a Parish - Page 29
Mines and Quarries
Until 1967 Monkton Combe and Combe Down were one parish and
much of the background of the quarries and mines relates to both
areas. Many of the smaller stone producing sites were closed in
1900 and as some of the larger ones found their tunnels
converging, they joined forces to become The Bath Stone Firms,
later The Bath & Portland Stone Firms. Taking an overall view of
mining and quarrying around Bath there were 60 miles of
underground workings and three million cubic feet of stone were
mined each year, much of it going for export.
The Romans were probably the first to make good use of the
Oolitic Limestone and without this honey coloured stone it is
true that Bath may not have been designated as a World Heritage
City. It was used in the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey, and during
Medieval times in the Henry V11 Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
But it was Ralph Allen in the 18th century who saw the true
potential of the stone and he bought up local land, exploiting
it to quarry stone which was used in most of Georgian Bath as
well as Windsor, Buckingham Palace, Brighton Pavilion and in
building abroad, especially the Commonwealth. Today the Royal
Crescent Hotel is using it in the extension to its mews.
Throughout the centuries extraction was by hand, using picks,
saws of various sizes, wedges and chains for pulling. When the
quarries were fully working in the first half of this century,
rats were a problem, attracted no doubt by the food taken in by
the miners. One elderly Combe Down resident remembers seeing a
"huge army" of rats running along one of the drungs. Quarrying
and mining continued during the First World War, large stocks
built up, prices fell and some quarries were sold for building
sites. Greater mechanisation was introduced to cut stone after
the Second World War and it is perhaps that, together with the
war time bombing and the very heavy traffic using the roads
built over the mines, which contributed to problems of
collapsing roofs on houses in Combe Down. During storms in 1987
a tree fell through the ground into the mines below and since
then there has been much discussion and surveys have been
carried out to try and decide how best to stabilise the area.
Today the most numerous inhabitants of the mines are greater and
lesser horseshoe bats.