More about Combe Down quarries and quarrying

Main passage in Firs quarry, Combe Down

I’ve added more about Combe Down quarries and quarrying.

It’s now divided into the following nine sections which are, hopefully, self explanatory:

Combe Down’s freestone is, of course, why the village exists. Combe Down’s quarries were heavily worked between 1730 and 1840 and did not cease operations until the early years of the 20th century. Over 40 quarries have been listed on Combe Down. In 1895 The Builder listed 10 open quarries and one mine on Combe Down. Upper Lawn Quarry, across the fields from Gladstone Road, continues to operate today, the last quarry on Combe Down.

According to The British Geological Survey: “The best freestones in the Chalfield Oolite are found in the upper part of the Combe Down Oolite Member and within the Bath Oolite Member, where the rocks are composed of fine- to coarse-grained ooid-limestone with a sparry cement and little matrix.”

P539526 Stone Firms Limited (Bath and Portland) underground workings, Old Cleft Mine, Box. Working on Bath Stone near Corsham Wiltshire. Lifiting blocks with eye bolt.Copyright © British Geological Survey.

P539526 Stone Firms Limited (Bath and Portland) underground workings, Old Cleft Mine, Box. Working on Bath Stone near Corsham Wiltshire. Lifiting blocks with eye bolt.

When quarrying stone needs to be carefully removed and prepared for use without causing damage to or weakening of the stone and quarrying is hard work. When the Combe Down stone mines stabilisation was taking place, lots of graffiti was found and it provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the miners, throwing light on such matters as the price of beer in 19th century pubs and the miner’s often uncomplimentary attitude to their employers.

Among the famous and beautiful buildings built with Combe Down stone are: Royal Crescent, Bath Assembly RoomsThe CircusQueen Square, St John’s HospitalPrior Park, South ParadeThe Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Claverton Pumping Station, Gay StreetDundas Aqueduct, Lancaster House, Buckingham PalaceLongleat, Windsor Castle and Apsley House.

Two centuries of excavation of Bath stone left a huge void under the original parts of Combe Down village and so an infilling project was started. It lasted for 10 years from 1999 until 2009, covered 25.608 hectares, and affected 649 properties. The total volume of infill placed was 620,894 cubic metres, enough to cover a football pitch to a depth of nearly 90m.