There is something about a hole in the ground that seems to fascinate everyone. Perhaps it is the mystery of the unknown or even a distant memory from our Stone Age ancestors when caves were places of safety. Whatever the reason, there is no shortage of rumours to explain why the hole is there — often there is a rumour with no hole! Churches and large houses with secret passages, underground rivers that flow for miles, smugglers’ tunnels — the list is endless. If rumour is to be believed, our ancestors must have been very busy and carried out some feats of engineering to rival the Channel Tunnel! Unfortunately for the romantics, the true purpose of the hole is usually far simpler.
For the first time in one book, truth is separated from rumour and the many kinds of underground feature found in Kent and East Sussex are described. It will surprise many people to learn that this area was one of the oldest mining districts in Britain and many kinds of material were mined. Coal mining is only a relative newcomer and it pales into insignificance compared with the volume and distribution of other mining. Each section gives a general description of the feature and a more detailed account of one or two sites, with Ordnance Survey grid references where possible. Since most of the features were originally excavated in Imperial measurements, distances are usually given in feet rather than metres.
The authors are members of the Kent Underground Research Group, which is a branch of the Kent Archaeological Society. No absent-minded professors these, however, since they are part of a new breed of archaeology which is growing nationally — Mining History. Although they are primarily archaeologists and carry out research into old records, they have the skills and equipment of the potholer to explore and survey underground features. The Group produces more detailed publications but this book has been written in easy to understand language to give the reader an introduction to the subject.
There should be something in this book for everyone. If you are interested in local history, it will open up a field of study previously unknown to you. Many villages grew up around mining sites that have now long ceased. As a reference book, it will prove invaluable to researchers or as the basis of school projects. A bibliography of further reading is supplied at the end. If you like walking or touring in the countryside, it will explain many of the peculiar bumps and hollows you come across. For the natural historian, there is a section on plants and animals found underground. Finally, if you are unfortunate enough to be involved with ground subsidence, it will give you an insight into the cause and treatment. From reading this book, you will learn exactly what lies beneath your feet.