Bury Archaeological Group

Est. 1953

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Whitelow Potash Kiln (SD 80501625)


In 1989, a magnetometer survey near the Bronze Age burial site on Whitelow Hill recorded an anomaly, which on investigation revealed an early potash kiln.


The kiln, situated near Bury Old Road in Walmersley, lay 7m North West of the burial site, on a downslope 247m above OD. This structure, built into the hillside with a flue facing North West, enabled the operators to take full advantage of the prevailing wind.


Structural remains of the kiln consisted of a pit 3.4m in diameter, with sides sloping to a maximum depth of 1.4m, terminating on a flat base 1.6m wide.  Coursed gritstone lined the pit, of which only approximately 12% survived.


A flue measuring 2.5m long by 1m deep and 1.8m wide at the top, narrowed to 0.3m at its base where it entered the kiln between two boulders, supporting a capstone.


Charcoal from the kiln submitted for radiocarbon dating in 1994, suggested a tenth or eleventh century date (Gr N-20688 990+/- 35 BP) for its use.


The excavation did not reveal any artefacts, but years earlier investigation of the nearby burial site produced a base silver coin (sceatta) of Aethelred I (second reign 790-796).


Refs:  Tyson, N. ‘Whitelow Hill, Excavation of a Medieval Kiln’. Unpublished  note with B.A.G. Also Greater Manchester Archaeological Advisory  Service.


For information on potash kilns See Davies – Sheil, M ‘A Little-known Late Medieval Industry, Pt. 2: The Ash Burners’. Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society Vol. 74 (1974) pp 33-64.