads southwest towards the ancillary structures.

Around 25m southwest of the kilns are the remains of two adjoining rectangular structures - the coal yard and store. The overall footprint of the two stone-built structures is around 15m by 10m with the northern structure being smaller. Historic Ordnance Survey mapping, along with historic photographs taken by Erskine Beveridge in 1883, show the northern structure to be roofed and the southern to have security railings on the wall head. The walls stand up to 2m high with some roughly dressed quoins. The roofed store would have probably been used to store processed lime to ensure it remained dry. The larger and unroofed yard would have been used for coal, with internal concrete partitions allowing coal loads to be separated. The corners of the yard walls have remnants of iron stanchions which would have supported the security railing to protect the valuable coal from theft. Records show that the yard also operated as the main coal depot for the island and is depicted as "Coal Depot" on historic Ordnance Survey maps.

Immediately southwest of the coal store and yard is the managers' house and site office. It is located almost centrally within the lime works and on the track junction that leads to the kilns, quarry, stores and quay. The stone-built structure survives to the wall head, with an overall footprint measuring around 10m by 5m, the southwest gable is built into the craggy slope. The main cottage consists of a central door and window to each side with two rooms internally. Blocked cruck slots in the walls indicate that the building was of earlier origins and had been adapted and remodelled for use during the lime works operation. The north gable has been extended with a single room, the front face set back from the cottage, with a door and window to the front and a window to the rear. This was the site office, what would have been the busy centre of the works with a view over to the quay.

A low stone quay, varying in width from around 12m at the landward end to 19m at the seaward end, projects for around 60m from the shore. The quay was used for the import of materials, such as coal for fuel, and the export of processed burnt lime. On the quay, located roughly in the centre, is the remains of another stone-built structure. Mostly surviving to the wall head, the structure is depicted on the Ordnance Survey First Edition map but is visible in the photographs taken by Erskine Beveridge, therefore dating from between 1871-83. The structure consists of a cottage, with central doorway and one window to each side, and a small additional room on the east gable and slightly set back from the front face. The overall footprint of the structure is around 11m by 4m. This structure was likely to be a house for a lime worker with a store or shop on the gable end. Within the intertidal area to the north, northwest, south and southwest of the quay are ballast dumps. The two main sections of dumped ballast are centred on NM 8350 4150 and NM 8350 4140. It is most likely the ballast was dumped by vessels arriving at the quay to collect and export processed lime.

Around 180m southwest of the kilns are the remains of two structures set at the mouth of a small quarry face or a large natural cleft in the limestone crags. The better preserved of the two stone-built structures is centred on NM 83546 41257 with the less well-preserved structure immediately southeast and upslope. The better-preserved structure is interpreted as an explosives store. It is constructed from stone rubble bonded with lime mortar and roughly dressed quoins, measuring 2m by 2m externally and 1.25m by 1.25m internally. The only opening is for a small doorway on the northeast wall. The slightly distant location, of this structure in relation to the main lime works, would have limited the risk of an accidental explosion of stored explosives causing harm to buildings or people. The adjacent structure survives as low rubble walls with one end cut into the slope. This structure stands up to around 1m high and measures 3m by 3m externally and 1.75m by 1.75m internally. This might represent the remains of another explosives store or an earlier, related structure.

Around 120m northwest of the kilns is a row of stone-built buildings that would have been workers' housing and stores. The structures are laid out in an L-shape with a yard or store at the northeast end. The buildings appear to pre-date the lime works but were later adapted probably to house lime workers. The southwest portion of the row has evidence for blocked openings on the main façade and appears to have originally been a pair of attached cottages later converted into one larger cottage. This larger cottage measures around 12m by 5m. There are open and blocked cruck slots in the wall and a fireplace and chimney flue on the southwest gable. Attached and continuing the row to the northeast is a byre or store of similar construction and measuring around 10m by 4m. The structure at the northeast end appears to have been a store or a yard. The land between the cottages and the track north of the kilns has evidence for small-scale agricultural activity, most likely related to the farmstead period of the cottages. A small stone-built structure identified as a cart shed lies 30m southeast of the cottages. The cart shed survives as three walls standing around 1m high and measures around 4m long by 3m wide.

The physical remains at An Sailean represent the whole lime production process. A slightly distant explosives store is evidence of the blasting phase in quarrying. The remains of the tracks, the separate bridged and ramped access for limestone and coal to the kiln pots show the process and flow of materials on site. The bridged access provided level access from the quarry to the kiln pots for the loading and stacking of the broken limestone, with fuel coming from the coal store via the ramped access. At the foot of the kilns, a nearby track leads down towards the store and coal yard as well as the quay for imports and exports. The importance of people in lime processing is also evidenced by workers' cottages, a manager's house and site office. Therefore, the entire assemblage of structures of an industrial scale lime works are present at An Sailean.

Study of the remains of the lime works can help provide understanding for the design, processes and functions of such industrial sites that were key to local, regional and national trading economies for agricultural improvement and urbanisation.  The plan form and upstanding remains are highly visible and provide a tangible link to the industrial past of the lime industry on Lismore.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

An Sailean represent is a key industrial site on the island of Lismore – it was the largest and last lime works to operate. The extraction of limestone and burning to produce lime on Lismore may date back beyond the 19th century. The lime industry was active on the island in the 18th century, the Statistical Account of 1791 states 'burning of lime for sale has been begun… in Lismore and Appin'. The first documented kiln is dated to 1804 with the last in production in the 1930s.

An Sailean was located within the Baleveolan Estate and letters dating to the 1840s from Alan MacDougall, the estate factor, show that lime supply from Dugald McCorquodale, the estate lime burner, was erratic. It is unlikely a substantial lime works at An Sailean was established at this time as this evidence indicates small-scale or ad-hoc production. This may relate to the smaller and less well-preserved kiln. Estate business letters from the 1850s show that John McIntyre was manager of the lime works and organised finance for the quay at An Sailean which was to serve two new kilns suggesting that an industrial scale site was established by the mid-19th century. John McIntyre operated as an independent coal merchant, based at An Sailean lime works. His yard and store at the site served the entire island with fuel. Records from the Napier Commission of 1883 state that 12 to 16 quarrymen and lime burners were employed at An Sailean.

At An Sailean, the remains provide evidence of a long history of site development and expansion. The addition of historic images taken by Erskine Beveridge (27 December 1851 – 10 August 1920), a Scottish textile manufacturer, historian and antiquarian, provide a rare visual record of the site in operation. His images taken at An Sailean in 1883 show all the buildings roofed and in-use and a busy quay with several vessels docked. Details such as a skylight on the roof of the managers' house and wall head railings around the coal yard can be seen in his photos - these are examples of how the historic photos can help us more fully understand the remains visible today and how the site functioned.

There are eight industrial lime works sites on the island of Lismore. All have a similar location and set up. They are on the coast with kilns located below a quarry on higher ground so the process would be gravity fed, and often with a quay for the unloading of coal and export of the lime. The grouping of these lime production sites is highly significant and of relatively high concentration. The underlying geology of Lismore is mainly limestone and the island sits in a sea loch basin with mostly granite coastal edges. Therefore, processed lime from Lismore had a ready market on the west coast of Scotland. Seven of the eight lime production sites on the island have their own quay and quay for importing coal to fuel the kilns and then to export the lime to the mainland. The lime produced on Lismore was used for major developments such as the Caledonian Canal and private constructions such as Kinloch House on Rum. It is highly likely lime from Lismore was used in the construction of houses and streets in west coast villages and for urban expansion in the area, such as at the booming harbour town of 19th century Oban.

An Sailean lime works were the last to be in production on the island of Lismore. The lime works operated into the 1930s and there was an attempt to restart production during the Second World War. An article in The Scotsman on 18 November 1942 stated 'The limestone industry on the island of Lismore may be restarted as a wartime measure to provide lime for agriculture. Many years ago the lime kilns were in operation on this island but the trade petered out owing largely to labour difficulties'. However, the lime works never reopened.

There are seven other industrial lime production sites of similar date on the island; Alisra (NGR NM 871 458, Canmore ID 152299), Port Kilcheran (NGR NM 825 386, Canmore ID 264638), Port na Moralachd A and B (NGRs NM 867 449 and NM 865 448, Canmore ID 152293), Salen A (NGR NM 834 412, Canmore ID 152316), Port Ramsay (NM884 456, Canmore ID 155560) and Sheep Island (NGR NM 901 468, Canmore ID 281489). The large scale of the industrial complex at An Sailean, combined with the extensive range of remains testifying to the site functions, sets it apart from the other lime works on the island. We can compare the remains at An Sailean to these other lime works, all being roughly contemporary, to better understand the lime production processes and functions of structures and workings.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

The remains of the lime works complex are significant for our understanding of socio-economic context of lime production in the area. The demand for lime increased dramatically with greater urban expansion in the west of Scotland. Expanding industry and commercial markets drove growth of villages, towns and cities. Tied to this urban expansion was the increased development of infrastructure such as roads, canals and railways. This development required vast quantities of lime for construction. Transport by water was still the fastest and most economical method and close proximity to resources was key for economic efficiency. Therefore, the island of Lismore made an ideal location for a concentrated and highly productive lime industry supplying the west of Scotland.

The island has an unusually high number of industrial lime works, especially for such a small geographic area, and it would have been a major employer on the island. The industry would have supported many families on Lismore and provided income for the estates and landowners too. Lime production would have allowed for a more varied income stream and employment option that many parts of rural Scotland did not benefit from. An Sailean lime works is a physical reminder of an important era in the socio-economic history of Lismore.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE IDs 152317 (accessed on 20/09/2023).

British Newspaper Archive Online (accessed on 20/09/2023).

Glasgow Herald, Friday 27 August 1858: 'Grazing farms in the island of Lismore to be let'. The Scotsman, Wednesday 18 November 1942: 'Lismore'.

English Heritage – Introduction to pre-industrial Lime Kilns: (accessed on 08/08/2023).

Hay, R. (2015). Lismore: The Great Garden. Birlinn, Scotland.

Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre – The Story of a Lismore Crofter and Entrepreneur: (accessed on 20/09/2023).

Martin and Martin, C and P. (2005). 'Port Ramsay, Lismore (Lismore & Appin parish), lime kiln complex', in Discovery and Excavation Scotland, vol. 6. Page: 34.

Martin and Martin, C and P. (2006). Lismore Limekilns: Report for Historic Scotland. Self published.

McNicol D. (1791). First Statistical Account of Scotland. Volume 1. LII. United Parishes of Lismore and Appin.

Mitchell, D. (2020). 'That important branch of rural science': historical geographies of lime burning in Scotland. PhD thesis (self published).

Skinner, B.C. (2014). 'The Archaeology of the Lime Industry in Scotland', in Post-Medieval Archaeology, vol. 9. Pages: 225-230.


Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1871, published 1875) Scotland, Argyllshire and Buteshire, Sheet 56. 6 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1897, published 1899) Scotland, Argyllshire, Sheet LXXII.6 and 10. 25 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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