Today’s picture of mason Brian Bentley at work comes courtesy of Val Lyon who is secretary of the Combe Down Heritage Society.
She tells me:
‘When the fragile and crumbling stone quarries under Combe Down were made safe, the heritage of Ralph Allen’s stone mines was lost from sight. The underground voids had been infilled with foamed concrete, a project costing £155 million and taking a decade to complete.
The village homes were again safe but no longer was there any public access to these underground workings. There was however one remaining piece of evidence, a stone circle just visible in the grass of Firs Field. This was the remains of a low stone wall encircling a 3-meter wide shaft down into the mines, probably access for lifting large stones by crane to the surface for onward transport via Ralph Allen’s track down to Widcombe. It was this stone, of course, that was used in the building of Georgian Bath or went onward by boat to Bristol, London and further afield.
After the hiatus of the recent Covid pandemic, the final stage of restoration is being completed by Cliveden Conservation. One of their expert masons, Brian Bentley, is painting the lettering that explains the significance of the restored wall.
The text cut into the coping stones says: REBUILT 2018: SITE OF ACCESS SHAFT TO RALPH ALLEN’S STONE MINES – THE STONE THAT BUILT BATH
Firs Field in Combe Down village is open all day every day, with the village War Memorial and children’s playground, it is an open space of parkland much loved by locals.
Combe Down will be celebrating Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee over the weekend of 4th and 5th June 2022 on Firs Field. Local groups led by The Friends of Firs Field and including Holy Trinity Church, Combe Down Heritage Society, Combe Down Primary School, Bath Jewish Burial Ground and others will have a traditional Village Fête complete with a Royal themed garden tea party.’