Today, Belan Locks is a quiet place to have a picnic and enjoy the view over the Severn. In past times this was a busy industrial community being one of the main centres of lime processing in the area.
Below the picnic area are eight limekilns, built between 1790 and 1840, of varying shapes and sizes; these were used to convert limestone into agricultural lime. Limekilns can be found all along the Welsh section of the Montgomery Canal, including the massive Hoffman kiln at Llanymynech.
Before the canal was built limekilns had to be built close to the source of limestone, because it was very expensive to transport heavy rock. Although cheaper it was hazardous to transport quicklime (the chemical that results from heating limestone in kilns), as it is caustic and when exposed to water can rapidly increase in heat.
Canals represented a much cheaper option than road transport for moving limestone, therefore kilns could be built near to where the lime was needed, reducing the need for the dangerous operation of moving it. Transporting lime by canal reduced the cost of lime from 18d to 13d per bushel. Lime greatly improved the productivity of surrounding farmland.
The row of cottages that line the approach road to the picnic site were built for lime workers in the mid-19th Century, replacing earlier cottages. There is also a lock-keepers cottage next to the lower lock, which was also built in the 19th Century to replace an earlier one.
From census records it can be seen that families lived in these houses for generations, showing that jobs were often handed down from father to son. The 1851 census also shows that two boats were based at Belan. On one of the boats a widow lived with her 3 children.
Last date edited: 17 July 2015