|Combe Down Stone Mines, Bath|
We are engaged in a long running programme of consultancy and fieldwork associated with the programme of stabilisation at Combe Down. The underground quarries which collectively make up what is today the Combe Down Stone Mines are situated about two kilometres south of the City of Bath. A large proportion of the site has been quarried, both by surface and by undermining over a long period of time, but mainly between 1730 and 1860 when they were the source of high quality Bath Limestone for the “golden age” of Bath. Bath Stone was used not only extensively in the building of the City of Bath but was also exported all over the country finding its way into a wide range of prestigious and famous buildings including Buckingham Palace. The mines stayed open until the early years of the twentieth century and following their closure were used for a variety of purposes, including a mushroom farm and as an Air Raid shelter during the war time Baedeker raids on Bath.
Our work has encompassed a programme of Consultancy, to assess the significance of the deposits and provide advice upon their preservation and recording, and a long running programme of field work to monitor and record the emergency engineering work associated with the stabilisation of the deposits.
During the access and emergency works we have produced large scale plans of visible areas and substantial photography has been carried out as the modern roadways allowed access. There have also been trials of video photography and laser scanning, so that a substantial record has been produced of some 20%of the known workings. This is being produced in both written and digital form to allow public as well as specialist appraisal.
The mine contains a fascinating range of quarry features including well preserved tramways and cart-roads and crane bases and the walls and pillars of the mine are studded with pick and other tool marks and evidence of the use of huge stone saws, all of which bears vivid testimony to the variety of techniques used to extract the stone over the mines three hundred year history.
As well as features and artefacts directly related to the quarrying activities, there are also many examples of contemporary graffiti. These markings, often drawn in charcoal, provide crucial dating evidence and provide an interesting insight into many aspects of the miners lives, detailing such aspects as the price of beer in the 19th century pubs of Combe Down, the relative prices of stone and the miners attitudes to their employers (often uncomplimentary). We are currently carrying out a programme of recovery and consolidation of these key features, using a range of specially designed and revolutionary techniques including the physical removal of sections of stone and a silicone and resin transfer method which produces good quality impressions of the works suitable for possible further display and analysis.