The site has several names. Bedlams Bank is the most commonly used one but in fact, refers to the surface area around the entrance. The correct name is “The Chaldon Quarries”. The site is an underground stone quarry, not a mine. (mines are specifically where minerals are extracted, underground workings for stone are always called quarries)
The quarry was worked for ‘firestone’; a building stone, before the advent of railways this was the best available stone in the Home Counties. It is a freestone, which means that it can be cut or split in any direction. The stone has been used since Roman times and particularly by the Normans and Late Medieval builders in many prestige buildings, Windsor Castle, the old London Bridge, Hampton Court palace to name but a few, and many other high-status buildings throughout the southeast.
The eastern end of the working is the youngest at around 300 years old, the workings get progressively older to the west and are certainly of Tudor age, and perhaps even late medieval. The site is vast, with over 10 miles of surveyed open passage, and probably as much again backfilled. From one end to the other, the workings stretch for over a mile east to west beneath the North Downs. The galleries head into the hill following the natural gradient or dip of the rocks, a gentle slope of around 10 degrees and terminate around 3-400 metres where the galleries descend to the original water table preventing further extraction.
The western end is most easily reached, the Far East is a very long way underground and quite an arduous trip. Navigation in the site is extremely complex, to anyone unfamiliar with the site the passages are all very much the same and it is very easy to get lost within the labyrinth of passages. For this reason, access without a guide is not recommended. If you are interested in finding out more about this fascinating site or wish to arrange a visit please contact the Trips Organiser of the Wealden Cave and Mine Society, or visit our website at: www.wcms.org.uk
Within the WCMS archives, you will find literally hundreds of articles about this site and many others with all aspects of exploration and archaeology discussed in full.
Date Of Visit: 08/04/07