Oxford Archaeology

Oxford Archaeology

The underground quarries which collectively make up what is today the Combe Down Stone Mines are situated below the central, Conservation Area, of the Combe Down Ward, about two kilometres south of the City of Bath. A large proportion of the Ward has been quarried, both by surface and by undermining over a long period of time, but mainly between 1730 and 1860 when they were the source of freestone for the "golden age" of Bath. The mines stayed open until the early years of the twentieth century and following their closure were used for a variety of purposes, including a mushroom farm and as an Air Raid shelter during the war time Baedeker raids on Bath.

Oxford Archaeology were first appointed to work with Parsons Brinckerhoff to input archaeological issues into the planning application & environmental assessment.

Analysis of our findings

The site work is now complete and OA have begun the production of the detailed report our findings. Analysis of the site has been ongoing throughout the eighty years of the project and we produced fully illustrated interim reports in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. Work is now underway upon the final synthesis report of the excavations and this will be published as an archaeological monograph in the summer of 2010.

Initial phasing, based upon a range of different pillar forms and techniques of exploitation has allowed some six time phases (allowing for some overlap) of activity to be determined, to a degree which it is now possible to begin to hypothesis about individual quarries within the workings.

Information about surface innovation had been established earlier, but it is possible now to demonstrate that the underground workings were also carried out systematically, and that substantial innovation took place underground also. It is not yet fully clear, however (because of the lack of comparative information) to what extent this was autonomous, or whether it was brought in from outside. One theory is that the 18th century saw internal Combe-centric innovation, but in the 19th century technological advances were imported, notably from the very fast-growing Wiltshire competitors.

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