Chislehurst Caves

CavesI stumbled on your web site this afternoon and it made a fascinating read, but I would like to query the information you have concerning the Caves: There are more than 20 miles of dark and mysterious passageways in the caves. They are entirely man made, and are know to have been worked for the extraction of chalk since at least 1250. They were being worked in the mid-19th Century, but since 1865 they have been used only as a tourist attraction, and a venue for concerts. During the Second World War they were used for shelter from air raids, and many families sheltered there on a regular basis.  They are accessed from Old Hill.”In particular the line “but since 1865 they have been used only as a tourist attraction”.  Has anyone checked this because it was not what I was told as a boy by my father.  

My great grandfather, Alfred Harland, used to own the chalk brickworks located at Chislehurst caves in the late 19th century, and as far as I understood it, he owned the caves as well.  Back in the early '70s I checked up on this by visiting a local library, would have been Petts Wood, Chislehurst or Orpington, can’t remember which, and looking in a book which I think was called the Chislehurst Gazette.  Sorry to be vague but it was a long time ago. I found a copy  of this Gazette going back to 1870 or 1880 and my great grandfather’s business is mentioned.  I think I made a copy of this at the time and if I remember I’ll try to see if I still have it.
 
Another story I was told:  When the Germans bombed Buckingham Palace during the war, bricks for its repair were made using chalk from the Caves.
 
My great grandfather, according to my mother, was fond of the drink and had to sell the business.  His son, also called Alfred, my grandfather, founded the milk and groceries delivery business, the Westhurst Dairy, which older residents of Chislehurst may remember.
 
Yours faithfully, Anthony Harland