Box Stone Mines

Box is probably the best known of the Bath Stone Mines. This is due to it's size and complexity. It is the largest stone mine in the country with many miles of interconnecting passages. The village of Box was put on the map when Brunel created his railway tunnel through Box hill in 1841. Although quarrying was carried out on Box hill in medieval times, the extent of the stone was unknown until the tunnel was built. Soon after building the tunnel they started to mine the stone commercially, several companies being involved, these were Pictors, Nobles and Stones. The mines evolved in a haphazard manner and pass over the top of Box Tunnel. A problem years ago was that they often met up underground which must have been annoying for the rival companies. The principal entrances in Box hill were Eastgate, Northgate, Westgate, Bridgegate, Backdoor, Clift and what is now called Jack's Workings, named after a stone quarrier. All these entrances were adits or levels and entered into the side of the hill or cliff face.

The workings once joined quarries in Hudswell and reached almost to Corsham. During the first and second world wars parts of this complex were requisitioned by the War Department and converted into bombproof stores. These have not yet been decontrolled and are used as stores by the Royal Navy. Eastgate was once the biggest entrance but was blocked in 1906. Northgate, Westgate and Bridgegate were also blocked at about the same time. The easiest entrance into the mines nowadays is by Jack's workings. This is in the most southern region of the mines known as the Lower Hill Series. The entrance is found in the woods on Quarry Hill near the west portal of Box Tunnel. Another entrance still accessible is the Backdoor. This is found at the foot off a cliff face near the top of Love Lane. This entrance is somewhat more difficult than Jacks Workings but it does provide direct access into the central-region of the mines. In the centre of the complex is an area known as the Cathedral, so called because of it's sheer size, it measures 190 feet long, 100 feet high and 25 feet wide at it's centre. In the roof of this chamber there is a large hole about six feet across.. All the stone removed from this chamber was hauled through this hole to the surface between the years 1830 to 1850. The roof above the Cathedral is only fifteen feet thick and a row of cottages are partially sited on this.

Due east of the Cathedral there are two shafts, named the Delta Rectangle Shafts or Webb's Stores Shafts. One shaft has an interesting stone staircase leading up to it. At the top of the stairs there is a 60 foot metal ladder reaching to the surface. The shaft has long since been capped and the ladder is unsafe. In the northern section there are many old quarrying tools such as saws and cranes. The northern section was quarried by the Bath and Portland Stone Co. until as late as 1968, Clift entrance is found in the northern section and can be seen from the A4 near Box Hill Motors. This section was quarried with a little more planning than the other parts as all underground junctions point towards Clift entrance. A map of this section resembles a tree and it's branches with the branches being the headings, this is a much more sensible method as wagons loaded with stone always had a straight route from the working face to the entrance. This made it practical to use a small steam locomotive for haulage. The engine was named Thunder by the quarrymen, it was also known as the Coffee Pot. The roof of the main passages near Clift entrance have a line of soot running down them caused by this engine.

It is inadvisable. to attempt exploring Box Stone Mine without a map as there is a high possibility of getting lost or falling down a well. The Shepton Mallet Caving Club have drawn maps of the workings and they seem to be very accurate. On the back of the map is a suggested route around the mine passing many places of interest These maps can be purchased in most caving shops or at the Quarryman's Arms which is situated in the village of Box.

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