Colley Hill mines
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The stone mined in this area of Surrey dries into a chalky white colour and was used as a substance to clean hearths and doorsteps during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Known as hearthstone, it was a popular cleaning product and mines were opened at Brockham, Betchworth and Godstone.
How Surrey helped keep the nation’s steps clean and bright
Enterprising land owners opened a mine at Colley Hill in the 1890s. The mine included its own processing works where the stone was mechanically crushed and pressed into moulded blocks. Popular household names such as ‘Osowhite’, ‘Panda’ and ‘Snowdrift’ hearthstone powders were produced here. The heyday of the mine was the 1920s when demand was so high that there was a daily delivery to London.
The muscles in the mine
Miners used hand tools such as pick axes, sledge hammers, wedges and crowbars. Lighting was by candle.
Pit ponies pulled stone from the mines in blocks weighing 13 to 23 kg. Cart horses transported the stone to the railway at Redhill. When not on duty, the ponies and horses were put out in a field on the mine owner’s farm.
Mining deep into the Surrey Hills
The mine entrance was at the very foot of the Downs; the main tunnel was 1.8 m wide and nearly 1.5 m high and was driven due north under the hill.
Once mined, the stone was crushed in a mill. Machinery on site consisted of sieves through which the crushed stone passed, dryers and three hand-operated screw presses.
A lean-to shed on one side contained presses where the hearthstone blocks were moulded. Two iron sheds were used for packing the hearthstone blocks and to house machinery. Opposite these buildings was a stacking shed.
After the Second World War
The mine continued to operate throughout the Second World War, the four or five miners qualifying for extra rations. For several months in 1941 the mine was used as an unofficial air raid shelter.
In 1944 a V1 bomb fell near the mine, destroying all the buildings. A smaller main building was rebuilt together with a stacking shed, though the other buildings were never replaced.
The need for hearthstone declined after the war and in 1961 Colley Hill mine closed. The mine machinery was sold for scrap and the mine entrance was blocked by explosives.
The site today
Some evidence of mining activity remains; on the footpath at the base of the hill is a path known as Sheep Walk where the remains of the railway sleepers can still be seen.
In the woodland to the north, known as Beech Hanger, there are depressions in the ground where the mine shafts deep below ground are collapsing due to the wooden pit props rotting. Some concrete remains in an area of private woodland to the west of the path are believed to be part of the structures where the stone was processed.