General Information

These are just a few of the stone mines in the Bath area, these were all started in the nineteenth century.. There are some mines about a hundred years older but most are not accessible, mainly because the area has been built on but also due to them being very unsafe. There are some mines on Hampton Down still open but they are very simple and could be mistook for natural caves. Due to several subsidences in the Combe Down area there are plans to fill the old mines with a concrete slurry in order to prevent them collapsing. Owing to a much greater depth, the mines listed above will not suffer the same fate but their entrances may be sealed up to prevent any accidents. The slope shafts are easy to seal up having been proved with Park Lane Quarry and Hollybush.

When the stone companies no longer needed the mines, they were abandoned. Occasionally their entrances were sealed but nearly always, at least one entrance was soon opened up. For most people who are reading this they will want to see a stone mine for themselves. If you wish to have first hand experience but in safety then there is a quarry museum at Corsham. All necessary equipment is provided and a tour is given. However, the owners have recently been granted a licence to start quarrying again so the tours may soon stop altogether. If on the other hand you enjoy exploration and walking you may want to explore an abandoned stone mine. There are many suitable stone mines which are still accessible, if you do visit a mine then always check with the person who owns the site if they mind you entering. There are some important safety factors which must be adhered to, most of which are obvious. Firstly, always let someone know of your intentions and the time you expect to return. Never venture underground alone. Always carry light for at least twice your expected duration underground, don't forget a spare bulb if you use a torch, even if you get lost you can usually find your way out with enough light. Also carry a magnetic compass. Wear tough, warm clothing, i.e. boots, overalls, hard hat etc. and use your common sense.

When underground beware of the roof, it is often very unstable and the slightest touch could bring it down. Look out for wells, mainly in the Box mines, they have no walls around them. Always be sure that you could find your way back if necessary. Even if you have a map of the workings it is important that you remember details of where you just came from. Do not remove any artefacts you come across in the mines and take your old batteries etc. out with you. Following these guidelines should make it enjoying for everyone.

Features to note underground are square holes in the floors and ceilings, these are location holes for cranes called 'chog' holes. Many sawbenches can be found, these are slabs of stone with a saw cut in them. A blunt saw was laid in the groove and it's teeth were sharpened with a hand file. These files and saws can also be seen often near a sawbench. Cranes can be found intact but are very weak and mustn't be operated. Trolleys are much harder to find but some still exist. In fact nearly everything that a quarrier might use underground can still be found in the mines.

Here is a list of some tools that a nineteenth century quarryman would use:

A Frig Bob is a heavy five foot saw used to cut the blocks of stone from the breach.

A Razzer is a smaller saw than the Frig Bob (usually a worn down or broken Frig Bob) It was used for the first cuts in confined spaces.

A Drip Tin was a container with a small hole in it. A matchstick was inserted into the hole and the can filled with water. It was then placed over the saw cut at the rear of the block in order to prevent dust building up and restricting the cutting.

A Wedge was used to remove a block from it's seating. The stone is a sedimentary rock so it has breaks in the stone layers known as it's natural bed. The wedge was hammered into the joint until the block lifted up from it's seating. This eliminates the need for a horizontal saw cut.

A Crane was used to pull the blocks from the working face and lift them onto wagons. The crane's structure was usually made from wood and was powered by hand. It was fitted into the floor and ceiling but was moveable.

A Lewis Bolt was used with a crane to lift the blocks of stone, it consisted of four nieces of metal and a bolt, a hole was cut in the block and the Lewis inserted, when the bolt was put through, the block could be lifted by the Lewis safely.

Shears were used to lift blocks instead of a Lewis bolt, they were quicker and more economical than a Lewis as a hole wasn't required in the stone. They look like a giant pair of scissors and were available in several sizes.

An explanation of some terms used:

Ashlar is the name given to a sawn block of stone with a rectangular face and square edges, these blocks were used to build much of Georgian Bath.

Cave Pearls are tiny grains of grit onto which calcite has cemented itself to form white balls resembling pearls.

A Throw is the term given to the vertical movement of one bed of stone in relation to another.


Bath Stone a quarry history. By J.W. Perkins AT. Brooks and A. E. McR. Pearce

Tanky Elms.

Bath Freestone workings by Liz Price

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