Chełm's chalk undergrounds (old chalk mine) are a unique structure of historical interest on a national and even European scale. A labyrinth of mysterious galleries came into being as a result of the exploitation of rich chalk deposits which lie under the surface of the city. Underground corridors also came into existence on Chełm Hill, mainly for defensive purposes. The first pits started to operate in the Middle Ages and brought considerable profits to the inhabitants of Chełm, who used to send consignments of chalk even to faraway cities. They also served the inhabitants as shelters during raids, wars and pillage.
Unplanned connecting of individual pits existing on several levels of extraction and located at depths even below 20 metres resulted in the creation of large chambers called halls. During hundreds of years, under Chełm's old city buildings arose enormous pits to which led entrances from numerous residents' cellars. Chalk 'dungeons' constituted an important part of the townspeople's property and are often mentioned in the inventories of the city dwellers' possessions from the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century the authorities decided to terminate chalk extraction as the hollow galleries began to endanger the safety of the inhabitants.
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