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‘Finished Labour of a Thousand Hands’ The archaeology of the Combe Down Stone Mines, Bath, Somerset

Willies, Lynn and Redvers-Higgins, Neville and Wain, Ianto and Brown, Lisa and Cotter, John and Goodburn, Damian and Hind, Jill and Lewcun, Marek and Salter, Chris and Scott, Ian and Shaffrey, Ruth and Strid, Lena and Dylewski, Markus and Wachnik, Magdalena and Slater, Georgina and Kilgour Cooper, Anne (2011) ‘Finished Labour of a Thousand Hands’ The archaeology of the Combe Down Stone Mines, Bath, Somerset. Project Report. Oxford Archaeology, Oxford.

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Between November 2000 and August 2008 Oxford
Archaeology carried out a programme of underground
monitoring and detailed recording of a
section of the underground stone quarries at Combe
Down, Bath. The works were carried out prior to
and during the stabilisation of the quarries, a
process that was carried out by concrete infilling.
The quarries (legally mines during the Stabilisation
Scheme), were situated below the central
Conservation Area of Combe Down, which lies
between 1.5 and 2 km south of the historic centre of
Bath. Alarge proportion of the parish was subject to
either quarrying underground or at surface over a
long period, but mainly between 1730 and 1860,
when the area provided the main building material
for the ‘golden age’ of Bath. Quarrying in the outer
areas of the parish continued, but the main supply
of Bath Stone thereafter came from the much larger,
rail-served Wiltshire quarries.
The recording works were carried out as a longrunning
Watching Brief, during the construction of
a network of supported engineering roadways
designed to initially provide safe access to all areas
of the mine and latterly to facilitate the filling of the
mines with foam concrete. The recording was
primarily by drawn and photographic methods,
although a range of other techniques such as laser
scanning and video photography were employed to
augment the traditional techniques.
The survey, augmented by programmes of
documentary and archival research, has enabled a
detailed chronology and technological analysis of
the development of the underground workings to
be established. These have demonstrated that
although stone quarrying was certainly being
carried out in the early 18th century and may have
been undertaken as far back as the Roman period,
the first large-scale exploitation of the quarries
occurred during the middle years of the 18th
century (c 1730-1764) under the ownership of the
entrepreneur Ralph Allen, who introduced innovative
techniques and industrial organisation to the
process. Extensive quarrying continued after
Allen’s death in 1764 although the central organising
influence was ended and the work was
conducted by a number of independent quarrymasters
or freemasons. Underground quarrying
continued in the central Combe Down area until the
1860s and both underground and surface quarrying
continued on the fringes of the area until the 1930s.
The Combe Down Stone Mines Project is the first
time in the UK that the full resources of a professional
archaeological body, Oxford Archaeology,
have been used to carry out a large-scale archaeological
examination of underground quarries. The
project successfully demonstrated that such works
are compatible with ongoing mining operations
where old workings are to be disturbed by development.
The strategy integrated thorough archaeological
investigation with an extensive examination of
documentary and published resources, and the
results are presented in this volume

Primary archive records and interim report.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Subjects: Primary Archives
Geographical Areas > English Counties > Somerset
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Fieldwork
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2012 17:55
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2023 12:47
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/765

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