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Home > Mines, Quarries & Sites > Chislehurst Chalk Mine

Chislehurst Chalk Mine (United Kingdom)

No.1 (TQ433696) - Extensive pillar & stall workings for production of chalk for lime burning

No.2 (TQ433697) - open chalkwell (shaft 12 metres)

“Deneholes”, Chelsea Speleological Society page 16

"Deneholes Part 2", Chelsea Speleological Society, page 45

"Kent & East Sussex Underground", Kent Underground Research Group

“Caves & Tunnels in Kent”, Chelsea Speleological Society page 23-32

Extract from Bernard Darwin (1946) War on the Line. The story of the Southern Railway in war-time. London: Southern Railway Company


The subject of trains in tunnels seems to lead naturally … to that of people in caves. The community of Chislehurst Caves has been one of the curious by-products of the war, and since the Railway ran special trains there it has a right to a place. In the last war the caves had sheltered TNT; between wars came mushrooms; with the early days of the blitz in 1940 came nightly refugees, a small number at first, but growing like a snowball till there was not a vacant spot for newcomers.
It was safety first and foremost that sent them trooping there, but for many there was the added charm of a communal existence and for a few, perhaps, romance. Unquestionably, the Chislehurst Caves are exciting and romantic places.
"East, ah, east of Himalay
Dwell the nations underground."
He must be lamentably prosaic to whom these lines make no appeal, and these caves burrow their way deep, ah, deep into the face of a hill. In peace time we used to pay a small sum to be led through their mazes, hurricane lamp in hand, by a polite gentleman who told us they had been excavated by the Druids with no other tools than the antlers of deer. The Druids must have been remarkably industrious people, for the caves are very large, and as far as the casual visitor knows, stretch away to uncharted distances. On the whole, perhaps, we cannot quite swallow the Druids, but the Caves are unquestionably very old, and in the roof of one passage there is a fossilised ichtheosaurus to witness if the Druidic gentleman lies. They were originally, it is believed, pits driven horizontally into the hill; they were in use in the time of the Romans and were still worked as pits not more than 150 years ago. They have a pleasant, airy, equable temperature and they feel as safe as safe can be; and the community of night birds which gradually came to stay there was by all accounts exceedingly well managed, nor did the owner of the Caves exploit the refugees. In course of time an elaborate organisation came into being, with a barber's shop, concerts, and church services, and many grew so fond of this existence that even at times when the raids had greatly abated they clung to it for its own cheerful and friendly sake.
Very large numbers took their evening train to Chislehurst as part of the day's routine, the time of the train naturally varying with the black-out. I have myself a vivid recollection of my first meeting with them. I had dined in London and was going home on a fine summer night, perhaps in May. I recollect that the only other person in my carriage was a railwayman, and we were having a very agreeable conversation when, as we drew in to New Cross Station, I saw the platform black with people from end to end, four or five deep. "I get out here," said my fellow traveller, adding with a grim smile: "You'll have plenty of company." He was right, for sixteen people, mostly mothers with small children, surged into the carriage. In my innocence I was utterly mystified by this Derby Day influx. It was only when, to my unspeakable surprise and relief, they all got out at Chislehurst and I could expand and feel myself tenderly, that I thought of the Caves.
That was not a time of bad raids and that train load was obviously composed of regulars, for all seemed to know each other. What the journey must have been like in the time of the flying bombs, which was soon to come, and of the rockets, I can only form a faint conjecture. Most of these regulars went by the ordinary train service, but when raids became worse and more frequent again early in 1944, it was arranged to run a special train from Cannon Street every night when the number of passengers demanded it. It ran nearly every night from January to March. The number of passengers varied between 1,500 and 2,500, and as many as a thousand sometimes travelled between eight and nine o'clock. Two thousand was roughly the number to justify a special train. The peak or rush hour depended on the black-out, and the late the black-out the better fun the children no doubt deemed it, and the worse it presumably was for them. A great many people took season tickets and the family expenses must often have amounted to 30s. a week. Whether many of them will ever get used to sleeping in their own beds in their own houses again it is hard to tell. Say what you will, there is something about a cave, and some old troglodytes may feel like Sam Weller's landlord in the Fleet, who always made up his bed under the table because he had been used to a four-poster before he came to the prison. The Caves may well have saved many lives, and if not that they saved many wretched wakeful nights of fear and misery. In the circumstances it would be very ungrateful not to believe in the Druids.

Photos of Chislehurst Chalk Mine

Photographs Of Chiselhurst
Photographs Of Chiselhurst (0 photos)
Last updated December 15th 2008 by Peter Burgess
Historic Photographs Of Chiselhurst
Historic Photographs Of Chiselhurst (0 photos)
Last updated July 7th 2008 by legacyuser

Google Earth Map of Chislehurst Chalk Mine

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Documents for Chislehurst Chalk Mine

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Major Mining Region

Chislehurst Chalk Mine belongs to the Kent region.

Starless River - Caving Store Moore Books: Specialist BooksI.A. Recordings: Mining and Industrial History DVDs
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