One of the most fascinating types of artefact that we encountered were the many examples of contemporary graffiti, daubed on the walls of the mine.
These markings, often drawn in charcoal, provide crucial dating evidence and provide an interesting insight into many aspects of the miners lives, detailing such aspects as the price of beer in the 19th century pubs of Combe Down, the relative prices of stone and the miners attitudes to their employers (often uncomplimentary). Whilst the most common graffito is the simple signature, very often precisely dated, the mines also contained a large number of drawings, quite often of naked women but occasionally of naked men, one wearing a very smart top hat, and probably representing a crude caricature of a quarry owner. One of the most interesting pieces was a drawing of a ship, perhaps one of the trows which were used to transport Bath stone down the Avon and further afield. The graffiti appears to span at least one hundred and fifty years, starting in the mid-19th century when the increasing use of stone saws produced those smooth clean surfaces which proved so irresistible to the miners but also appearing in the 1940's when the mines were used as air raid shelters and on into the invention of the aerosol. Whatever happened, we wonder, to the Bath Skins who proudly advertised their exploring tendencies in the 1970's.
Daubed as they are onto the walls and pillars of the mine it was generally not possible to remove these graffitos so all were photographed and drawn. Some of the most impressive ones, where these were located in particularly stable areas, were carefully cut out from the wall and removed from the mine prior to concreting. Graffiti in less stable areas were removed from the mine using a revolutionary new technique, created by our lead Conservator, in which the graffiti was coated with a rubber solution and then peeled from the wall, traces of the graffiti adhering to the rubber. This mirror image was then placed into a bath of resin which, when it set, contained an imprint of the graffiti. These lightweight casts are easily transportable and displayable.Back to Top