Before taking the R27 northwards along the West Coast, I crossed the road to inspect the lime kiln on the way to Yzerfontein. This one is a National Monument, well cared for by a caretaker whose cottage lies just behind it. Motorists may stop and enter the enclosure to see a close-up of one of the most important contributions to civilisation. I did not know this myself, but in Morgan’s Run by Colleen McCullough, (a book I have mentioned on this blog before), it is well explained: when a settlement starts, there are usually only wooden structures, and only if people could get hold of cement, could they start rising a town with proper buildings.
350 Years ago when the Dutch started the refreshment station at the Cape, they built these lime kilns to burn mussel shells to use as a binding material. It is built from limestone that can not crack and burst when heated and has a layer of mesh above the oven. Mussel shells, of which one can still collect by the ton full on Yzerfontein’s famous ‘sixteen-mile beach’, were layered with dry wood before the whole lot was fired. After some time the fine ash would fall through the grid. The enclosure where it was then mixed with water and left to dehydrate is also visible in my picture. The resultant stuff could be used for a binding material similar to cement. When mixed with salt, also found on the West Coast, and animal fat, it became thick pure white limewash to protect and embellish those lovely Cape Dutch and West Coast buildings.
The kiln was still used as late as 1976. There is also a one-third scale miniature replica of a lime kiln next to the Yzerfontein Tourism Buro building, the thatched building I painted in April and called A Rare Gem. I have loaded three paintings this morning. Be sure to read the other two stories below.