Budding archaeologist joins team to restore lost kilns

Jowan Nute inspects a tunnel for archaeological significance.

Jowan Nute, 16, believes that Warkworth’s town history is too precious to be forgotten and left to rot in the undergrowth.

He has joined a team of residents investigating options for the protection of the long forgotten Daldy Coombes kilns, in the bush on the northern banks of the Mahurangi River in Warkworth.

Today, the kilns appear only as holes dug out of the bank, but Jowan’s keen archaeological eye quickly uncovered a network of structures that forged the beginnings of a town.

“On top of three main kilns with conical shafts, there is a track built for a horse and cart that leads up the bank to a tramline, where limestone would have been transported from a quarry.  I have identified the quarry, which is 100 metres from the kilns,” Jowan says. “The kilns have been left so untouched that chalky white lime powder is still stuck to the walls after it was refined 150 years ago.”

Jowan is a volunteer at the Warkworth Museum and was able to check original town plans in the archives, but found that the structures were only recorded as two dots without a label.

He is calling on the public to get behind preservation of the Daldy Coombes limeworks and wants them to be incorporated into the proposed cycleway project between Warkworth and Snells Beach.

“With the path, you could follow the whole process in stages. from mining to carting and refinement, bringing another element to the history. I believe if history is enjoyed by everyone then it will be better protected, whereas a boring plaque might go unnoticed.”

Snells Beach to Warkworth cycleway project chairman Gary Heaven said he was aware of the kilns and an application for funding from the Historic Places Trust had been made in conjunction with the Warkworth Lions.

“The grant will allow us to assess what options are available to protect the kilns, which are on private land. We have talked to owners and they are supportive of us looking at the project,” Gary says.

“I would reiterate that the privacy of landowners needs to be respected and that the kiln shafts are a hazard and potentially quite dangerous if someone falls down them.

“Protecting these kilns comes down to using the proper mechanisms and that starts with applying for a grant from the Historical Places Trust. The baton has been passed to the Lions to do the archaeological work.”

And now they have added Jowan to their team.

“Having a young person with enthusiasm and vigour is worth 500 other people, and it would be great if this could help him with his future studies.” Gary says.


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