Wellington Quarry — la Carrière Wellington, Arras

Mining truck in the tunnels of Wellington Quarry - la Carriere Wellington, Arras, France.
Wall at the entrance to the Wellington Quarry.
Wall at the entrance to the Wellington Quarry.

The Wellington Quarry - la Carrière Wellington was opened in 2008. It is an underground museum which has been carefully and sensitively created in a section of the many kilometres of tunnels dug by the British Army in the 1914-1918 war. The First World War tunnels connect with original tunnels and quarries dating back to the middle ages and Roman times underneath the city of Arras.

Entrance to the Wellington Quarry.
Entrance to the Wellington Quarry.

The museum is founded to the memory of thousands of men of the British Army and Dominion Forces who lived under the city during the Great War of 1914-1918. In particular work of the tunnelers of the New Zealand Division is commemorated. The New Zealand Tunneling Company was based in this part of the underground tunnel system during the build-up to the Allied offensive, the Battle of Arras 1917, which was launched in the early hours of 9th April 1917.

Miner's truck in the Wellington Quarry.
Miner's truck in the Wellington Quarry.

From the arrival of the British in the Arras sector in March 1916 New Zealand Tunneling Companies dug a network of tunnels in the ground underneath the Ronville and Saint-Saveur districts of Arras. They dug new tunnels and rooms and joined them up with the existing ancient tunnels and quarries or pits already under the city, quarried out hundreds of years before. The tunnels were fitted with running water and electricity supplies. Accommodation in the underground city was available for the soldiers to live and sleep in, and there was a large hospital for treating the wounded in a labyrinth of rooms with enough space to fit 700 beds and operating theatres.

Displays in the entrance foyer at the Wellington Quarry.
Displays in the entrance foyer at the Wellington Quarry.

The name for this particular quarry and tunnel system came about because names were needed to help the people underground find where they were. Signposted names and numbers were given to the tunnels and rooms underground. The New Zealanders based in this particular system named the place “Wellington“, after the capital city of New Zealand.

A message written by Lieutenant-General J A L Haldane, commanding the VI Corps during the Battle of Arras (9th - 4th May 1917), is inscribed on the wall at the entrance to the museum. It reads:

“I wish to bring to the Army Commander's notice the excellent work done by the New Zealand Engineers Tunneling Company, during the past twelve months. First under Major Duigan and now under Captain Vickerman, the work of the Company has been excellent. Not only have the men worked extremely hard and well, but the excellent relations that have been maintained with the various divisions shows a first class organization.

I attach a copy of a report I have received from G.O.C. 3rd Division, which expresses the opinion held by the divisions in the line of the New Zealand Tunneling Company.”

Underground Guided Tour

Pick axes in the tunnels at the Wellington Quarry.
Pick axes in the tunnels at the Wellington Quarry.

Visitors in groups of up to about 20 people are taken 20 metres down below ground level to the underground quarry and tunnels in a lift. The lift has glass walls and as the lift descends, visitors can see the chalk walls of the lift shaft.

Each person wears a headset with their chosen language. The guide takes the group on a tour through the tunnels lasting approximately 25 minutes.

The guide stops at set intervals to give a short explanation. In addition, the headsets automatically start at set places to give very clear descriptions for visitors; the commentary describes the difficult time experienced by the French and British soldiers and the local townspeople who lived underground at Arras throughout the war. The commentary gives a history of the tunnels and quarries dug into the chalk under the city, and it details the work carried out by the tunnelers together with the preparations they made for a surprise British attack starting the Battle of Arras 1917. Many hundreds of British infantry assembled in these tunnels before the launch of the Allied offensive at the Battle of Arras on 9th April 1917.

The guided visit to the tunnels shows a number of features of special interest which were found in these tunnels when they were discovered and excavated. These include mining trucks and bits of equipment, food containers such as glass bottles, tins and rum jars left in the tunnels. There are numerous example of drawings and “graffiti” on the walls by soldiers.

“Exit 10” written on the tunnel wall at the Wellington Quarry, used by British soldiers to leave the tunnels on the morning of 9th April 1917.
Exit 10 written on the tunnel wall at the Wellington Quarry.

At the end of the guided tour the group passes Exit Number 10, one of the exits from the tunnels which the troops took to climb up to the Front Line positions and go into the attack at 5.30am (English time) on the morning of 9th April. Many hundreds of soldiers would never return.

On leaving the tunnels using the lift the group is invited into a small cinema to watch a short and moving film about the Battle of Arras 1917.

Reception & Shop

Reception at the Wellington Quarry.
Reception at the Wellington Quarry.

A small but well-stocked shop at the reception desk sells related books in English and French, postcards and souvenirs. Leaflets about visiting Arras and the surrounding area are also available.

Visitor Information

“Graffiti” carving on the tunnel wall by a soldier in the Wellington Quarry. The soldier is believed to be Lance Corporal, later Sergeant, John S Ashworth, MM, no. 5689 of the 2nd Battalion the Suffolk Regiment. He served right through the war and survived.
Carving on the tunnel wall by a soldier at the Wellington Quarry.

Opening Hours

Open daily 10.00 - 12.30 hours and 13.30 - 18.00 hours

Closed on 1 January and three weeks following the Christmas holidays; 27, 28, 29 June; 25 December.

Admission charges

6.80 euros / Concessions 3.10 euros (most major credit cards are accepted)

Group Visits

Groups wishing to visit should contact the museum in advance to discuss arrangements.

Access to the Underground Museum

Walkway in the tunnels of the Wellington Quarry.
Walkway in the tunnels of the Wellington Quarry.

There are no steps during the visit via the lift to the underground tunnels. The tunnels are dimly lit for their preservation. As visitors enter each section of the tunnel, the lights come on at that section and go out behind the group.

Visitors with any questions about access for anyone with limited walking ability should contact the museum by telephone or by email. English is spoken. The museum's website is managed as part of the Arras Tourist Office website.

Food tins, including a variety of toffee tins, found in the Wellington Quarry.
Tins including toffee tins found in the Wellington Quarry.

The temperature underground is cool and it is recommended to wear a jacket or pullover. Photography is allowed.

Toilets

There are toilet facilities near the reception desk for museum visitors.

Contact Details

Address: Rue Arthur Delétoille, 62000 ARRAS, France

Telephone: (Arras Tourist Office) +33 (0)3 21 51 26 95

Fax (Arras Tourist Office): +33 (0)3 21 71 07 34

Email: (Arras Tourist Office) contact@explorearras.com (or directly to the museum using the email integrated contact form on the web page below)

Website: (the website is integrated into the Arras Tourist Office website) www.arras.fr office de tourisme carriere-wellington

Wellington Quarry - la Carrière Wellington Location

Latitude N 50° 16' 50 " ; Longitude E 2° 46' 57 "

The Wellington Quarry museum is located on the Rue Arthur Delétoille in the south-east part of Arras. Rue Arthur Delétoille is a small road, turning off the D917 Avenue Ferrand Lobbedez, approximately 800 metres south of the road bridge over the railway line and next to (south of) the Leclerc supermarket car park. Turn off the D917 into Rue Arthur Delétoille, and the entrance to the Wellington Quarry is signposted in Rue Arthur Delétoille approximately 150 metres on the right. This entrance for vehicles is one way.

Vehicles exit from the car park onto the Rue du Temple, which runs parallel to Rue Arthur Delétoille.

Please note: The aerial mapping image here is not updated to show the museum entrance and site, built in 2008.

Parking

There is a free car park for cars and coaches during museum opening hours.

Related Topics

Preserved trenches at the National Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial Park.
Preserved trenches at the National Canadian Vimy Ridge Memorial Park.

Visiting the French Flanders & Artois Battlefields

Museums on the French Flanders & Artois Battlefields

Battle Remains on the French Flanders & Artois Battlefields

Acknowledgements

Falls the Shadow: Visitors' Exhibition Catalogue for the Wellington Quarry - la Carrière Wellington, 9 April - 11 November 2010.