Subterranea Britannica

Chafford Gorges shelter

Chafford Gorges Nature Park, Essex
OS Grid Ref: TQ609787
Date of visit: August 2012

[Source: Chris Rayner]

The three large quarries, Grays Gorge, Lion Gorge and Warren Gorge, the latter of which is the largest, were a centre for chalk quarrying and burning since the 18th century, producing lime for building mortar, plaster and for whiting. In addition the site provided brickearth to make bricks, gravel and flint. In recent years the quarries have been part flooded to create lakes and have been opened to the public as the Chafford Gorges Nature Park.

Lion Gorge has the remnants of a tramway used to transport the chalk to riverside wharves, while Grays Gorge has the ruins of a lime kiln. There are also several tunnels, three in Lion Gorge and one in Grays Gorge, which are now gated as bat refuges.

The most interesting structure though is a tunnelled shelter in the quarry wall of Grays Gorge, with a brick projecting entrance leading, via a staggered passage, to two large chambers. From the rearmost chamber a now blocked escape passage with limited headroom leads off.

The projecting entrance is brick-lined and vaulted internally and has a square brick front gable. It may have been built with a projection to prevent it being blocked in the event of a cliff fall.

Once through the brick entrance tunnel, the chalk passage walls are interspersed with regular brick piers which would have supported a horizontal corrugated steel ceiling, although sections of the latter are now missing. The wider inner chambers also have regular brick piers but here they support gently cambered brick arches.

The construction suggests it may have been built as a wartime air raid shelter for quarry workers.

A diagrammatic quarry plan is available here Quarry Plan.

Some photographs of the Quarry in the early 20th century are available here Essex Field Club.

Thanks to Chafford Gorges Nature Park

[Source: Chris Rayner]

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