Ridge Quarry (Central Ammunitions Depot), Wiltshire

Ridge quarry was my first real underground experience as an “urban explorer”. Growing up on Portland in Dorset I wasn’t a stranger to underground spaces and cave networks, but nothing quite prepares you for the sheer scale of the Wiltshire mines.

Ridge Quarry - Slope Shaft No.2
The bottom of Slope Shaft No.2 with the few remaining steel arch supports, most of which were scrapped when the quarry was put in to private hands.

Being one of the smaller mines earmarked for the Central Ammunition Depots (CAD) in the area of Corsham, I remember exploring Ridge on a sunny Sunday afternoon and climbing down inside the slope shaft obliviously under-prepared and under-equipped.

We had one torch between us, no maps, no safety helmets, completely under-dressed & perhaps most shockingly, told no one where we were going. All these oversights quickly came to the fore when for about 30 minutes we were going round in circles searching for the exit, getting more & more irate with each other, both of us arguing that we knew the way out, eventually happening on it by complete luck. Never again would I go underground so badly equipped.

Access to Ridge quarry over the years after our first visit changed a lot and for a long time it was either completely inaccessible, or open for very short periods of time, and as far as I know, Ridge is now in the hands of a local stone company, Ham & Doulting, and completely locked down. Periodically we managed to get a few visits in and see more of the mine each time. Even though Ridge is one of the smallest mines in the area, I thought it was one of the most difficult to navigate as everything looks so similar.

The history of Ridge

Taken over by the war office in 1915 and used for TNT storage during The Great War, Ridge was vacated by the Ministry of Munitions in 1922.

Ridge quarry is on two levels, accessed via two inclines and after Ridge was requisitioned in 1934, concrete works began in 1938 on the lower level but were soon abandoned due to the costs out-weighing the benefits. Even if it did look spectacular!

Early in 1944, bomb storage peaked at 31,563 tons as the invasion of Europe was being prepared and in April & May of that year the RAF dropped 200,000 tons in operation Overlord with Ridge’s contribution to the campaign an impressive 21,000 tons.

It’s genuinely sad seeing the mines around Corsham slowly but surely being locked away from sight and only being accessed by a privileged few. Uncertainty surrounds what Ham & Doulting Stone have planned for Ridge and why they’ve decided to secure it so tightly. I can’t see it being re-opened for mining, but I’d be the first to admit I’m no expert and time will ultimately tell.

If you’d like to learn more about Ridge and the Corsham mines, I’d highly recommend Nick McCamley’s book, Secret Underground Cities.

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40 responses to “Ridge Quarry (Central Ammunitions Depot), Wiltshire”

  1. Milks says:

    It’s such a shame about Ridge Quarry.

    It’s all because the people who rent the land above the complex were getting their tyres slashed and vehicles graffitied. I went over there today and the whole of the street “The Ridge” is CCTV’ed with movement alarms. Anyone drives down or walks down, they will know about it.

    I was speaking with one of the residents (lovely chap, had a good chat with him about Ridge!). He explained they had to bring a massive machine in to carry the block of stone sat on top of the entrance to Slope Shaft 2. He also said that… and I quote “If the vandalism to our (the residents) property did not happen and people weren’t trashing the mine, they would not have a problem and the place would still be open.”

    So, if anyone reading this is looking for a place to go and trash, all of the genuine explorers who want to go and see these places for the history and preserved nature (highly rare.. read back two lines) of these places, it ruins it for everyone when they get sealed. People don’t need to do much thinking to work that one out.

  2. Dan says:

    Any idea if it is open again? Me and some others would like to go have a look around.

  3. Joel says:

    Does anyone know if there is still access to this place. If so where are the entrances?

  4. eli says:

    Whats the status on Ridge? Getting conflicting reports and planning to do a few in the area this weekend! email lyonjj02@gmail.com

  5. Mark says:

    Hey guys, there has been a lot of changes to the mines and Corsham area recently, I have explored Bath freestone many times, Browns Folly, Swan mine and Farleigh down tunnel but have not explored Ridge quarry. Where can I find the entrance to Ridge quarry? Any recommendations for other explorations? Look forward to your reply cheers.

  6. Leonard clark says:

    We lived on Portland for twenty years and never knew any thing about these tunnels.

    You wonder what else there is very interesting

  7. trace skelton says:

    Would love to go there but don’t want wasted trip does anyone know of its sealed up or not

    Many thanks

  8. Vince says:

    Looking at the pictures the site seems awesome. However there seems to be a lot of blocked entrances and wondered if it still was possible to get in? Being fairly far way, I don’t want to get all the way there, just to find all the entrances to be sealed. Cheers!

  9. Jeran says:

    I can’t quite work out from the article, was this a recent visit or was this a while ago as I can’t quite work it out and I’d quite like to pay a visit?

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      It’s the result of several visits over about 6-7 years. As far as I’m aware Ridge Quarry is now inaccessible and has been for about a year. But as always with these things, it’s best to find out for yourself!

      • Jeran says:

        Hello again, I went there today and found that the slope two entrance is still blocked with tonnes of blocks and now has a trailer over it too! We tried a few pin points we found on an OS map one was just a shaft that had a metal grill over and about a 20m drop and the other has since over grown and covered up which is now inaccessible. Slope one is next to some houses and has apparently been covered over and destroyed when the buildings were flattened. So unfortunately access is unavailable to this mine.

      • Tom says:

        Any idea if this is still around?

  10. alan says:

    Always pleasure reading your reports. Well done, thank you.

  11. Rich says:

    Great shots again. Live so locally to all of these yet still never visited. You’ve just peaked my interest again. Will renew my efforts. Great work again

  12. Sara Harpley says:

    As usual Adam, quality photographs and a very interesting report. Thank you!

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