We found some random things as we dug, like glass bottle tops, a nail and part of a fence.
Tom Flemons from Cliveden Conservation, came to look at the site as well as David Odgers, from Odgers Conservation. They will work from our pictures and get back to us with recommendations on the next stage - protecting what we have uncovered and building on it to create a curved memorial seat. Once we know the costings, we can apply to the B&NES planning office for permission to do the work.
After all of that digging, measuring and inspection, we then had to cover it all up again!
I then drew this sketched map on the computer and estimated the most likely circles of the wall from our measurements. Our map is very like the illustration above.
On a fairly sunny day with Martin Coulson (from Combe Down Heritage Society) and Val Lyon (from Ralph Allen Cornerstone), and George the dog (who helped...) we began a new survey of the site of the Firs Field Mine Shaft. The survey was to measure where any visible stones from the original wall are in relation to the very large tree that has since grown close to the site.
We needed: Metal spikes (to prod the ground for possible stones and then mark their location); a compass (to measure the degrees to later plot the bearings of the circle wall); a tape measure (to measure the distance of the stones from the tree); a notepad and pencil to record the results...
First of all, we prodded the ground for anything hard that may be a stone from the original wall that surrounded the mine shaft. Some of the stones were still actually visible so they were easy to mark. Where we were sure, we poked the metal spike in to indicate where it was.
Next, we measured the tree and worked out with the compass where North was. The tree helped us to get our bearings. We had a struggle using the compass on the mobile phone so went back to using an old-fashioned compass!
Then we measured the distance from the tree to one of the metal spike markers and its bearings (degrees from North). And noted those results down very carefully!
Now we have all the measurements, the next step is to draw a map. The map is important to show where excavation will be possible and to get permission to do it.
I'm Bert and I am starting my Duke of Edinburgh bronze award. As part of it, I'm helping with a project local to me to try to conserve the last surviving mine shaft on public land (the Firs Field) in Combe Down, Bath. I think it's important to have a site visitors and locals can visit to see how mining for stone shaped our village and also shaped the world famous architecture in Bath and the surrounding area. The project is led by Val Lyon from Ralph Allen Cornerstone and overseen by Martin Coulson from Combe Down Heritage Society.
So why is some old mine shaft buried under grass important? Well, it's a bit of a long story - so here's a brief explanation.... The Great Oolite stone, know as Bath stone, was formed over 146 million years ago, when the Combe Down area was beneath a deep tropical sea. It was first quarried in Roman times and they built important buildings with it, like the Roman Baths down the hill in the city.
Combe Down’s stone mines became really important in the 18th and 19th centuries when Ralph Allen elevated the golden stone using the latest cutting technologies. His skill and ambition gave architects fantastic stone which allowed them to build the curves seen on the famous sweeps of buildings of The Circus and The Royal Crescent.
However, when the railways came along, Combe Down's position on a hill made getting the stone to the trains more difficult compared with other mines in Box and Limpley Stoke and a gradual decline of the Combe Down mines began.
Following their closure, they were used for other things, like a mushroom farm and air-raid shelters during World War Two. They also became home to bats and now part of the mine is a Site of Special Scientific Interest housing populations of endangered Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats.
In 1989, whist excavating a trench, a contractor unexpectedly broke through into part of the mines! Bath City Council commissioned a survey of the mines that discovered there were some voids up to 8m high that had less than 2m cover. So if you stood in one of these voids, you could hear people talking at the bus stop above you! To stop the roads and houses collapsing, the empty caverns were filled with foamed concrete.
Today there is only one active quarry in Combe Down. After such a long history of stone quarrying, it's a pity that there's virtually nothing visible to the public. Which is why this project is important, to remind future generations of our little village's incredible role in the making of Bath and the surrounding area.