Lots of Belles, partners and friends attended the John Aubrey Group (JAG) meeting at Kington Langley Village Hall this week. We were bowled over by Nick McCamley's enthusiastic revelations of our area's 'Secret Underground Cities' i.e. the uses the local Bath stone quarries were put to post mining.
Nick first came across Monkton Farleigh mine as a teenager in the late 1960s, when he and his friend Graham broke in and explored the mysterious coal grabber and other equipment; tunnels; and conveyor belts recently abandoned by the MOD.
It turned out they had found one of the mines used to store the army's ammunition and ordinance during WWII. Nick subsequently became the mine's owner during the 1980s and at least one Belle can remember the fascinating tours available there at that time. Sadly these are no longer available as the mine is now used for archival storage by Restore (formerly Wansdyke).
He also featured Tunnel and Spring quarries near Corsham. Many millions of pounds was spent during WWII to convert Spring quarry into an underground Bristol aircraft engine factory. It was a huge white elephant with only 500 or so engines actually made, many of which failed in testing due the adverse manufacturing conditions underground.
The cold war saw the MOD turn their investment into 'Burlington', which was the codename for the emergency government headquarters should Britain experience a nuclear bombardment. Thankfully it was never used and the closely guarded secret of those times is now well documented.
It was an interesting and eye opening evening. Those of you who'd like to know more about these mines and others in the area might like to explore Nick's website.
What is the John Aubrey Group (JAG)?
JAG is the collective name for the group of 8 WIs from Chippenham and surrounding villages who get together twice a year (April and October) to hear a speaker usually out of reach of the individual WI's budgets. Each WI takes it in turn to be the host and organiser, with other tasks (raffle, flowers, welcome table, catering etc) also shared in turn,
These talks are in addition to each WI's programme, so there is a nominal charge to cover costs. Any profit is given back to the member WIs in some way, usually in the form of Denman vouchers given to the previous year's host WI as a thank you for their organisation. This year (2019), JAG is also subsidising the cost of the Wiltshire WI Centenary celebration at the Neeld Hall in May.
This time it was the Belles' turn to provide the flowers for the evening and Teresa's secret skill was revealed. Isn't her arrangement gorgeous?
NB there's more about John Aubrey - the 17th century historian from Kington St Michael - here.