GES050 - Westwood Quarry, Wiltshire
I'd heard about the famous Wiltshire quarries, but they never really featured highly on my things to do list, apart from WW. I also didn't really have any idea as to what to expect. When someone says to me quarry, I think of an open cast pit, not what I would think of as more of a mine. Anyhoo, I got an invite to go around them from SE, and willingly accepted. After sorting out the social etiquette of parking in a small village car park, it was off up the hill and through the woods until we reached the rather odd site of a door in a rock wall. This was the escape exit for the Westwood Quarry.
WW's hills have been quarried since 1649 officially, although small workings here pre-date that date by centuries. In 1800 the Godwin family took over the quarry and produced the stone that can be seen all over Bath and Wiltshire, including the Royal Crescent in Bath. In the 19th Century the Godwins were joined by rivals Randell & Saunders and the Bath Stone Firms Limited. A narrow gauge railway was installed to transport the stone away. The deep recession in the first decade of the 20th Century saw a downturn in the building industry and the quarry effectively closed down. It was taken over by the Agaric Mushroom Company, who cleaned out large areas for Mushroom cultivation beginning in 1928. However after a decade cultivation ceased due to rock falls, viruses and labour shortage.
Once inside it was a strange sight. The ceiling a few feet above my head, the damp air around and clammy cold feeling. Torches on, it was off into the darkness. There were passages leading off mainly to the right.
Some re-orienteering from SE, and we arrived in the remaining area used for Mushroom cultivation. The chains around the pillar used to measure the strength of the pillars. Looking at some of them I didn't feel too safe.
Westwood's fame would really be made when in 1939 the War Department and Ministry of Supply acquired the mine. They invited the Royal Enfield Motor Cycle Company of Redditch to set up shop in the quarry to manufacture gun-control equipment.
We walked off back to the start so SE could get his bearings, and after passing a sign saying 'White City' (where I work in London) we turned a corner to find a ramshackle office.
Across the way was a filling station for the vehicles plying their trade down here. A little disturbing they use Total fuel, as Total back the Burmese Junta. Little bit of politics there!
Another corner was turned, and we were into the area set aside for Royal Enfield. Some areas had been used to dump rough rock and rubbish.
It was genuinely interesting to see the various parts of the factory and wonder what went on there.
There were lots of open areas, and then to the side clusters of smaller rooms/offices, sometimes partioned off with mesh windows.
One of the open areas possibly once full of production chains, power points lining the walls.
Collection of old bottles
All facilities were taken care of, here were some toilets we decided against using.
A number of explorers had used these toilets judging by the explorer names written in the long hand wash basins, Maniac, Petzl, Urbanity, Styru, spungletrumpet etc.
Pictures on the wall of bikes possibly made here after the war, when Royal Enfield went over to manufacturing motorbikes after the war.
It's true to say that the support down there is first rate, second to none. The pillars are truly doing their job. Wasn't worried at all!
Just in case you get lost, awesome typography.
Through the plant was a sort of ring road, allowing the various bits manufactured to loaded onto vehicles to leave the factory.
I think I easily spent an hour or more wandering around the various parts, it was deceptively huge. Every time you thought you were back at a part you'd been to before, a turn of a corner produced a new bit to see. Always keen to see nearly every square inch of an explore, I sound a tunnel/passage leading off somewhere. Sadly not enough time to explore where it went.
We walked on through an area where slag and detritus had been dumped on either side of the road. It reminded me of some sort of apocalyptic computer game.
We also passed the only vehicle we saw down here.
Eventually we turned out of the factory and we emerged into another better kept road, and left the original entrance of the Royal Enfield factory.
We were now in the area of the quarry owned by Restore, previously Wansdyke Secuirty.
20,000sq ft was given over to the storage of high value items, seperate to the Royal Enfield factory area. This section was converted for air conditioning and strengthening of support structures. The Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum & National Portrait Gallery. The Elgin Marbles, and the Wright Brothers’ aeroplane, ‘Kitty Hawk’ were stored here, along with countless paintings. “by the end of 1942 Westwood probably housed the greatest and most valuable collection of cultural and artistic artefacts assembled in one location anywhere in the world.” It was also rumoured the Crown Jewels were stored here. After 1950 and all items were returned, the area was closed down until 1985, when Wansdyke Secuirty took over the area for storage of corporate documents.
A photo that was totally my idea and no one elses, especially not SE's!
No photography please!
The silver door visibly at the end of the tracks leads into the ultra secure section.
And with that we walked back the way we'd come to the exit. Daylight, fresh air and a pint of ale greeted us. OK, we had to go to the pub for the ale.
All history adapted from the Wiltshire Council site.