Combe Down stone mines

A large sum of money for the in-filling of the Combe Down stone mine is being granted, although its actual disbursement is subject to all the usual hurdles scattered along the way by governmental authorities.

Amongst the many millions to be available the amount requested for the ‘interpretation centre’ was supposed to be ‘about a million pounds’, but this will still have to be justified, like everything else.

It would seem that a proper interpretation and heritage centre on Combe Down could justify the grant of this sort of money. What is properly called for is a major attraction with international appeal, to resound with Bath’s normal promotion of itself as a tourist centre of world significance.

It would need to include meaningful access to the mines for visitors, whether tourists or scientists including archaeologists, architects and geologists. The appeal attached to a personal visit to the underground working is so obvious as to need no emphasis. Consider the sewers and catacombs of Paris, the Boves at Arras, Big; Pit in south Wales, the ochre mines in the Forest of Dean, mines, caverns and troglodyte dwellings from the Loire valley to southern Turkey and beyond.

If further evidence of the lure of the subterranean were wanted, consider the case of Combe Down itself. Everyone who has been in any way linked to the negotiations for funding for work on the mines has demanded a site visit at some stage, often before announcing their decision – government ministers, senior civil servants, local councillors and council officers., the chairman of the ‘Community Association’.

In default of the lost opportunity for a proper conservation job on the mines, the establishment of an attraction to match or outshine thebaths of Bath and its Georian architecture has to be promoted.