Stabilising the mines

When a utilities contractor accidentally broke through into the mines in 1989 no one could have foreseen the train of events that would be put in place.

Bath City Council appointed a team, led by Dr Brian Hawkins, to investigate and map the mines following repeated accidents by utilities contractors and the increasing traffic over the mines area.

The condition of the supporting pillars was examined. A total of 3,737 pillars were surveyed with over 20% of pillars graded 3 to 5 which meant that they were deemed unstable with the remaining pillars considered unstable in the long-term. Nevertheless, given the potential domino effect which was likely to take place if one pillar collapsed, transferring the weight onto nearby pillars, even short-term stability of the mine could not be guaranteed for those pillars classified as 1 and 2. The conclusion was that the stability of the mines could not be guaranteed and a widespread progressive collapse could occur over a short time with extensive impact on life and property.

In 1999 Bath & North East Somerset Council submitted an outline application to English Partnerships under the Land Stabilisation Programme. The outline application was accepted in August 1999 and a detailed bid for Phase One investigations (Investigatory and Feasibility Studies) was approved in February 2000.

A stabilisation program was started. By 2009 the project was complete. The result was that 649 properties were stabilised, most domestic homes. The total volume of infill placed was 620,894 cubic metres, enough to cover a football pitch to a depth of nearly 90m. 590,894 cubic metres of foamed concrete, plus 30,000 cubic metres of stone were placed into the quarries.

Commemorating the mines

Part of the legacy from all this activity over nearly 300 years in the stone mines and quarries is The Museum of Bath Stone. It has a number of missions, namely to:

  • present the rich heritage of Combe Down and the significance of its stone in the building of Bath
  • provide a modern educational resource that uses the information available to enhance learning at all levels
  • be a resource available to the community for leisure activities