We are delighted to announce Neville Redvers-Higgins, leading archaeologist during the Combe Down Stone Mines Stabilisation Project, is returning to Bath this Summer to fulfil the new, part-time, permanent role of Curator.
This appointment coincides with the final stages in the museum’s development programme, which will see the Museum of Bath Stone reopen to the public, celebrating the colossal efforts of those who carved out this city from the natural landscape below and showcase within the new visitor experience, the astounding engineering project that took place beneath the surface in the 21st century, to save a village at risk of collapse.
Behind-the-scenes, light is once again shining onto the voids beneath the village of Combe Down, and the records collected by expert geologists, archaeologists, engineers, and ecologists during the major stabilisation project are resurfacing. For the first time in history, their value will be shared and accessible to us all.
Leading the task of selecting and interpretating highlights from the museum’s collections, to represent this integral aspect of the city’s history in the new museum is experienced archaeologist and newly appointed Curator, Neville Redvers-Higgins.
Working under the direction of Oxford Archaeology, Neville amassed years of underground experience beneath the city of Bath, piecing together this story spanning several centuries. Reflecting on his time below the surface and looking ahead to the future, Neville shares his thoughts, “I am inspired to be back again working in the historic quarrying village of Combe Down, and excited to be part of the Museum of Bath Stone team. I first worked on the Combe Down Stone Mines project in 2001 for Oxford Archaeology, who were commissioned by the local council. My main job was to archaeologically monitor and survey the quarrying landscape.
On my first morning, I got kitted up with my hard hat, miners’ lamp and safety set and went underground with historic mining consultant Lynn Willies. My first experience was like being lost in a cave, and we walked and scrambled underground with measuring tapes, a flashgun and camera for what seemed like days! Fortunately, we soon learned our way around!”
“The stabilisation project grew beyond most people’s expectations. The initial eight week recording programme, working with the 20 skilled Welsh miners, gradually extended to eight years underground and up to 150 miners towards the end of the programme. Our small archaeology team also grew, and we undertook video photography and laser scanning recording - new and leading technology helping us to understand how the mines worked.
The stabilisation scheme and the ongoing dedication and passion of many people have placed this small and important village on the map - after all, it is the village that built a city. I look forward to being part of this new Museum which celebrates the story of Combe Down.”
Chief Executive, Miranda Litchfield shares her elation in welcoming Neville into the team. “It truly is an honour to be working alongside Neville. It has been almost a year in the making, laying the foundations for this new chapter, and creating the framework for a business plan which will support the introduction and continuation of permanent, paid staff - vital to enabling the collection and its importance to become widely accessible.
This is an unprecedented time for our charity. The potential for a fascinating museum showcasing the earliest underground extraction of Bath Stone and commemorating the exceptional engineering works that took place here in the 21st century became apparent during the stabilisation project. This potential, combined with the vision for a world-class museum right here in Combe Down, is now finally coming to fruition.
For Neville to join our team, an individual with unrivalled knowledge of Combe Down’s industrial past, enables the Museum of Bath Stone to become an extremely valuable resource and showcase for the very first time, how this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site city and its glorious architecture came to be.”
Following the completion of the new interpretation and its design, set to feature a newly acquired collection of Combe Down quarrying artefacts, Neville will be leading a new volunteer community project to discover the true quarrymen of Combe Down, and shine light on the individuals who brought the bedrock of this city above ground.
Starting initially with research into the names of individuals found inscribed on the pillars and walls of the Combe Down Stone Mines, project volunteers will have access to a detailed database compiled from numerous sources and, will have the opportunity to join collaborative efforts to recognise and celebrate the characters and lives of the people who enabled the extraction of the building stone used to create our world-renowned, unique, Georgian city.
We are currently recruiting for two brand-new volunteering roles, to support our reopening and assist in leading the new visitor experience. To find out more, and for details of how to apply, please visit the Volunteering page of our website. Applications from individuals with accessibility requirements are warmly welcomed and encouraged so, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.
We look forward to welcoming everybody into the new Museum of Bath Stone this summer and, we would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest thanks to everyone who has supported the museum’s development over the past three years.
On behalf of the Combe Down Stone Legacy Trust, its trustees, staff members and volunteers.