Monks Park Quarry, Wiltshire
Yet another jewel in Wiltshire’s underground war-time crown is Monks Park. Situated in the unassuming village of Gastard, close to (and in-fact connected to Ridge) Monks Park was another important site in Britain’s war effort.
Monks Park was left abandoned & derelict in 2004 by its then-owner Hanson. The above-ground area had become a wasteland. Expensive stone cutting machinery lies in rusted heaps, and historical, interesting wooden carts thrown in a pile, broken & battered. Why they don’t clear up after themselves is baffling but I suspect it’s down to leases running out and then they think, “Sod it, not our problem anymore!”.
Anyway… after a short time taking in the above-ground area, which included the old winch house, we headed towards the slope shaft. Like the other mines in the area, I love walking down these slope shafts (not so much walking up them!) the air turns cooler, the noise of the outside world fades away and darkness surrounds you with only the echoes of footsteps resonating all around… however when you get to the bottom of this particular 212-step shaft a whirring fan can be heard in the distance. That is because in 1997, part of the underground workings were sold by the Royal Navy to local defence company, Leafield Engineering. A tiny hole by the connecting door teases a glimpse into their operations.
Monks Park was mined from 1886 by several different companies, Sumsions, Bath & Portland Stone and Hanson to name a few. It was in 1937 when Monks Park was taken over by the war department for the storage of munitions much like the quarries & mines that surround it, however conversions were never finished and by 1940 it was the only underground working in the Corsham area that still hadn’t been allocated for government use. In 1941 development came to a complete stop. It wasn’t until well after World War Two in the 1950s that Monks Park was returned to and further development took place for storage space with a new vertical shaft put in to accompany the slope shaft.
Monks Park eventually became one of my favourite mines in Corsham, there’s such a nice mix of old & new and over the half a dozen times I’ve explored it, I always found something new – and it was a testament to Monks Park that I never took many photos… always being too busy taking everything in!
UPDATE: Early 2016 saw the reopening of Monks Park by Hanson after the unexpected termination of their lease at the nearby Hartham Park site.