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Mushroom Cultivation Underground

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Mushrooms growing in Poulton Quarry

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The tunnels that had been cut out of the hillsides in Bradford and Westwood by underground stone quarrying provided ideal conditions for growing mushrooms on a commercial scale. Insulated from the weather, they give stable levels of temperature and humidity all year round and, unlike most plants, fungi do not need light for their growth.

The techniques were imported from France, where they had been pioneered in old underground stone quarries in Paris; mushrooms there are still known as champignons de Paris. A Mr Robinson was growing mushrooms in Bradford quarries in the 1870s and Albert Wallington was cultivating them on a commerciall scale in the 1880s. The company of Agaric Ltd started up in Surrey in 1914 and came to Bradford from quarries at Corshamin 1921 with help from French workers. From 1928 the company used part of the quarries at Westwood, but had given up by the start of World War 2 because of roof falls and disease.

As Blue Prince and as W. Darlington Mushrooms, a subsidiary of the H.J. Heinz company, cultivation continued until production was moved away from Bradford in the 1990s.

Underground farming continued on a reduced scale afterwards, but all has gone now and the only mushrooms on sale here are from Ireland.