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Shove Ha'penny Tournament.

A grand Tournament has been started on the lines of everybody playing everybody else, to run from a fortnight ago until the day of the Annual Dinner (First Saturday in October). All who wish to take part, see the organiser at the Hunters.

Bed Nights.

The all time, record is about 1,430 odd.  We reached 1,400 last weekend, with a full two months to go.  Looks as if the Belfry is popular this year.

Belfry Redecoration.

This will be going on full steam over the fortnight either side of August Bank Holiday.  Members staying over this period are asked to keep out of the way of the decorating activities as much as possible.


Thanks to those who have sent in articles.  We are doing a bit better now and may be able to have a bigger B.B. next month.  Keep it up!


To the editor, Belfry Bulletin.

I recently received my February B.B., which miraculously arrived after about four re-addressings including one due to a 12,000 mile removal, hence the delay in writing this letter.

I was interested to read once again of the editor's amazing system for writing B.B. articles and wish to vouch for the fact that it actually works, in case anyone should doubt it.

The literary activities of Bert Bodge were placed before us a few years ago as a shining example. Reading this caused an Idea to be planted in my mind, which, after about six months to mature, gave rise to an article. This article in turn gave rise to correspondence.  If six months is about the average time for ideas to mature into articles, I'm afraid that this letter extolling the system will be crowded out by the avalanche of articles which must be arriving now.  I feel that the possibility of producing correspondence is worth mentioning and should be included in the table of weights and measures as follows; 2 articles = 1 screed = 1 correspondence producing article.

Norman Brooks.

P.S. Although there may be those in the club more qualified to comment on the drinking habits of the antipodes, the most startling thing that I, as a new arrival, noticed was not that the pubs close at 6 pm - I was prepared for that - but that they dish out the beer with a long hose reaching all parts of the bar and drink it out of little glasses not much bigger than eye baths.  I have never seen this in print, maybe the B.B. could claim a first on it!

Bath Stone Mines - Their History and Method of Operation

by Mike Calvert.

This article is intended as a follow up to the trip to the Bath stone workings.  I trust however that it will not be too difficult to understand if you did hot come on the trip.

History:  This is very difficult to follow up as there is an acute shortage of information available. Legend has it that in the VIIth Century A.D., Adhelm, later to be St. Adhelm, came to Box and dug the ground there. It is said that he thus discovered the stone now known as Bath Stone.  The first positive material is that in 1727 Ralph Allen came to Bath and commenced underground quarrying of Bath Stone on Coombe Down which was used to build such places as the Circus and the Royal Crescent in Bath. No real detail is traceable until 1883. From then on until about 1930, the quarrying of Bath Stone was a major industry, and Bath Stone was being used for many of our stately homes all over the country.  From the 1880’s onward, nearly all the so-called Bath Stone was obtained at Box or Corsham, as the Coombe Down supplies had been exhausted as a commercial prospect.  The rock at the former places came in bigger blocks that that at Bath and was considerably more stable in quarrying. Hence less roof supports were needed and the cost of mining the stone was cheaper.

The Quarrying Process: The method of quarrying Bath Stone by underground means changed very little from 1880 to 1930 and one description will fairly cover all cases.  I take my extract from the Bristol Master Builders Association Journal of September 21st, 1904.

The article concerns a visit to Monks Bark Quarry at Corsham.  The quarries were owned by Bath Stone Firms Ltd., later to become the well known Bath & Portland Stone Co. Ltd.

“This firm has quarries at Combe Down, Farleigh Down, Box an. in Corsham.  The stone is extracted from the quarry as follows: - The first procedure when at the rockface is to drive adze shaped picks six to seven feet into the top foot of the rockface, putting longer handles on the pick as it goes further into the rock.  The width of the hole thus formed varies according to the width of the bed.  In Monks Park, these are twenty five to thirty feet wide. In the Box workings they are from twelve to twenty feet wide.

Next, a one handed saw is brought into action.  These saws are in lengths of four, five, six and seven feet.  They are broad at the head or extreme point.  The saw is first worked in horizontally, dropping a little as it goes in, and thus opening the rock down to its next natural parting. When this has been done on either side, the block is separated laterally from the parent rock.  Levers are then inserted into the bed or natural parting at the bottom of the block and these levers are weighted and shaken until the block is forcibly detracted from the back.  It is then drawn down by crane power and the broken end and the bed dressed with an axe so as to make the block shapely.  It is then placed on a trolley and allowed to run to the loading platform.

After the first block has been removed, it is evident that the workmen have access, by that opening, to the back of the bank of stone and they avail themselves of this to work the saw transversely which, separating the block from the back or hinder attachment, renders all further breaking off unnecessary, so the first block of each face is the only one which is broken off.

To each face, or heading of work, a ten ton crane is erected in such a position as to command the whole face.  These cranes are now constructed telescopically so as to accommodate them to slight variations in the headings arising from different depths of the valuable beds.  After the block of freestone has been loosened in situ, a Lewis bolt is let into the face of the block, the chains of the crane attached to it, and the block then drawn out horizontally.

In one quarry at Monks Bark there is a machine worked by compressed air for picking the rock above the face at the roof.  It is estimated that three million cubic feet of rock per year is dug out by the firm”

This description gives a fairly good idea of the method of extraction but it misses out several details. I have gathered together a fair number of these details from a number of sources and rolled them into one illogical article, but I was pushed for time when trying to please our editor and write him an article.

The entrances to the workings vary immensely in character, the type of working which has its entrance going into the side of a hill generally has a horizontal or very slightly inclined entrance but those which enter the surface generally have sharply inclined shafts which may drop a hundred feet or more before the main workings are encountered.  Other connections with the surface are ventilation shafts.  These are usually narrow, vertical and round shafts which were dug from the surface downwards.  These may be up to one hundred feet in depth and remember, there were no pneumatic drills in those days!  The shafts were dug with a pick and shovel and a winch to take away the rubble.  Yet a third type of connection with the surface are vertical shafts about ten feet square dug to extract the stone when the workings became very extensive.  These are encountered in the Box workings.

Now to the inside of the workings.  These are of two types which depend on the extent of the beds.  They may be either single passages following a bed or, where the bed is very extensive, the workings are one mass of interconnecting passages.  Generally, the passages are ten to twelve feet square in section.  In the former type of working, the roof is generally a little insecure and is propped regularly by short wooden poles near the ceiling.  In extensive workings, blocks of rock are left periodically to support the roof.

As the quoted article suggests, transport in the workings was by trolley.  These were of various types - flat low ones for transporting the stone, boxes for transporting horses and carts for the men.  The trolleys were pulled by horses in the main, but one reference I found for 1883 mentioned a steam engine pulling the trolleys.  The trolleys had flanged wheels and ran on lines similar to railways.  In some workings, traces of sleepers can be found, in others there are no such traces. If an inclined shaft was used as an entrance, the trolleys were pulled out by winch, and once the horses were down, they stayed down like pit ponies.  The stones cut averaged thirty to forty cubic feet and the miners used benzoline lamps in the 1880’s but turned to acetylene lamps at a later date.

There were stonemason's shops in Box where stone could be cut to order and this became of great importance in the 1920's.  Previous to this, the stone was sent out the same size as it was cut.  There were also machine shops of various types for making trolleys, engines and cranes.  Once the stone had been quarried, it was dried before use.  The usual procedure was to stock all the stone quarried during the summer months of in large piles outside the workings.  These then provided the supply for the following winter. The winters stockpile was used during the up summer.

For anyone who is interested, the author will be willing to take people round the workings at Kingsdown near Bath. These are the best workings to see how the stone was quarried, with a face crane left in position when the workings were abandoned.  There are also numerous one handed saws and some double handed ones.  There are a mixture of passages, mostly straightforward although some are complex.

“On The Hill”

or T.W.T.M.T.W.

Mendip, the world of beauty that few ever see.   So reads a headline of the Bristol paper of June 21st and underneath is a quite factual article on Mendip and its caves now well written, thanks I'm told, to Kevin Abbey who deleted some rather imaginative passages such as " the top of the Gorge in G.B. is a permanent flashing red beacon to guide cavers back to the surface."  Mr. B.J. Iles goes on to cover some of the larger swallets, vandalism and even B.E.C. leaders.  I see that only the B.E.C. is mentioned, could the 'editor' be biased?

Another article recently appearing in print was an item on photography underground by Nick Barrington in the Amateur Photographer with, so the experts tell me, quite good shots of Balch, Swildons and Cuthbert’s.  It strikes me as odd that none of our well known club photographers have not already exhausted this theme.

News from the other clubs is at its lowest ebb and I suspect that my gleanings will already be common knowledge.  Cerberus, on Eastern Mendip have, it is reported, been busy in St. Dunstan's and current rumour is that it is going! Incidentally, I am told that no committee meeting has been held by C.S.S. since their A.G.M. in April!  This apparently leaves an annoying state since their Trip Sec. retired and to date no new appointment has been made.  It is rumoured that "Prew" is taking over this vacancy.

The C.D.G. have been diving again in Stoke, surveying their previous discoveries.  Were these discoveries in any other cave, I'd be quite interested in a speedy opening up of these extensions – but in Stoke Lane Slocker - I ask you!

The S.M.C.C. have - apart from Family ties with the C.D.G. been very quiet lately.  The Wessex magazine this month appears to have been a takeover over by Tony Oldham & his nom de plumes (or should it be noms de plume? - Ed.) with several articles in his own right plus a report on Mr. Jiffre's underground sojourn.  What price written by other than Alfie?  Rumour has it that the M.C.G. are blossoming forth again, but still no news of the S.C.O.T.(M.N.R.C.) O.T.W.N.H.A.A.S., the U.B.S.S., the A.C.C. and others.

The Mendip Cave Registry held a meeting in June and I gather that results so far are very satisfactory and reports, with few exceptions, are rolling in.  I for one will be very pleased to see the end product.

The Charterhouse Caving Committee, which started in a legal frenzy, seems not to have progressed any further than reiterating the rules pertaining to G.B.  It should be noted that Mr. Young at Longwood will now permit only two parties down at any one time.  Better give him plenty of warning!

News of the club is also limited.  The Annual Barbecue on June 22nd went with a swing and no doubt an article will be forthcoming on this subject.  There were several suited gentry present from the Chelsea Speleological Society present - no doubt on holiday from Aggy Aggy.  In case no one else remembers to thank the organiser - my thanks!

From Clapham comes news of a cave guide - Mike Boon.  With the marriage stakes we hear of Jug Jones  (R.I.P.) recently wedded and legal like, a point of interest to a recent rescue at Dow Cave, stated by a radio announcer, was that it cost the rescued several pints.  Obviously well informed!  Thinking of pints, one of my informants, snooping round a certain Saturday Meet hears whispers of promised barrels later in the year.  No doubt the usual grapevines will bear out the truth of this.

Thought for the month: To date, O.T.H. has incited no comment by way of reply to the B.B.  If you agree with all that I've said, think how humdrum you really must be!