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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.



:: [ SVVS at Reigate Tunnel by the Sand Caves- September 2002 ] ::

The SVVS was again invited by the Reigate Business Guild to display our vintage and classic vehicles in old Tunnel Road above the Reigate Caves in the support of the Reigate Autumn Extravaganza. The event was held in conjuction with the Institute Jazz Band and the Cave Society. The following photos are by Tony Oakes and  Bozi Mohacek. The car text was provided by Tony Russell and the additional text provided by Bozi. Please click on any thumbnail picture below to see the full size picture. To return to the thumbnails please click the Explorer "Back" arrow (top left of screen). Pictures have been prepared for speed of loading, and page to be viewed at 800 x 600. 

  

The SVVS Vehicle display was held in the now closed ex A217 Tunnel Road which includes the famous Reigate Tunnel, the origins of which were described last year. The weather was fine all day and the turnout was quite good with 19 cars attending.  In view that the Reigate Caves were open this year, and as the entrances to some of the caves are in the middle of the Tunnel, this meant that for the later SVVS arrivals the car display was effectively split into two sections. Some of the SVVS cars could not get to the display area, blocked by moderns in front of the tunnel entrance.

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The caves are rarely opened to the public and many are unaware of their history. The entrances to the Tunnel Road Caves are in the middle of the tunnel so many SVVS Members including Bozi took the opportunity to explore some of them. Photos in the caves were taken in almost no light and have therefore been artificially lightened to be viewable. The 'cave' network under Reigate is very extensive being under a large part of the town centre. Reigate was once a popular resting point for travellers on the Pilgrims Way. Probably the most famous are the 'Barons Caves' believed to originate from the 11th Century. Folk legend has it that the insurgent Barons conferred in the caverns before going off to Runnymede to witness the signing of the Magna Carta by King John. 

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Although some of the caves are natural, most are man made. The man made ones were actually an extensive network of Sand Mines which produced large quantities of Folkstone Sand, White Sand and Silver sand. Although most of the sand was mined 'officially' many of the tunnels were made by private individuals excavating tunnels from within their homes. As the tunnellers were amateurs, some of the tunnels frequently collapsed including a section in 1869 which took out all the front walls of a row of cottages. Equally dramatic earlier collapse was that of a cricket pitch in the Castle Court in 1858. A shower of rain removed the players from the field a few moments before the pitch disappeared into the gaping cavern below ! In the subsequent decades many of the openings to the myriads of tunnels had become blocked up but the tunnels remain. Many of the larger tunnels and caverns were subsequently blocked up at the beginning of the First World War on the orders of the Military Authorities and the records of some tunnels and caves have been lost.

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Mining for sand in these caves began to diminish with the onset of engines and mechanisation which resulted in open cast sand workings elsewhere. Although sand mines were a more effective way of obtaining sand with little waste, it required manual labour which was slow and low in output. Interesting point was that the mines were dug from the roof downwards and all the work was done by candlelight. During the First World War part of the cave network was used as overflow ammunition dump and arsenal, although apparently the local residents were not made aware of this at the time. Parts of the Cave network were used in the Second World War as air-raid shelters and still retain some of the 'conveniences'. Other later uses included cellers and wine vaults, as well as storage by Reigate Brewery. Some parts of the cave network are still in use today, currently being used as a number of shooting ranges. It is somewhat ironic that this use requires the importation of a different type of sand to be used as absorption material behind the targets.

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A sunny September Saturday morning greeted SVVS members for the annual Reigate Tunnel display to support the Reigate Autumn Extravaganza. The event is organised by the Reigate Business Guild and this year featured the Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society, the Institute Jazz Band and the Cave Society. Our Chas Moody was unfortunately unwell, so it fell upon the Hon. Treasurer to act as coordinator on the day. We did not have the official SVVS traffic cones or plastic tape, so some handy cones were "borrowed" from nearby roadworks, and a ball of yellow string procured from a stationers. Hey Presto, instant "child proof" barrier of a sort!

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First to arrive was Michael Doughty with his magnificent veteran 1902 Wolseley who won pole nearest the Pub. Next came Terry Mistry in the 1947 Triumph Roadster and then Frank Hayter in the 1934 Morris Oxford 6. Then came a peculiar Ford, the Hon Treasurerís Ford 10 "rod", the "proper car" ie. the 7W not-so-drophead sports tourer having terminated its' timing gears the previous week! Des Peacock came in an Amilcar (what else), the 1927 CGS but wasnít there much because he was at home cooking a posh dinner. Hon Editor Julian and Thelma Alderton came in the 1947 MG Y saloon and Messrs Picnic Organisers in the 1946 MG TC. Chris Geary came in the 1953 Alvis, followed by Mike Gorman in the 1950 Bentley MK4 and Nigel Macdonald in the 1949 MG TC. 

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Next in was Bozi Mohacek in the 1921 Citroen "LíEscargot" who allegedly had left for Reigate on the previous Thursday! The last in the first section was Roger Horstman in the 1955 Triumph TR2. The second batch of cars in the tunnel beyond the Caves Expo commenced with a new Member Gerry Tucker in a superb Jaguar 3.4S. Mike Fay came in a classic, and not often seen, 1968 Volvo131, Tony Oakes came in the Humber 25/70 and Vernon Nowell in his 1936 Riley Kestrel Sprite. 

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Tony "hot rod" Tester came in the 1927 Chrysler Imperial Phaeton (the hot rod having broken its' front beam axle and deposited him in a ditch recently. I am pleased to report that no injuries were sustained, and a new axle and hubs have been obtained from the States). Last in that row was new member David Glew in the 1939 MG TA.  Parked outside in Tunnel Road as they could not get in were Malcolm Bailey in 1934 Morris Minor, a Wolseley14/56, and a lovely Mercedes convertible. 

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A splendid informal lunch, to the accompaniment of the Jazz band outside, was taken in the Market Hotel, with some of the many daughters of Oakes ethereal. Bozi was seen to enthusiastically consume no less than TWO sausage hot dogs, although he will maintain that it was one long one cut into two ( ..it was !  Ed.). Julie will no doubt think otherwise and hence a considerable sum of "hush money" may be required. All in all a very enjoyable typically eccentric "Surrey Vintage" get together not very taxing on the mind and relaxing on the body! The day was crowned by an official presentation by Wendy Eldershaw of the Reigate Business Guild, as in the group photo above.

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