After seeing Paul’s report I knew it was about time I got back under ground. He made the place look pretty special, after all.
With that in mind I got in contact with the land owner and arranged a visit at Holme Bank. He’s a really top bloke, provided a great survey of the mine and also agreed to be the emergency contact in case we didn’t get out on schedule. Couldn’t have asked for more really.
Holme Bank chert mine was worked from c.1800 up to 1960. There are extensive workings, notable for the large packwalls used to support the roof after the chert beds had been removed. The last company to operate the mine (Smiths Runners) also manufactured davie blocks for building, and continued to do so on site up to about 1995. Much of the surface plant is still on site.
Since it was a permission visit I turned up with the wife, who has accompanied me into Box Quarry a couple of times in the past as well. After a [what must be] record amount of rainfall recently water was dripping into the mine from above more or less throughout – I was so very glad I brought a hat – but at least underground the weather doesn’t affect you much unless you’re draining.
After locking the gate behind us I immediately headed down to one of the flooded sections of the mine that run along the whole Eastern length of the underground. I was surprised to find a large number of pipes, both large and small, running along of many of the passageways, and wading into the water slightly I spied what I imagine was the top of a fairly deep shaft with some heavy duty pipes popping up nearby. I can only assume all this was to help pump water out from the workings while they were still in use.
 I’ve since been told the pipes were most likely used for compressed air to run the mining tools. Always learning. [/edit]
1. A passageway heading down into the flood, flanked by packed stone walls
After returning to the main passage we headed down the rail tracks to a junction with a winch and a nice cart still in situ. I don’t know if the graffiti is original but it certainly matches the paint found elsewhere in the mine.
Down by the cart, notice the pipes running along the ceiling, and on the right branch the tracks have been pulled up as the tunnel falls into another flooded section.
At the edge of the water, again with the tunnel roof gradually lowering into the water, you can see a fall in the foreground. Made up of deads – small blocks of debris left when useful stone is removed from the mine, they are piled to form the packwalls of the tunnels and run through the majority of the mine. Because of the age of the mine, in several areas the packwalls have collapsed back into the passageways as the mine settles.
At this point we realised that I’d taken up a whole lot of time shooting the very first part of the mine. At this rate we’d never see the rest, so we pushed on to the far end before stopping for lunch.
Dry stone pillars as roof supports are a common feature of this mine, usually of single blocks piled in order of size. Eventually had mining continued I believe the gaps would have been filled, adding extra support and making the wide space into narrow pack walled tunnels to match what we had seen elsewhere in the mine.
On the left you can see the furthest end face of the mine. Because this wall is not packed with deads you can clearly see the streaks of chert running through the rock.
After refueling we headed into the Western side of the mine, which was mostly similar to what we had already seen but with fewer features save for chains dangling from the ceiling in various places! We headed to the North West gate to take a quick look at the external quarry before heading back down and around the South.
6. More examples of the dry stone roof supports
At this point it was time to head back outside, have a quick look at the external workings above ground, and call to let people know we were out safely.
And after suffering 4 hours of underground exploring it was the wife’s turn for a little payback – time for some wool shopping! At that moment I was so glad we made it out in plenty of time to get to the shops. You bet I was.