15 August, 2013

Reigate Caves - East Cavern

Reigate Caves - Tunnel Road
So a couple of weekends ago, Thomas and I took a (short) trip into Reigate (just he and I) for one of the rare chances to take a look at the tunnels that exist under the town!  Starting with a two person procession under the temporary "Triumphal Arch" at the start of Tunnel Road (it's there to celebrate 150 years of Reigate and Redhill being granted official status as a "Borough" and is a reconstruction of an arch erected to greet a young Queen Victoria when she stopped at the local inn (The White Hart) to pick up a fresh horse on her way to Brighton Pavilion many years ago...
Reigate Caves - Tunnel Road
Anyway, we followed the signs and fluttering flags until we came upon a collection of folk wearing hard hats and miners lights (a good indication we were in the right place) -
Reigate Caves - Tunnel Road
- paid a small entrance fee to one of the Wealden Cave and Mine Society officials -
Reigate Caves - Tunnel Road
- and then began our tour with the first of the caves - the East Cave - or "Tunnel Caves Experience"...
Reigate Caves - Tunnel Road
This particular cave is a sort of "do it yourself" affair (to quote them "you are free to wander as you please"), shortly after making our way though the entrance door we were greeted by two cheerful Cavers who helped Thomas and I into hard hats-
Reigate Caves East
Reigate Caves East
- Thomas' one had a little bat on it (which we thought was pretty cool) -
Reigate Caves East
- next up was a glimpse (through a little gap in the wall) into an old shop cellar/storeroom, still laid out as if in use (I imagine it would be situated right behind the kitchens in Cafe Rouge)-
Reigate Caves East
In the first (proper) chamber was a display of plates (rails) and sleepers from the horse-powered "Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway" (which was in operation between 1805 and 1838) - it was originally intended to extend all the way to Reigate (the main terminus was to have been in Bell Street - right opposite the Priory), but the money ran out when they reached Merstham...the main purpose of the railway was to link up all the mines in the area with the glass furnaces along the Thames (the Reigate mines (or caves as they are called now) were an excellent source of "silver sand" perfect for this purpose)-
Reigate Caves East
- there is also a "meat cooler" (which I, and I imagine a few other people, mistook for a railway "carriage")...From there on we move quite far forward in history, the mines having been used (when all the valuable sand had been extracted and the mines closed) largely for storage by local businesses - but when World War 2 arrived, the caves found new purpose as Air Raid shelters -
Reigate Caves East
Reigate Caves East
Reigate Caves East
Quite sophisticated ones...with emergency water supply tanks -
Reigate Caves East
- living spaces and kitchens -
Reigate Caves East
- radio and operations rooms -
Reigate Caves East
- (one of which had been converted into a display of the local geography)-
Reigate Caves East
Reigate Caves East
- even (much to Thomas' delight) a large toilet!
Reigate Caves East
Reigate Caves East
Plus the caverns had more entrances than it currently enjoys (although all but the one we came in through are now bricked up)...from here we wandered back in time again, as we got deeper and deeper under the ground, back to the days of the original miners -
Reigate Caves East
- exploring the dark twisting passages spotting ancient graffiti left in the sandstone walls...

Next - we ventured into the West Caverns - this time led by a guide (but more on that later)... ;)

5 comments:

Mum and Dad said...

Looking forward to seeing the rest of your visit,Thomas was telling us all about it on Tuesday.It made a big impact!

Dad said...

Dad says: What proud grandparents you make us. Really lovely to see my son and my grandson enjoying each other's company. xx

Tom Hopwood said...

I echo mum and dad, as a proud friend it's great to see you guys becoming a dynamic duo. Really enjoyed the pix as I never got round to visiting the caves.

Fink Angel said...

I *know* - how long have I lived around here and never visited them? Exactly the same with the Dorking caves! They are going on the list too! ;)

Stuart Goldsmith said...

Well done excellent review of all our hard work. i look forward to other feedback.

Stuart G . wealden cave and mine soc