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Oxted Quarry, SPAB, and Conservation at Boxley Abbey

Natural materials from the Earth including clay, marl, chalk and stone have been used in our historic buildings for centuries. These materials, selected, prepared and applied by craftsmen are the raw material for a range of building components including lime mortars, plasters, renders, bricks and tiles.

Recently, thanks to a generous offer from Southern Gravel for the supply of their Oxted Quarry Grey Chalk, it has been possible for enthusiastic The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) members to learn and practice these traditional skills. They have undertaken lime production trials by burning the chalk in a small field kiln. Local Grey Chalk lime mortar and render, compatible with the original Abbey buildings was produced for their sympathetic repair and conservation.

Another important benefit of these trials, with local materials, is due to constructing the lime kiln with a selected soil taken from the Abbey grounds. It was compacted with a small proportion of lime to form lime-stabilized soil. This proved to be an excellent thermal insulator during firing as well as incombustible.

The results of burning local Grey Chalk for natural hydraulic lime on this kiln also show that the use of lime-stabilized soil, local materials and appropriate skills can provide many sustainable and ecological benefits. These include reductions in transport, lower building costs, the development of local skills, and a sustainable use of local resources. Reductions in the embodied energy of building materials and in pollution from manufacturing and transport are the result.