Chobham

Chobham took a great deal of trouble to keep their treacle mine well hidden. People were discouraged not to attempt to find them, but this only made it more of a challenge for a few adventurous young people eager to solve the mystery surrounding the site of the mine and the activities of the treacle miners.

 

What the teenagers did discover, were areas of seclusion around Chobham! There followed tales of courting couples finding that the 'treacle mines' were ideal places for lovemaking or for a bit of slap and tickle. The newly formed Boy Scout Troops, with higher thoughts on their minds, also found these secluded areas were good places to go 'tracking'.

 

Patrol Leader Billy Whitham, of the 3rd Chobham Troop, reported in his log-book, that with his Second Eric Denson, they had crept on all fours in search for the entrance to a treacle mine, when they heard a lot of giggling. They peered through the bushes and saw the recumbent form of Eric's sister Ethel, her skirt was pulled back and she was holding her young man with her knees and they were kissing! (Ethel and her boy friend may have thought the earth had moved that day; not 500 yards away the Treacle miners had been trying out a new explosive in their 'mine'!)

 

When the Boy Scout Patrol Leader wrote, in his log, about his tracking adventure with his friend Eric, he could not explain why Ethel was wearing her knickers round her ankles.

 

The treacle mines always remained something of a mystery and several theories were offered. From a lady in Chobham in her report to the Daily Mail, she said - "Many locations throughout England lay false claim to the true origin of the tales of treacle mines, but we in Surrey know thetrue origin, which dates from the year 1852.

 

An army of 8,129 troops assembled under canvas on Chobham Common and were reviewed by Queen Victoria on June 21st before departing to the Crimea. During their eight weeks camped on the Common, large quantities of provisions were stored there, including 30 hogsheads (barrels) each containing 56 gallons of molasses which were used, in the main, for horse fodder. To keep the barrels cool and prevent fermentation, a shallow excavation was dug out of a small hillock known as 'The Clump' and the barrels were stored under a thin layer of soil.

 

When the troops departed, the barrels were left and they remained buried until 1901 when they burst and the contents started to run down the hillside. Villagers who discovered the sweet sticky substance believed they had found a natural source of treacle and thus started the legend of the Chobham Treacle Mines".

 

Whatever the truth was, 'Treacle Mines ' had been excavated in Chobham by 1904. Some of the residents thought it was a redevelopment of the manufacture of gunpowder and that the miners were looking for fuller's earth. When whole fields were used for the cultivation of lavender, it was often said "something smells round here!".

 

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