Chislehurst Caves

One Sunday I went with Debra to Chislehurst Caves.† I really enjoyed it even though we didnít see any of the ghosties that have made it their home.



 

On entering the caves you are given a lantern to light your way.† You have to walk carefully as the ground is a bit uneven.† As youíll see from the photos, itís very dark.† You will need a powerful flash to get any good shots.†

Chislehurst caves are not naturally made in the way regular caves are.† They are not caves so much as mines.† They were not made by centuries of running water, but by man in the hunt for flint and chalk.† They were formed over 8000 years by three different historic groups of people; the Saxons, Druids and Romans.†

In 1865 a local railway station was built nearby making the caves easier to get to, and became a tourist attraction. The caves also became the setting for several underground concerts in the 1900's.

Druids

The Druids section is the oldest section. Itís thought to date from between 5000-8000 years ago. †It is thought that this section may have been used by Druids to sacrifice humans on what, by some, is believed to be an altar with a cut out bit to receive the blood of the sacrificee. Others say that the 'altars' were merely platforms that miners used to gain access to the roof to dig further in.

There is a big oblong metal drum upside down tank type thing, which our guide banged.† We could hear the echo of the bang for nearly 30 seconds.† The sound could be heard all though the cave system. It could be used for signaling.

Saxons

Saxons dug for flint - which is in the chalk - to make tools.

Romans

Romans dug out chalk to turn into limestone by heating it.† They used this limestone to make mortor to build London.† There is a well in the Roman section that was built so there was no longer a need to keep returning to outside the caves to get water.


 

Wartime use


The caves were used during World War 1 to store ammunition.† During World War 2, the caves were used between 1940-45 as a large air raid shelter, for up to 15,000 people.† People rented space by the day or week and were given pitch numbers which were marked out on the walls, as system to know where everyone was.

Lighting and a ventilation fan were installed, along with basic sanitation such as creosote in a barrel. There was a church that is still there but not used.

There was also a church for the children. There was a small hospital, which we saw; a baby girl was born there, not whilst we were there that is, but during the war. She was named 'Caveina'.† Get it CAVEina!† Good job it didnít cave in a!


 

Mushroom growing

Mushrooms use to be grown in the caves; Oliver Cromwell (not THE), who lived in Susan Wood Cottage grew mushrooms in the caves under his cottage.† Up until 1932 the French had the monopoly on mushrooms, growing large amounts in caves near Paris.† As a result of the 1930s depression, their government inflated the price of mushrooms by twice as much with a high duty.† This was the signal for mushroom growers in the UK to start an onslaught of mushroom growing themselves.† The caves were used for this money making venture between 1933 Ė 1939 by the Kent Mushroom Company who own the caves to this day.

Entertainment use

In the 1960s and 1970s the caves were used for performing music including skiffle, jazz and rock. The acoustics of the caves meant that five different bands could be playing near each other without interference. Bands and singers such as Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball, Humphrey Littleton, The Beatles, Rolling Stones and David Bowie used the caves as a venue.† Jimi Hendrix once used the caves for a party for 2000 guests.† The caves have often been used by film and TV companies. A Sci-fi film 'Inseminoid' was made and it was here that Doctor Who played by Jon Pertwee met the 'Mutants'.

Ghosts



There are tales of ghosts in the caves.† One is said to be of a Roman centurion who killed nearby, Another of a woman who was murdered by drowning by her husband and is said to haunt the pool which I was brave enough pose by for a photo.† A priest is said to have died of fright, as he was so scared in the caves.† There used to be a competition where the prize of £5.00 could be won by sleeping in the caves alone for 12 hours, with just six candles and a trail of flour to the exit.† Most people failed, some within minutes.†† A Policeperson succeeded, but vowed he never do it again for any amount of money as he was frightened by feeling something behind him.† There was also a person found unconscious. These days, no one is allowed to stay overnight in the caves, following an incident in which one of the guides was hurt. People would be hurt trying to rush out, so the competition was stopped for safety.

To find out more about the caves visit the site. http://www.chislehurstcaves.co.uk

 

 

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