In the early 1960s a group of school friends and I used to occupy our weekends and holidays with trips to local mines at Godstone and elsewhere. Caving gear; boiler suit, boots and helmet, was all secondhand and only the trusty carbide lamp was bought new. The total cost set us back a whole 30s (£1.50). We also carried a sidepack (old gas mask bag) containing carbide, spare torch and food. All his was packed into the saddle bag of our bikes and we pedalled the 11 miles from home to the mines along the A22 (the road being significantly less busy in those days). It was a long uphill slog going, but refreshingly downhill on the way back.
The only mine entrance open at Godstone Hill at that time was the concrete shaft on the Road Series. At that time Godstone Hill had not been dualled and the shaft made from concrete manhole rings lay away from the road in the midst of the fly ash tip. It had been built up as Drinkwaters had filled the old open pit with fly-ash from Croydon power station. Its lid was missing but most of the step irons were in place. Clambering over a heap of rubbish at the bottom, and through a rusting iron gate, access was gained to a seemingly huge expanse of mine passages. At the bottom of the mine it was frequently flooded and the passages blocked by numerous rock falls. Some of these falls could however be climbed over and followed for some distance down dip in dangerously unstable voids formed above the collapsed passages below. The bottom of the mine has now collapsed to an even greater extent.
The Arch cave shaft, higher up the tip, was reopened briefly in 1966 following a Croydon CC dig. It was almost immediately filled in again and not re-opened until the Wealden Group re-dug it many years later. An article by Barry Crowley in Croydon CC newsletter No 2 August 1966 is worth reprinting:
Godstone Mines - Arch Series Dig NGR TQ 349536
The idea of this dig started back in the summer of '65. Eight the regular Sunday cavers (in the days before the club specials) met members of the Chelsea Speleological club at the Main Series. These lads told us of another shaft higher up the ash tip. They also told of the Sunday caver's Bible 'Secret Tunnels in Surrey'.
We soon got to work to investigate the shaft, just an open hole in the ash tip. Alas, the rungs were broken off. Two days later we were back, this time with a rope. We had plumbed it to 40 feet. I roped on and gradually chimneyed down the shaft, reaching the blocked bottom after an extremely precarious descent in plimsoles. It was rather disappointing to find this blockage. For months we thought of opening the shaft up, and then in January 66 ‘Sunday' trips were born. A perfect opportunity to dig.
We started digging on 13th February, 1966 and made good progress. Descent was made on 20ft. of ladder and the rest was chimneyed. Every Sunday for months we were at Godstone for our days digging. We dug in the foulest of weather – sometimes the support team were wet and frozen at the end of the day. But at the digging face a man sweated in a cloud of black dust.
As Spring progressed we got the dig down to a fine art with a fine hauling rig. Every week the hopeful phrase was uttered - "Next week we'll be through" - but no joy. The most difficult part was the last 5 feet or so. Large oil drums and great lumps of concrete were hauled up. SOME people swore they felt draughts, others just frowned. Eventually, the way through was in sight - a slit was found beside a great boulder. Chiselling was attempted and in the end a differential pulley hired. It took us all day to haul the slab to the surface. Its awkward size and weight made its final manoeuvring extremely difficult, and we almost lost it down the hole again.
Someone went down and the word came up that we were through. The time was 7.30 p.m. on 22nd May, 1966. A quick exploration was made. The entrance passage was in a poor state, but the rest of the mine was in extremely good condition and few roof falls were to be seen. A few other full exploratory trips were made by various members of the club, but a few weeks later the Council had closed the mine yet again.
For the record, we dug an extra 23 feet in 6 full day digs. The final depth of the shaft recorded was 65 feet.
The other side of the road from the shaft were the remains of the weighbridge. This is just about traceable today, but then the 8ft x 6ft scale plate was clearly visible with the remains of the mechanism is a 2’6” deep pit below. A concrete channel on the east side lead back to a stone wall; presumably the remains of the weigh house. A steep bank behind the weighbridge led up to a square brick shaft that gave access to a short section of passageway that was heavily timbered. It appears that this was probably built by the mushroom growers. An iron water pipe lead off under the roof falls and presumable brought water from the surface to the mushroom beds. This entrance was eventually connected by another group of cavers to the main mine although this has all now collapsed.
Another project at Godstone in these early days was at Baldwyns Folly mine that was situated behind the Freer Mink Farm. Again a long campaign of Sunday trips digging in a collapse crater gave access to a short and highly unstable section of working here before it collapsed again. A short report previously unpublished is attached.
Further east, Carthorse Mine was accessible behind the offices of the saw mills. The entrance had a door, but was not locked, and we used to sneak in on a Sunday hoping not to be seen. A lock was eventually fitted in 1968 by Jim Gardner. Even further east was the old open pit worked for hearthstone (much less overgrown than it is today). According to correspondence in 1972, this was worked by Fairalls between 1946 and 1959 both above and below ground. A series of short sections of passage referred to as the Gnomies by Pearman in ‘Secret Tunnels in Surrey’ could be entered here although they were shallow and very unstable. A series a surface craters mark the collapsed passage junctions below as recorded on the survey made in 1970.