Bethel Quarry

At approximately four hectares in area or 120,000 sq ft. Bethel Quarry was the largest of the stone quarries in Bradford on Avon. There is a single adit entrance to the rear of Bethel House a short distance from the main road and has a slightly inclined entrance, with the quarry floor on a gradually rising level throughout. The old site office for the quarry is at 18 Frome Road.

There are three vertical shafts to the surface – one near the entrance in the field above Elms Cross Yard which was used as the exhaust shaft for the boiler underground. The other two are at the rear of the quarry in the field to the west, both were used as extraction/ventilation for the mushrooms with fans installed in buildings at the top of the shafts. The northern shaft has a vertical ladder for emergency use.

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The age of the quarry is unknown. One source has it named after its owner, George Bethell, who built Abbey House, Church Street from the stone in about 1775. However, Bethel Quarry is not shown on an 1841 map of Bradford on Avon but was known to have been extensively worked in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Bradford on Avon Gazetteer of 1868 shows it under the ownership of by the Rogers family and later worked by the Jones family until about 1910. The 1886 gazetteer records Isaac Jones as living adjacent tot he quarry at 19 Frome road, with his occupation as Quarrymaster and Lime Manufacturer. The Agaric mushroom growing company then bought Bethel Quarry in 1921 having already begun cultivation in the Corsham quarries using a technique developed in Paris for the underground cultivation of this edible fungus. The quarry was requisitioned in 1939, by the Admiralty and used for the storage of naval fire control and anti aircraft equipment after some strengthening and reinforcing work, although it was soon found unsuitable for the purpose. The equipment was later transferred to Copenacre Quarry in 1942. The quarry was returned to the Agaric Mushroom Co. towards the end of the war having no further Admiralty use.

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After the second world war, it was used initially by W. Darlington Mushrooms a subsidiary of the Heinz company to grow mushrooms for soup and later by Oakfield Farm Products, also for mushroom production. This finished in September 2010 and the quarry was offered for sale in April 2011. The Estate Agent details noted its as potential for underground storage and described it as a “large and historic stone quarry extending to very approximately 10 acres with mains power, water and sewerage connected. The quarry ceased to be mined for stone at the end of the 19th Century.

An interesting short video from 1963 of mushroom growing in the quarry is available on the Pathe News website.

In 2018 explorers found 14 large tents containing plants of cannabis in the quarry – they alerted the police and two Albanians were arrested and charged with the illegal growing of cannabis. The quarry was closed by the police in late 2018.

There are also four existing air shafts into the main quarry but the date of their construction is unknown.

Bradford on Avon Quarries » Bethel Quarry Media
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