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.
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.
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.