Last weekend I took a trip with Bruce and Thom to the Chislehurst Caves, Bruce organised it so I had no idea what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised! At first I thought we were at the wrong place, as the caves lie in a very suburban area, you certainly wouldn't guess what lurks in the middle of the houses! Despite being called 'Caves' they are man made, are 22 miles long, and were used as chalk and flint mines. The earliest mention of them is circa 1250, and were believed to have been worked in the 1800s.
During the First World War they were used as ammunition depot, and they were used by many families as an air raid shelter during the Second World War (see picture above - these were the set rules for those staying there!) and were also used for mushroom cultivation in the 1930s - so they've served a multitude of purposes! More recently in the 1960s and 70s they were used for gigs by many of the greats, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd - wowzaa! The stage and bars are still in place, it must have been such an amazing weird and wonderful venue! I did have to touch the stage like a proper fan girl - squeal!
The reenactment dummies focus on it's use as a shelter during WW2 (apart from props left from horror films and an episode of Doctor Who!). I'm sure to the locals in Wartime it was an amazing opportunity to keep safe from the bombings, they would have a pitch designated to each family and if they failed to return after 4 days, it would go to another, assuming they had been killed in a raid. There was a small fee to stay, but there were sanitation facilities and even a medical ward, luckily, no one died in the caves, but a baby was born, and still is local apparently!
Hope you don't mind me stealing this photo Thom!
You are taken around the caves by a tour guide, ours was particularly cheery and a good laugh, kept taking us on extra tangents to show us his favourite spots in the caves. Another highlight is you get to carry a hurricane lamp around with you, which made me feel very Time Team/Indiana Jones - what a combo!
These carvings were commissioned in the 1990s by an artist from New Zealand, but they certainly look the part don't they? The caves are split into three sections: Roman, Saxon and Druid, there's plenty of mythology surrounding the Druid parts, even a possible alter for all those sacrifices they got up to! There are rumours that the caves are haunted, supposedly the bones of a woman were found in a pool there, and Most Haunted (which I love - guilty pleasure) have filmed there twice, I'll have to look those episodes up!
And can we just pause to appreciate this Churchill mural in the Caves Cafe? Impressive.
Thanks for reading, hope you have a good week!