Chislehurst Caves

by Tony Oldham

Great tales of mystery and intrigue have been built up around these caves. In fact, to be strictly correct, they are chalk mines. How long they have been in use seems uncertain, but it seems likely that they were still being worked in the middle of the last century.

However mundane their original purpose, they once excited the imaginations of certain eminent archaeologists who saw more in them than a source of chalk, and the perpetuation of these beliefs plays a large part in drawing visitors to the caves today.

It is claimed that the caves were used by Druids as a temple, a place for sacrifices and a treasure store house, and that they are of such antiquity that their origins are lost in time.

There are three series of caves, connected by narrow tunnels, the outer series near Chislehurst railway station, the middle series, supposedly the most ancient, containing the claimed Druidical remains, and the inner series, reputed to be of such complexity as to be almost unexplorable.

At first glance the cave would appear to be very complex, comprising a series of interconnecting passages, interspersed with thick pillars, with seemingly little symmetry or pattern. The guide points out the Druids' altars (in fact the benches where the workmen stood to attack the top level of chalk), a mammoth's tooth (in fact a piece of flint embedded in the chalk) and other such wonders.

However, if you are willing to enter into the spirit of the thing, the caves make an interesting excursion, not far from the centre of London. They are, indeed, very popular with young folk, for on occasions, some of the larger halls are used for dancing.

Text from: Tony and Anne Oldham (1972): Discovering Caves - A guide to the Show Caves of Britain. With kind permission by Tony Oldham.