Posted 16 May 2011 by Andrew Gardner
Eighteen restored kilns at Amberley Museum, West Sussex which had been used for burning chalk with coal to create lime, were oficially opened last week by Prince Michael of Kent, the museum's president.
The Belgian - designed De Witt kilns were built in 1905. Over the years the heat inside the kilns caused them to distort making them structurally unsafe. An award of nearly £400,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund allowed the museum to finally restore the kilns, improve public access and provide a new exhibition called 'Life and Lime at Amberley'
The kilns sit in the middle of the 36 acre site and their restoration has literally put the heart back into the museum. Until the mid 1960's Amberley was a major centre for the lime making industry but with the kilns standing idle their condition had seriously detiorated.
As such the museum has developed around them to become the very popular visitor attraction that it is today. Smaller grants in recent years such as those from English Heritage have allowed for them to be made safe, and it is only fitting that this full restoration has been finally completed.
As a teenager I did a weekend volunteering when Amberley Museum first opened and I recall working close to an extremely overgrown and run down area next to the kilns. I was last at Amberley only last year and look forward to a return visit very soon to see what will be a total transformation from those early memories.