Although not recently discovered we went to have a look at 2 holes from the WW2 era in Hamstreet. The first hole had about a foot or more of water in it when we arrived but this was quickly pumped out to reveal a small concrete lined and concrete floored chamber about 10ft deep
Access was by foot rings in the sides and the floor would have originally been wooden boarding
Original Slatted Wooden Floor
The only thing of interest in this hole was some graffiti possibly dating back to it’s early days
The second hole, smaller in diameter produced little of interest after a couple of hours digging and has been abandoned. This is possibly an escape route from a WW2 post but the original entrance has been lost over time.
31st May 2008 A group of about a dozen of us attended a house in Gravesend where a mysterious hole had appeared in the garden
Following the recent bout of heavy rain the owner had noticed a dip in the back lawn of his property. After contacting the group we arranged to go and have a look. Initial inspection revealed a sagging area of grass with a small opening in the middle and a large void below. After a few minutes cutting away the overhanging grass a closer inspection revealed that the large void sloped downward into another hole with water at the bottom.
At this point we weren’t sure if it was a dene hole, mine or well. After securing a ladder and life line Pete was duly dispatched to investigate. Upon inspection it turned out to be a well which had obviously been capped at sometime in the past. The beehive shaped capping was in good order and had a pipe feeding into it having been used as a soak away at some point in the past.
It seems that water from a soak away, now clearly visible, installed a few years ago had found its way into the side of an old unknown and capped well. Over the ensuing years the water had slowly washed away the earth in its path. As more and more soil was washed away a growing void was being created under the lawn. Eventually during the recent heavy rain this void had completely collapsed revealing the well. We measured the depth to the bottom of the well to be about 11m and having stood in the water it turned out to be only about 3 feet deep. Obviously this would have been deeper before all the soil washed into it. The owner now plans to fill in both the well and hole. For more pictures click here.
25th November Work started on a dig near Ranscombe in Kent. On initial inspection the feature consisted of a round hole about 3½ feet in diameter about 2 feet deep filled with logs. After several dozen logs were removed work started in ernest to dig out the hole. Previous experience suggested it would be a collapsed dene hole. However as we began to increase the depth, evidence of other possibilities came to light.
The shaft appears to be flint lined suggesting the possibility that is not a dene hole but a well instead. By the end of the day we had managed to excavate about 20 feet and were now well into the chalk layer. Foot holds are clearly visible in the sides of the shaft and the flint lining above the chalk is clearly visible. More pictures can be found in the recent photos section.
16th December Work continued on the dig and grill has now been fitted to the hole. Although we removed another 10 feet of infill the purpose of the hole still remains a mystery. The composition of the infill seems to have changed very little, being very light and easy to remove and the shaft is still progressing down through the chalk layer.
31st December Work continued downward. Along with the infill some pottery remains and a large stone was recovered from the hole. Further investigation of the pottery found suggests it is associated with cooking or low status drinking type vessels. The piece with a rim was suggested as Romano British (3rd or 4th century) and the 5 other pieces of about same period to around Norman conquest, dating is imprecise on these pieces as there are no real distinguishing features. It would appear that pottery pieces above are from at least 3 different items which rather suggests more than just casual occupation in the area. There was also a hand made nail, 18th or very early 19th century and scrap of hand made salt glazed stoneware of probably 18th century.
20th January 2007 Work continued on the dig but nothing of huge interest was found. The hole is almost certainly a well, and having almost reached the end of the cable for our small winch the decision was taken not to proceed any further. Work was concluded, the site was tidied up and left safety gated
2nd April Rod, Harry, Hugh and Mike visited a house in Cliftonville where a hole had appeared in the back garden. There was a narrow trench some 10 feet long which slopes down to a arch cut in the chalk at the base of the chalk face at the end of the trench. This was about 10 feet below the surface of the ground. The slope was comprised of loose earth. They shifted some of the earth at the bottom but were unable to get into the chamber.
29th April. A KURG organised group arrived to have a dig in the trench. While the youthful team were, allegedly, kept out of the way digging into a not so exciting WW2 air raid shelter, the geriatric team made a breakthrough in the main trench after only an hour of digging. An extensive tunnel system was found stretching for some distance. At this stage the exact nature of the system is not understood but suggestions are that it was either dug as a folly or a practice tunnel during WW1.
This picture shows surveying in progress, to try and map the full extent of this underground system. Various inscriptions have been found with dates of 1917 & 1918, but apart from a a tin of Zog Paint Cleaner very few artifacts were found in the tunnel. The system was predominately clean and dry although evidence of some past water could be seen on the floor in places. There was also some evidence of candle (or similar) lighting on the walls and roof. The far end of the tunnel appeared to be backfilled from the surface in two places. For more pictures click here.
17th December Work started on this dig. An aerial cable was placed across the hole using the fence posts for support. A second lifting cable and ingenious pulley system was hung below this to enable the bucket to be raised and then moved sideways.
28th January After another early start 2 members who wont be named decided to take the exercise and walk the ‘short’ way across the fields to the dig. Unfortunately they took a wrong turning somewhere and ended up going completely the wrong way. They arrived about 1 hour after they left the car park. Progress was slow because the excessive amounts of wire in the hole and we even had to resort to using a car to pull it out. We didn’t get as much done as we would have liked to but we think we can now see the top of the chamber.
25th February Work continued and good progress was made despite the weather. We managed to remove lots of wire along with many old logs from the hole. At the end of the day the top of a small chamber was visible.
25th March Despite a promising start the top of the chamber visible last time has so far been a bit disappointing. Although just big enough to crawl into it seemed to be very small and almost entirely back filled. However after several hours of digging a small entrance was found about 120° from the small one. Clive was the first to enter and explore this, despite an initial concern about the quality of the air. The chamber turned out to be larger then expected and unusual in design as it turned through 90°. This chamber is about 20′ long by about 6′ wide with a height of about 10′. There is another small chamber off the back of this which looks as if it may connect to the small chamber first discovered. For more pictures click here.
15th July It was amazing to see just how much growth had taken part since we last visited. Nature seems extreamly keen on reclaiming the hole and the surrounding area. Despite further digging the only thing we found was a mouse in one of the holes made to probe for the third chamber. After some deliberation it was decided to persue the dig no further. The bats will have to make do with a single chamber. The picture shows the spoil heap from the dig. For more pictures click here.
22nd January 2012 After many years of being dry, work started to clear out the debris thrown into the well.
As the well is inside the cave we weren’t able to use our petrol winch but fortunately power was available so we could use the electric one instead.
Winching out the buckets
Coins removed from the well
During the day we managed to clear many buckets of chalk and soil thrown into the well along with several hundred coins thrown in over the years. After removing 5ft of spoil water is now visible and hopefully on the next visit we will be able to continue downwards and leave the well with water in the bottom.
6th May The Canterbury Bunker is an old underground Brigade Command Center that was decommissioned around 1945. The owner had previously found and opened up the west entrance with the help of KURG and this return visit was to explore the newly opened up east entrance. When the first entrance was opened up, the passage having been completely sealed for many years, was full of bad air from rotting wood and had to be well ventilated before exploring was possible. The air in the east passage was well ventilated before we entered and presented no problems
The west entrance, an opening near ground level, leads down a flight of 59 steps then along through an air lock. As can be seen in the diagrams to the right the tunnels were constructed using two methods and although all the tunnels using the arched RSJ and corrugated sheeting have survived virtually intact the tunnels using the pit prop method have collapsed and are totally inaccessible.
Hugh looking at the collapse in the east passage
The west passage was blocked after approximately 60’ where the arched roof stopped, but it was possible to enter the latrines on the right hand side after a little digging. The east entrance being slightly higher up has a flight of 66 steps down and can be entered to a length of 120‘. This is also blocked by a collapse where the arched roof stops. Half way along this passage a similar set of latrines can be entered on the left hand side and opposite this can be seen the collapsed passage connecting to the west entrance passage.
It was hoped it would be possible to enter the engine room beyond the end collapse but due to the fact there was a 12’ void above the collapse and the passages are dug in Thanet sand, its was decided this would be too dangerous, so no further exploration was possible.
3rd July Initial dig by farmer using JCB. This reached down to about 8′. The remains of a previous exploration trench could clearly be seen cutting across the new one. We fenced off area to make it safe for cattle in field.
7th August We removed some slippage that had occurred since the last dig and explored the bottom of the hole to locate original shaft position. Temporary scaffolding was placed across the top of the hole to facilitate hauling and removal of infill. Work started to construct the ‘tower’ inside the hole. This is backed with corrugated steel sheeting cut to size and slipped (or bashed) behind the tower frame. The area around the shaft was started to be backfilled.
11th September A permanent frame was erected above the shaft to allow petrol driven winch to be installed. Work continued to dig and backfill the area around the shaft.
25th September Continued digging and backfilling area around shaft. Various pieces of wood from the original shaft were excavated.
9th October More digging and backfilling. Added another 5 feet to the depth of the shaft and passed through a layer of limestone which is clearly visible.
6th November We had to haul all the equipment down to the dig site in a wheelbarrow due to the very soft ground. Despite this and the wet weather we managed another 5 feet. The excavation is now in the original shaft cut through sandstone.
20th November The digging continued despite the freezing temperatures and the present depth is now 35 feet. The top has been extended and back filling is happening around this to make sure any surface water flows away from the shaft and not into it. Loads more wood from the original shaft has been recovered and the remains of the original timbers can now be seen in one corner the shaft
26th March The first dig of the new year saw us shuttering up the 9 foot of previously dug but un shuttered shaft. The weather was not very kind (it rained), but the farmer was and lent us his tractor to transport the shuttering and poles. At one point a gurgling sound from the bottom caused interest as all the water disappeared, but subsequent trampling in the bottom seems to have blocked it again.
3rd May Added about another 4 feet to the shaft and shuttered 3 feet. Although the weather was kind to us today, nice sunshine, were disappointed to see that water was entering near the bottom of the shaft and had formed quite a puddle by the time we left. Hopefully we have not hit the water table and this will have drained in time for the next dig. Still large amounts of old shuttering timber coming out, we have quite a pile now.
25th June Things don’t look too promising at the moment. Water is coming in to the shaft in one of the corners and seems to be settling at a constant level. Despite much prodding we couldn’t seem to replicate the gurgling we saw on the 26th March. When we left there was about 5 inches of water in the bottom of the shaft.
27th August Not much to report, more pumping, more digging, more water.
24th September Even with the pump running flat out the level of the water remained constant despite the dig continuing downward. By the end of the day the water was at thigh height.
8th October For the last push of the year we increased the pumping capacity by using a sump pump in the bottom of the shaft to pump the water up to the main lift pump. This necessitated having a generator on site as well as all the usual kit. Despite shifting about 60 gallons per minute we were still not making headway.
26th – 28th September 2008 After hiring a 3 phase pump the shaft was eventually pumped out and with a little digging the entrance to the mine workings were slowly exposed.
The workings could be clearly seen extending away from the shaft. The main route is in very poor condition and appears to be collapsed after a few meters. Side workings appear to have been worked out and bricked up. The workings are only visible with the pump running and quickly become submerged when the pump stops.
28th December 2009 This project has now been completed and no further exploration is anticipated in the foreseeable future. The final outing was to cap the shaft and tidy up the site. The water at the bottom of the shaft was at the highest level we have ever seen at 16.5ft. Together with a depth of 35ft to the surface of the water this gives a total shaft depth of 51.5ft.