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Book reviews — April 2007

'East Surrey Underground', by Peter M Burgess
Paperback. 121 pages. Published in 2006 by the author. £10.50 incl p&p, from 8 Trotton Close, Maidenbower, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 7JP
Peter Burgess, a leading light of the Wealden Cave and Mine Society, has been actively engaged in researching the mines, underground quarries, and other man-made and natural underground spaces of east Surrey for some decades, and has a number of published papers to his credit which combine underground exploration, careful archaeological recording, archival and oral history recording and research, and a high degree of intelligent intrepretation of the mass of evidence.

The contents list reveals there to be chapters devoted to safety, sand caves and mines, firestone quarries, hearthstone mines, underground mushroom farms, wartime secondary use of underground space, deneholes, fullers' earth mines, subsidences, the swallow-holes of the river Mole, early exploration, rumours and myths, and conservation (both of archaeological features and of bats and other wildlife).

The book has an attractive colour photograph taken inside one of Reigate's silver-sand mines, and a number of black-and-white photographs and line drawings (location maps, mine plans and sections, finds, and so forth). The style adopted for the text is accessible, and although the author has consulted virtually every currently known archival and published source, he has chosen for this popular but authoritative publication not to include detailed reference to sources, but there is a good index.

This is not a do-it-yourself guide to underground exploration for beginners, who are advised to put their interest in the subject into practice via membership of an established caving or mining history society, as such bodies will have organised access agreements with land-owners and occupiers. For this reason, exact locations and details of access are often not included, as owners and occupiers generally prefer to deal with organisations having appropriate equipment, expertise and insurance cover. The message is simple enough — those who wish to visit the underground sites featured here should seek to do so as members of an appropriate society.

A highly recommended and important book. Paul Sowan

© GLIAS, 2007