Urban Exploration at Linley Caverns, in 1957

Hat tip here to the ongoing and excellent research being carried out by top local history ferret [Howmuch?], who’s located this smashing article from the August 16th, 1957 edition of the Walsall Observer. You’ll have to make do with my word-for-word transcript, as the original scan isn’t of decent enough quality to post here. I know it’s a bit off the normal patch for The Brownhills Blog, but I know there’s huge interest amongst the readership in the subject of the site, and this really is the first example of nascent urban exploration we’ve ever seen. Interspersed with the piece are a series of modern-day diving films taken in the depths by the diving group Deepjoy Films.

Please note that I’m not advocating anyone venture into the caverns. They’re clearly an incredibly dangerous place, and the divers seem to have done all the exploring for is, so just sit back and enjoy.

Below the flood lies secret of Linley Caves

Friday, August 16th, 1957.

Original caption: ‘The mysterious entrance to the old bomb-dump, with the electrically operated doors, suggested a scene from a space-travel film, but it has now disappeared beneath the water. The two pictures reproduced were taken from approximately the same position, but at an interval of two years.' This picture is how it appeared when the article was published in August 1957.

Linley Caves, those romantically fascinating underground workings on the edge of the new Redhouse Industrial Estate in Aldridge, have long excited the interest of local historians, but now, it seems, future generations will have to depend on written records which are handed down to them. Gradually since the war, the level of the flood waters has risen until now, the hefty steel doors of the main entrance are about 30ft. below the surface.

The doors, like the telephone wires and concrete road which runs to the water’s edge, are the last remaining reminders of the use to which the caves were put during war-time.

Limestone working there ceased before the war broke out and, in 1941, the Air Ministry took over. At a cost believed to have been about £250,000 the caverns were turned into an underground bomb-store. Walls and roofs were strengthened by means of steel supports and concrete roadways were laid in place of the old truck rails.  There were two separate sets of gates on the main approach and check points were dotted about the surrounding grassland.

In the case of roof falls, an emergency exit with a brick staircase was built in the heart of the nearby woods. However, when the troops moved out, the area took on an appearance of neglect.

Grim Atmosphere

The decaying buildings of the nearby cement works added to the air of desolation and even today with the smart new factories of the industrial estate so close at hand, the spot is reminiscent of the scene of a holocaust. [Seems a bit dramatic - Bob] It’s broken and blackened walls and shattered roof-timbers have the air of a disaster of years gone by.

Legend, more than historical fact, has it that the  workings date back to Roman times and t is said that Roman coins and a giant hammer have been found there, certainly a high amount of stone has been removed from them and in places the roof is 30ft high. THere are stories of tunnels running to the woods from parts of Rushall and the bed of limestone certainly does stretch from beneath Walsall. The Arboretum lake is undoubtedly the result of water logging of an abandoned pit.

In 1952 an East Anglian cement firm considered re-opening the workings, because the hydraulic lime from Linley was better for some building work than ordinary cement.

At that time only a proportion of of the lower caves were flooded, but the proposal was never acted upon, and the water was left to find its own level. Now it has done so, completely submerging the entrances, and it seems that unless some new scheme is mooted, Linley Caves are lost forever.

From the same article: How the Linley aves entrance looked in August 1955, two years previously.

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17 Responses to Urban Exploration at Linley Caverns, in 1957

  1. Iris says:

    showed this article to my husband,he remembers going down these “caves”,they were a regular playround around 1954-ish,he was about ten,on entering the metal doors,it was a right turn ,they would be standing in mud ankle deep!
    he and his older brother used to take bundles of little candles,(his grandad worked at a place in Walsall that made them,so they always had a good supply!!!)and explore,literally!crawling through narrow gaps,from one cave into another,on one occasion almost getting lost.
    Health and safety were unheard of,!!

  2. stymaster says:

    I may have commented before elesewhere, but a local history book ‘I Remember Rushall’ has details of an exploration of some of the caverns by kids in the 50s, IIRC. I’ve also read somewhere that when the Daw End canal bridge was replaced, divers went into the caverns to check for adequate support: that may be in the same book. Of course, this could all be hearsay.

  3. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    I went there before it had started to fill completely with water The floor was very muddy and further down the water had started to rise so that’s as far as it was safe to go.
    David

  4. jim says:

    I was over on the site last year I noticed at least one large sink hole had formed I suspect due to sections of the cavern roof collapsing I wouldn’t be surprised if the tunnels are now blocked even to divers. Like Bob Says it’s an incredibly dangerous place from what I saw further catastrophic collapsing seems very likely.

    • will says:

      hi, i am still diving here. its a fantastic place to dive and so big inside.would love as much info on the site and any old maps. as divers we do have a small survey map and i have been mapping inside myself the past few months

      • Owners of Linley Wood says:

        Cave Diving is prohibited by the owners of Linley Wood, signs have been errected. Linley Wood is private Land nobody has approached the owners to gain access to the caverns so you have been trespassing please refrain from doing so in future.

        • Perhaps you’d like to supply your name and contact details for those interested In obtaining permission. Until you do so, I have no reason to believe this is anything more than mischief-making.

          Bob

  5. john webster says:

    i used to play there as a kid. always finding army ordenance.

  6. Pingback: Anyone want to buy an old ammunition dump? « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  7. Owners of Linley Wood says:

    I did leave details, Meeke’s Farm (part of the e-mail address!!)anyone who knows the area knows we have owned the land for over 50 years. We do not grant anyone access to the wood or caverns, the area is a SSSI.

    • phil says:

      hi, i belong to a cave rescue group and a diving club as well, hoping the owners read this as we would welcome a rescue training site in the midlands

  8. Steve says:

    I don’t uderstand why Mrs Meeke is so much against cave divers diving in the caves. The site is as she explains a SSSI site but this is all to do with the type of limestone and having spoken to national heritage about tis subject they have absolutley nno problems with divers being on the SSSI site as they do not cauuse damage to the limestone unlike the cyclist and scramblers who use it all the time. I do understand her fustration with trespass but a little more dynamic thinking and she could very easily control access to qualified cave divers, as do the owners of the Holme Bank Chert Mine in Bakewell. Divers would willingly call and gain her permission if she allowed them
    to dive.

  9. Steve says:

    Appologies for the few spelling mistakes above but hopefully you get the gist of the comments. The site is a truly fantastic place to dive and I did extensive diving there some time ago, exploring new passageways up to over a kilometre into the caves and down to a depth of 50m. Incidently we never came across any passages that led us to believe it links up with any of the other surrounding open cast mines. I have not dived there in a long time since finding out that we were trespassing. It is my understanding that the main lines that have been laid in there were done by one of the British Cave Diving Groups (CDG) top divers mr Duncan Price; he also did all the charting for those who have seen the mmappings.

  10. stymaster says:

    Maybe the problem is that, as I understand it, the owners could be deemed liable (PDF, 33K) should anyone gain access to the mines and get injured or killed, and if they give permission, it seems their liability is greater? IANAL, but that’s how I read it.

  11. Paul Wood says:

    The diving scenes are fascinating . I heard rumours about the caves but never knew the full story .
    As is stated , this area backdates to the roman era . No one seems to know the full truth , i think
    there have been deaths in that area of woodland . Myself & two others were over there one night
    when it just started to get dark . We were just on our way out when we were pelted with bricks .
    Ive got damn good eye sight but none of us saw anyone . I made a plan ! I said i will run through the middle & you two run either way flanking whoever it was . We did so but there was no one there . One our way out again & it happened again , so we went . No rational explanation for this ,
    I reckon its a haunted location !!

  12. Mark jones says:

    Amazing read! I never ever thought it had such a history.

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