Chislehurst Caves


Useful Information

Location: Chislehurst, Kent. A222 between the A20 and A21 at Chislehurst railway bridge. Turn into Station Road/Old Hill then turn right again into Caveside Close.
Close to Chislehurst station, 10min. walk, with signposts to cave.
Open: All year Wed-Sun 10-16, tour every hour on the hour.
During school holidays daily 10-16.
[2019]
Fee: Adults GBP 6, Children (3-16) GBP 4, Children (0-2) free, Seniors (60+) GBP 4.
Groups (15+): pre booking mandatory, at least 7 days in advance.
[2019]
Classification: chalk mine.
Light: lamp lit.
Dimension: L=10,000m, T=10°C.
Guided tours: D=45min, L=1,600m.
Photography: not allowed
Accessibility: wheelchair accessible
Bibliography: W. J. Nichols (1903): The Chislehurst Caves and Deneholes, Jnl.Brit.Arch.Assc. N.Ser ix, Dec 1903 147-160 & x p64,87
Dr Eric Inman (1996): Chiselhurst Caves / A short history, 12 pp. Published by Kent Mushroom Mines Ltd.
Pelobates 36(16)
Address: Chislehurst Caves, Caveside Close, Old Hill, Chislehurst BR7 5NL, Kent, Tel: +44-181-467-3264 (during open hours). E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1650 the first underground pillar-and-stall chalk quarries were started.
1858 early guided tours by Mr Porter, the landlord of the "Rising Sun".
1903 rediscovered by the eccentric Professor W. J. Nichols.
1914 during World War I used as ammunition depot.
1940s used as an air raid shelter at the height of the blitz.
1960s and 1970s a venue for dances and concerts.

Description

Chislehurst Caves are artificial caverns in the soft cretaceous chalk. Highlights of the tours are fossils, Druidic altars, a maze, Roman mines, and cavalier mantraps. They are said to be built during the last 8,000 years.

Most of those features are rather interesting, but the explanations are plain folklore. The "fossils" are curiously formed, but very common flintstones. There is no archaeological proof for druids and even the roman history is not likely. However, the kilometers of irregular halls and passages are definitely a maze!

The proven facts about the caves are, that they were chalk mines since 1650 and the works were continued for several hundred years. The mines were abandoned in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1903 they were discovered by Professor W. J. Nichols, who wrote an eccentric "scientific" paper about the mines, claiming they were 8,000 years old and contained a druidic temple.

Between the wars the caves were bought by Kent Mushrooms Ltd., a part of the mines was used for the cultivation of mushrooms. The high humidity and the constant temperature made them an ideal place. Today the modern production methods make those caves obsolete. The caves are still owned by Kent Mushrooms Ltd., the present owners father grew mushrooms here in the 1930's.

In the youngest history, the caves became famous as Chislehurst Hotel. Britain's largest public air raid shelter, housing max. 15,000 people, was built into the chalk during the World War II. Buses left Deptford for the caves at teatime returning the next morning. The people made their homes in dugout rooms, with a curtain for privacy. The caves had electric lighting, flushing toilets, a cinema, a chapel, a barber, a gymnasium, and even a dance floor! The caves were so popular, between autumn 1940 and spring 1941 up to 8,000 people lived here every night.


As Chislehurst Caves are rather big, several events took place here since the war. For example: