It’s been a while now that we’ve been wanting to visit the Chislehurst Caves but we always find excuses. I think it was because it is so close to us and we can always go there “another day”.
We finally decided to go, as a last minute thing, and it was a good surprise, I must say. The caves are in fact man made tunnels, 22 mile long and 30 meters below the woodlands. It is divided into three sections: saxon, druids and roman. It is not confirmed that the tunnels were really made by the saxons, the druids and the romans, but it adds a bit more mystery and fun to the whole experience if you truly believe they were. 😉
The coolest bits of the caves history are the earliest days though. It became a popular tourist attraction in early 1900s. During the II World War, they were used as shelter to families who lost their homes when London and other cities were bombarded. It was London’s largest public air aid shelter, with 15,000 people living there. It was a proper community, with a hospital, chapel, cantine…
The caves don’t have electricity in several parts of it and the tours are lit by a torch and several hand lamps given to the visitors. At some point, the guide removes the light and demonstrate the echo in the cave. Most of the children in our group, at this point, covered their ears so they weren’t too scared.
A fun fact: up until 1985, people took challenges to see who could sleep in the cave (12 hours at night). The challenge was set by the owners of the caves, after hearing the story of a woman’s bones found near the pools in the cave. Some say that she haunts the caves, near the area she was found, so as you image, sleeping there (alone, by the way) was quite scary. Apparently only one person won the challenge, a policeman, who carved a horse on the wall a bit farther from the pools. It is said that he could feel someone behind him, as if breathing on his neck, so he spent the whole 12 hours facing the wall. He later said that he would never do this again, for whatever amount of money in the world.
In the 50’s and 60’s, several famous artists performed in the caves. And we are talking here about BIG names, like Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie… not Beatles though.
Another curiosity: the entrance to the caves during WWII when they were used as shelter was charged, daily or weekly. 6p/night and children paid half price. All the money was invested back in the caves, so no profit was made during that time.
This is an interesting but very short attraction (you’re done in an hour). It’s a great thing as part of other activities in the area or when you just need to kill some time. It is also perfect for all type of weather.
Address: Chislehurst Caves, Caveside Close, Old Hill, Chislehurst, Kent. BR7 5NL
Train station: Chislehurst (from London Bridge and London Charing Cross)
Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday, from 10am to 4pm
Tickets: £6/adult, £4/children 3-15, under 3 is free, but they don’t recommend the tour for kids under 3 (as they can be afraid of the dark)
The caves can only be visited with a guided tour, which happens every hour. The temperature in the caves are around 10 degrees Celsius. Not recommended to take a pushchair. Don’t bring your own torches, they provide oil lamps.
There is a cafe were they serve breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks and coffee.
The map of the caves
Reconstruction of the chapel
Stage where some of the most famous artists in the world performed in the 50’s and 60’s
Illustration representing how a Druid sacrifice could have looked like
Sculpture from 1995 in the Druids section. If you have a closer look, at the very bottom there’s a building like the ones in Canary Wharf
Our guide just before removing all the lights and making some serious noise in the Druids sacrifice altar
This sign in the wall is everywhere in the caves. It worked as an “address” to the people who used to lived there during the WWII times. It was a type of post code as well, as the mail was delivered in the caves.
Reconstruction of the sleeping rooms during WWII
Sign at the entrance of the caves