Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin,
including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the
committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy
of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be
checked in the time at his disposal.

The Odd Note





SYSTEM – about 30 miles.  The grapevine
says that SWCC is re-surveying OFD as fast as they can to add the odd couple of
miles in an attempt to retain the No.1 status.

Pete Moody and Alison Hooper are digging in both Swildon’s
Pirate Chamber and Shatter Chamber


MID-SUMMER BUFFET 23rd June, Saturday at 7.30 at the Hunters
in the side room.  Buffet food, cost
about £2.50 (limited to 70). Tickets from 

Martin Bishop
The Batch,


Telephone Priddy 370

The only other wholly club event during the year other than
the annual dinner on the 1st Saturday next October.



Banwell Bone and

are closed until
further notice until the Axbridge Caving Group have been able to repair the
doors to the caves.  Permission has been
obtained from the new landowner enabling cavers to visit these historic caves –
on Sunday as well.  You’ll remember that
the previous owner had a thing about his Sunday.  Before the Axbridge members were able to get
to the caves, a lock has been placed on the


door by the Dundry Caving Group without leaving any address for people to
contact them.  This was done apparently
without the knowledge of the landowner. From the grapevine it would appear that the Dundry group is an off shoot
of the South Bristol Speleos and, so they are cavers who should know better.

Jonahs Travels.  Wig
recently received a letter from our old friend Jonah – who has sent his sub for
the next five years – hint(!).  Apart
from requesting a key to the Belfry which he has tried to get for the last
twenty years or so, he writes to say that he would like one so that he doesn’t
have to chase around the Priddy area to get a key just for a bit of
cooking.  He says, “Had a week in Clare
mid-Jan.  Much too cold to do anything.   Did the 420 miles to Stranraer non-stop on
the motorbike and froze to death.  Spent
most of my time in O’Connor’s at Doolin between walks….”  Not bad for a young 74 year old!  Keep it up Jonah.

Edge Mines.  Access details:

West Mine – P. Sorensen, White Barn Farm,

White Barn Road
Edge.  All parties must be led by key

Wood Mine – controlled by Derbyshire C.C.  Contact Nigel Dibben (address in Nov. ’78 BB)

Engine Vein Mine and all other mines: National Trust, Mr. G.
Noel, National Trust Office, Attingham Hall,


New American depth record (-870m).  No
pitches 13km long descending down the dip, following the side of the mountain.

The latest volume of Current Titles in Speleology 1978
(International) is out.  254 pages,
covering over 4,000 references to articles published in 1978 culled from about
300 caving jounals and books from all areas of the world.  There is a feast for those interested in
equipment and techniques (260 entries). A copy is in the club library. For those who want a copy for their library will cost you £4.00 from
Tony Oldham.

Spanish cave in world depth league.  GESM Abyss reaches ‘terminal’ lake at -1074m.

Austrian reaction to ‘foreigners.’  In a recent issue of the

area Magazine one of the editors
writes at length on the Foreign Problem. These cavers are finding the Austrians best caves in new areas and
suggest a permit-cum-quota system as used in the

Wig received a Xmas Card from Helmut Planer in which he
wrote that his club have explored and surveyed 4-5km of ‘newlands’.  Die Schonste Hohle is a wet cave with
formations and some 2.2km long.  And
later, they explored in the Hocklecken-Grosshohle to a depth of about



If you have not paid
by the time the next BB is issued YOU won’t get one.



Joint member £3.00

Under 18’s £1.50

Send your subs to:         Sue Tucker, Hon. Treas.,

Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock,

So it’s up to you – pay up and keep your membership to the
liveliest club on Mendip.


Cavers Bookshelf No.2

Caves Of
South Wales

By Tim Stratford

Published by Cordee,

Leicester, 1978.  92 pp

Photos, maps.  £2.75

Reviewed by Graham Wilton-Jones

This new publication is similar in size to the recent spate
of caver’s guides stitched and bound in cloth cover like Mendip
Underground.  It is always easy to
criticise something so I will note the points in favour first.  It is about time someone brought out a new
guide to the caves of

and the author is to be praised for making the effort.  As fate would have it (according to rumour)
Caves of
Wales and the

, Edition No.3 is
in preparation and Caves of South Wales may have been turned out in rather a
hurry, as will; be seen.

In the 90 or so pages,
South Wales
has been divided into nine distinct regions, more logically than C. W.M.  The layout of information on each cave is
excellent name, grade, grid reference and maps, length and depth, location,
access, description, tackle and history. The writing on each region is preceded by an area map, most of which
could show a little more detail.  Caves
of over 200ft. are described in detail together with a few similar, but important
sites, while the majority of caves of less than 200ft. length are simply listed
with map references at the end of the appropriate section.  Small surveys would have been useful with
some of the larger systems, but there are none. The author has generally adhered to the idea of a main route through the
cave and side passage descriptions are brief and in italics.  For bibliographical reasons the history is
important (not merely for interest) but this is usually too brief.  There are insufficient bibliographical
references, e.g., there is no reference of the UBSS publication on Little Neath
River Cave.  Information on surveys is
scant, e.g. the BCRA Aggie survey is the one noted as containing a survey for
Daren Cilau and the much better SMCC one is not mentioned.  Access notes are not always given despite, on
p.7 ‘remember that the land always belongs to someone’.  Wig was irritated that for LNRC says ‘Wet  suit essential.’  Though not irritated, I must agree.  Wet suits are not tackle and rarely essential.

What of my guess that the guide has been turned out in a
hurry?  Some of the info is already out
of date, some by several months, some by years. Rock and Fountain goes no further than the 3rd choke, passed in summer

sump bypass in Aggie is not
mentioned.  Ogof Pen Eryr was extended in
summer ’78, another fact omitted.  There
is no reference to the Paul and Barnabas extension in Tunnel cave.

The length of description relates in no way either to cave
complexity or passage length.  Rock and Fountain
(6,400m+) has no more description than Bridge cave (311m).  The Ogof Cynnes (915m) description is very
detailed as far as the main chamber (150m) while five more lines deal with the
rest of this complex system.  The totally
inadequate description of Summertime in Aggie suggest that the author has never
been there.

A precedent is set with the description of the entirely
submerged caves of the Hepste area and yet there is no description of the New
World Series in LNRC – just ‘8,000ft of sumps and passage’.  Another precedent is set with the inclusion

; this is a sea cave in the
Ordovician volcanics.  Similar long caves
are exceedingly numerous in the contorted belts of Pembrokeshire coastal and
island cliffs.  Surely it is a case of all
or nothing?

A detailed description of the complexities of OFD are wisely
avoided, but at the same time many important parts of the system are
omitted.  The section on Dan-yr-Ogof has
a brief reference to the Mazeways and Dali’s Delight and yet these are perhaps
the most significant areas of the whole cave, being the key to the elusive DYO

The 100m long

on Caldy is not
described, nor the very significant 200m of Sink-y-Giedd.  Ogof Coel-y-Ffyrnau (70m) is missing
altogether, along with Ogof Craig Ddu, Ogofd Cwmafon and probably several more.

However, he has made a guide book and a very useful one at
that.  Hopefully the 2nd Edition will
follow close on the heels of the first (I am sure that the 1st Edition will
sell out rapidly) and will show that the author has found more time to do the
job properly, and has paid attention to the inevitable barrage of comments and
criticisms that such a guide book heralds.

If you are a collector of cave books then obviously you will
buy this one.  If you want a cave guide
for the area, perhaps your will wait for the rumoured Caves of Wales and the

to appear before
you make a decision.  Me?  I shall usual do as usual.  Pinch someone else’s copy!

Cavers Bookshelf No.3

Descent NO. 40


Price 50p.  43pp.,

Photos, surveys, etc

Size A4.  Pub. By

Mendip Publishing

Reviewed by ‘Wig’

At last the long overdue issue of ‘Descent’ makes its
appearance to a mixed reception on the Hill.

As a magazine its contents are excellent except for the fact
that they are at least six months old (Los Tayos expedition report is nearly
three years old!)  If the Editor, Bruce
Bedford, had been able to get it out when he promised as a September/October
1978 issue he would have been on top of the news.  The contents include Los Tayos, mentioned
above, in itself a superb article, notes and sketch surveys of two recent
Northern discoveries – King pot and Vespers Pot and the usual round up of news
from the U.K. and abroad.  Also, three of
our own members have material published or are mentioned in the text (G. W-J:
Dachstein, Wig: Trat’s Obituary and Tim Large reported as ‘stuffing the
NCA!’)  However, having complained about
the news content perhaps it is worth mentioning that some 75% of British cavers
are not member’s of established clubs linked closely to the ‘national
grapevine’ and so the contents will be NEWS to them.  Anyway, if Bruce would get his digit out and
produce Descent every two months then most of his news content will be news to
many of the regulars of the caving regions.

The important improvement by increasing the size from the
old imperial sixmo to A4 is great to say the least, better page layouts results
and somehow makes the adverts seen less obtrusive.  With competition being offered by BCRA’s
‘Caves and Caving’ and ‘Caving International’, the presentation is equal to any
professionally produced magazine at a price that will certainly hurt
no-one.  (BCRA’s Caves and Caving costs
50p for effectively a ‘home-type’ offset magazine that simply is not in the
same league and the new Canadian produced Caving International with its colour
cover and internal photographs at between £1.00 and £1.50 depending on your
source seems very expensive.

I for one, am eagerly waiting to the March/April issue
(probably it will make its appearance as Jan/Feb 1980) with its news up to
date.  If this is achieved and Descent
appears regularly every two months then it can only be a winner to the point
that it might put club and international organisation’s own publications out of




New information has been found
regarding the opening up of the caves at Banwell which changes the importance
of the roles played by a number of people at the time….

An introduction by

This month we are able to publish an important addition to
Speleohistory by Marie Clarke on the opening up of Banwell Stalactite and

.  To put the reader in the picture, I’ve put
together a number of relevant extracts from John Rutter’s ‘The Delineations of
North Somerset’ published in 1829 to set the scene for Marie’s paper together
Rutter’s account of the Sandford Hill ‘Gulf’.

During the past decade, Marie Clarke and Chris Richards have
done sterling work by unearthing information that has led to the re-opening of
two of Mendip’s lost caves.  Their
successes were the rediscovery of Bleadon Cavern and Hutton Cavern.  Now the discovery of a letter from Dr. David
Williams, Rector of Bleadon and Kingston Seymour has upset the general
knowledge of the opening of these important sites.  The extracts from Rutter that follows have
been used by many Mendip authors; Gough (Mines of Mendip); Balch (Swallet Caves
of Mendip etc.); Knight (Seaboard of Mendip) etc.

Rutter writes, “The Hill in which the caves exist, contains
ochre, calamine and lead….which were obtained from the mines in considerable
quantities.  A tradition was prevalent
amongst them (the miners, Ed.) that about 30 years since, an immense cavern had
been discovered in the north-west extremity of the hill; the entrance to which
being difficult, it excited no further attention. (Ed. note Catcott records the
discovery of this cave as being 1768, not about 1800 as implied by
Rutter).  But when the discoveries of
Professor Buckland opened a new era for research, a respectable farmer named
Beard, who lives at Wint Hill…… remembered hearing of this cavern when a child,
and happening to meet with John Webb the miner, who now lives at the Bishop’s
Cottage (Ed. note – now the house called The Caves) was directed to the
supposed entrance, which Webb and another miner, named Colman (Ed. note- other
sources spell his name Coleman) commenced clearing out.  After re-sinking the shaft to the depth of
about 100ft, they came to the entrance, or first landing place of the cave,
where they found two pieces of candles, evidently left there by the original
explorers….The cave thus re-discovered is the one distinguished as the
Stalactite Cave; and from its description by the modern discoverers; attached
the attention of Dr. Randolph, the vicar of Banwell; who, conjointly with the
Bishop of Bath and Wells, resolved to improve access to it, for the convenience
of visitors from Weston and other adjacent parts, whose donations on viewing
it, might increase the funds of a charity school, just then opened at Banwell.

A horizontal opening was accordingly made lower down the
western point of the hill, where a fissure about eight inches wide was observed
in the rook, running in the direction of the cave.  The workmen followed this fissure, until it
gradually became wider, but filled up with a loose mass of stones and
earth.  About twenty feet from the
surface of the rock, unconnected with that which they desired to approach, the
fissure expanded into a small cavern, being of mush less extent, though
ultimately proving of far greater interest than the larger one.  (Ed. note – this was the discovery of Bone

This unexpected discovery of the smaller cavern, now became
the subject of attentive research and curiosity.  The Bishop of Bath and Wells, proprietor of
the ground, and Dr. Randolph, together with some other gentlemen, set foot on a
subscription for exploring its organic contents, and their exertion’s were most
zealously aided by Mr. Beard, by whose unremitting attention, the bones were
secured as they came into view, and preserved for future examination.

In proceeding from the cottage to examine the caves visitors
usually place themselves under the guidance of Mr. William Beard, who evidently
appreciates the scientific and interesting characteristics of the scenes of
which he was in some measure, the discoverer

It is worth noting that there are references, describing
Beard and Professor Beard – this was conferred upon him by the Bishop because
of his ‘zeal and enthusiasm’ and in 1825 presented, him with a silver embossed
tankard, having the following inscription.



Finally; a word about the Gulf or Gulph.  Rutter writes:

The mouth of the largest, which the miners call ‘The Gulf’,
lies, they say, 80 fathoms, or 480 feet below the plane of Sandford Hill; they
also affirm, that they have let down a man, with a line 240 feet deep, without
his being to discover top, sides or bottom. Miners, like other men, are very superstitious and wonder working, when
they cannot fathom….There is another extensive cave further to the westward, in
this hill, near which, the skeleton of an elephant was found, in 1770, four
fathoms deep, amongst loose rubble.

So, having these extracts………..

West Mendip Worthies

By Marie Clarke

It was an advertisement in the Weston Mercury announcing the
sale by auction of the property known as ‘The Caves’ Knightcott, Banwell, on
July 25th 1978 which prompted the writer to narrate its absorbing history.  The residence, described by the auctioneers
as a country mansion with coach house, clock tower and two caves, among other
embellishments, has alas, become sadly depilated and immediately brings to mind
the former glory that vanished many a summer ago.  Only a small part of this mansion has been
occupied, whilst the remainder was shut off and left to fall into decay.  The surrounding grounds, once well tended
shrubberies and winding paths are now a tangled wilderness hiding ruinous summer
houses and a tower, whose top finally disappeared in December 1976.

It is sad to have to record the downfall of Bishop Law’s
paradise, and as late as the 1840’s he intended to make further ‘splendid
alteration’ and envisaged many house parties yet to come.  It was here that numerous horse drawn
carriages shed their fashionable occupants and elite of the day.  All this has faded away – houses live and

But beneath the mansion lie the two caves and it is here
that the story begins, indeed, if it we’re not for the Stalactite and

this house would never have come into being at all.  Having followed the history of the house and
caves, for they are inseparable, its distinguished occupant, George Henry Law,
Bishop of Bath and Wells for whom this house was built, we now turn our attention
to three other gentlemen, all of considerable importance and all playing a
major part in this story.  Dr. Francis
Randolph, Canon of Bristol and Vicar of Banwell, the Rev. David Williams, of
Bleadon and Kingston Seymour, also a fellow of the Geological society, Mr.
William Beard, one time farmer and guide to the caves, each now laid in his
narrow cell, but all notable personages in the 19th century.

It was in 1808 that Dr. Randolph became vicar of Banwell, he
had his connections with the Hanoverian Court, being chaplain to the Duke of
York, son of George III.  At about this
time he resided in

apparently teaching English to the Princess Royal of Prussia, who later became
the Duchess of York.  It was due to the
influence of the Duke of York that Dr. Randolph was appointed Canon of Bristol,
he then became Vicar of Banwell.  His
association with the court lasted for forty years; however, this relationship
was not altogether a cordial affair.

In April 1795, the Prince of Wales, who later became George
IV, married Caroline of Brunswick, and in August of that year Canon Randolph
was given some letters by the Princess to deliver to

. Unable to undertake the journey, the letters were returned by coach to
Brighton, where the Princess was in residence.  Unfortunately, these letters were mislaid on
the way and their contents revealed with undesirable results.  At the time it was rumoured that Dr. Randolph
parted with the letters having been promised a Bishopric, but if that were so
he never became a bishop.  It is possible
that this occurrence was the outcome of a sermon which roused eager interest in
its day.

It will be seen that Canon Randolph was much more than an
inspiring speaker being concerned as he was with the controversial matters of the
period.  He published a pamphlet urging
the abolition of the slave trade;


being one of the main centres he has ample opportunity to investigate
this.  Another pamphlet he published
advocated the redemption of the National Debt which has risen alarmingly during
the French Wars.

When he became vicar of Banwell, the church was in desperate
need of repair – to make it even safe; and decorations to give it a more
pleasing appearance.  The semi-circular
railing round the altar from the formidable spikes running round the top would
have been more suitable for the fence of a garden or courtyard.

Rev. Francis Randolph, in 1812, “gave £100 towards the
repair of the church, and was at great expense in removing the painted glass
from the windows of the church, and placing it (with a large quantity of other
painted glass purchased at his own expense) in the arches of the altar
screen.”  It was from 1812 onwards that
£2,000 was spent in effecting repairs to the church.  It is considered that the present church was
built by Bishop Thomas de Beckington (1443-1465) from his Arms, appearing in a
painted glass window that existed in the north aisle before the renovation work
started in 1812.  The Bishop’s Place,
too, at Banwell is thought to have been built for that Prelate, for occasional
residence and was situated to the east of the church.  George Bennett, an early 19th century
solicitor and antiquarian of Banwell, onetime churchwarden, remembered seeing
in the east window of the north aisle, a pained glass, the Arms of Bishop
Beckington.  Mr Bennett wrote (c.1825) “I
well recollect the last mentioned glass in the East Window of the North Aisle,
but sorry I am to say that in all probability it is now lost, as I do not find
it among the glass preserved in the Scree.”

The village school was founded by Dr. Randolph with the
generous support of Dr. Beadon, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who died on April
21st 1824 before its completion, and it was left to his successor, Dr. George
Henry law to open the school on August 1st 1824 and so became its first patron.

The funds for this school were raised as follows: – Dr.
Beadon (the late Bishop) gave the ground on which the building stands, also
timber to the value of £50; the National society in London for Promoting
Education amongst the Poor, £100; the Rev. Dr. Randolph, Vicar of the Parish,
£150; The Rev. C. Whatley, Curate, £20; George Emery Esq., Churchwarden, £20;
Charles Emery Esq., £10; George Bennett Esq., £5 – in all £355.  The care and management of this institution
was for the present placed with the Vicar, Curate and Churchwardens, together
with other inhabitants of the parish and to be maintained by voluntary
subscriptions.  Funds were urgently
needed, and Dr. Randolph conceived the idea that if the legendary cave under
Banwell Hill could be rediscovered, it could be re-opened as a show place. 
was rapidly expanding from a fishing village to a fashionable resort; the cave
would be a profitable attraction for visitor, whose donations could be expended
on the charity school.

It was Dr. Randolph who contacted two miners to clear out an
old shaft that led to the lost cave beneath Banwell Hill.  Thus it was that the Deep or

was rediscovered in April 1824.

Dr. Randolph and Bishop Law decided that if access to the

was improved this would further
encourage visitors.  It with this in mind
and the assistance of two miners, Coleman and Webb that their labours were
amply rewarded by the accidental discovery of yet another cavern.  This cave, although of smaller dimensions was
bar far the more important, containing as it did, immense quantities of bones
distributed throughout the ochreous rubble almost to the roof of the
chamber.  This event occurred in
September 1824 and the cave was given the descriptive title of the Bone
House.  This cave, with similar later
discoveries was destined to become famous.

It is not known exactly how and when William Beard, farmer
of Wint Hill, Banwell, became involved in the activities of the miners, Coleman
and Webb.  But by now he had taken more
than a casual interest in the undertaking by securing all the bones as soon as
they saw the light of day.  He yclept
house, Bone Cottage, which no doubt accurately described it.  Geological specimens and cave formations
decorated the garden wall, while others peered through the undergrowth like
gnomes in hiding.  Trophies were seized
and large collections of antiquities were the order of the day.  Below ground Beard’s activities appear to
have been confined to that of guide to the Bone and

there is no proof that he set foot underground in any other capacity.  He was responsible for the visitor’s book and
donations on behalf of the bishop. “Gentlemen and Ladies, I have to inform you that I rec’d a  letter bearing date 22nd of June 1826 – from
Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells wherein he request that all money that I have and
receive of visitors who see the caves and to be expended in exploring and
improving the same.”

The land on which

were discovered
belonged to the See of Bath and Wells. Bishop Law soon obtained this land where the caves were situated and in
May 1827 work began on the Bishop’s Cottage, which, though at first was
intended for visitors became in the course of time, with lavish embellishments,
his own residence.  The age of folly and
grotto had arrived with

, trilithon erected upon tumulus, ornamental
arch and summer house.  While the grounds
were ‘tastefully laid out’ with lawns, walks and terraces; the woods were
mainly planted in 1825 and the tower soared towards heaven between
1835-40.  The Bishop resided
intermittently at the cottage from 1832 onwards.

The Bishop’s Circle was at times yclept “The Caves”, where
there is a window lighting the staircase: “Argent, on a fess azure between in
chief three buck’s heads caboshed gulea and in base as many pheons sable a
mitre with labels expaned or, for Thomas Beckington, Bishop of bath and wells,
1443-65.  The buck’s heads have been done
in yellow stain.  The shield is supported
by angels.  Fifteen century.  The glass was brought to the house by George
Henry Law, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1824-25.” This explains the disappearance of the glass form the church where
George Bennett searched for it in vain. In 1825, Dr. Randolph had erected a summer house within Banwell Camp,
but this was removed and re-erected on Banwell Hill on the estate of the
Bishop.  An appropriate inscription, in
Latin, being placed above the doorway in memory of Dr, Randolph who had died in

At the beginning of the 19th century, Weston was a fishing
village where the cottages were constructed of timber from shipwrecks.  There were few track ways, but the coach road
was at Cross.  The postman rode a donkey
and put in a weekly appearance to deliver and collect letters; while the
watercress grew in a ditch in the main street. Smuggling was rife and the local witch lived in a cottage with tree
branches growing through the roof; Worley Hill was then treeless.  The route across the sand tots was the only
way of reaching Weston from the south, when the tide was out and the traveller
was directed by a signpost almost buried in accumulated sand.  When the tide was in, travellers waited at
the Half Way House where the

now stands.  For the benefit of strangers, a finger post
was erected amidst the sandy regions of Weston to direct the traveller.   This was useful information when not

It was about this time that the first batch of invalids
arrived in Weston, having being sent by a


medical man.  This event launches Weston
as a health resort and fashionable watering place.

Upon this scene rode the Rev. David Williams who was Rector
of Bleadon and Kingston Seymour and from his abode in the Mendip Hills his
scientific researches began.  Williams
explored the caves of Uphill and Hutton (where his initials are just inside the
entrance) and investigated many fissures in the Bleadon and Hutton areas.  He also took an interest in Sandford Hill and
Goatchurch Cavern and was one of the earliest visitors to the

.  It was Williams who surveyed the Bone and

and those at Hutton and Uphill,
and there is a reference, years later, to his ‘old brown handkerchief’.  These surveys were later engraved by William
Barnes, the
Dorset poet, for inclusion in
Rutter’s Delineations of N.W. Somerset. Williams referred to these surveys as his cave ‘sketches’.  Of the pre-historic relics he un-earthed
together with his geological investigations he wrote many important scientific
papers and was elected Fellow of the Geological Society in 1828.  He collected material for a comprehensive
work over a number of years which consisted of the geology of
Devon and

.  These manuscripts were later purchased by the
S.A.N.H. Society for publication, unfortunately this never materialised.

Davis Williams frequently travelled to Weston, on horseback,
meeting friends at a curious greengrocers in the High Street, perhaps then
known as The Street, for it is uncertain when it became ‘High’.  These premises were known by the fanciful
name of ‘Gentleman’s Club’, being the haunt of the local intellectuals.

In a


magazine an absorbing account of a visit to the geologist is described:  “We remember to have made a pilgrimage to
Bleadon with a distinguished member of the British association.  We found the retreat of science encumbered
within and without, with the imperishable exuviae of the ransacked hills.  Not a table, a chair or a sofa without its
antediluvian occupant.  The very lawn and
the approaches to the house strewn with fossil remains such as few museums can
boast.  In the midst of a large room so
densely tenanted sat the geologist, as on a narrow isthmus between the labours of
the past and the triumphs of the future; like Marius amidst the ruins of
Carthage, or (if you will) like a half-tide rock in a mountain sea.  He told us that we saw only his inferior
specimens that the best were already in


in the engraver’s hands.  He was actually
engaged in transcribing ‘fair’ the last sheets of the work to which we have
alluded.  It was in gazing wistfully on
the sharp grey outline of the Mendips, that he had first yearned to pierce the
hidden secrets of the hills.  On parting
from him, our friend exclaimed that is was good to talk with so clear a spirit,
so un-hackneyed a nature.  There is a
science in earnest!  With all the
simplicity inseparable form the sincere and strong!  What an honour to the country!  But the world knows nothing of its greatest

After 1829, Williams and Beard seemed, to have pursued
different courses, but before this event Beard must have gained considerable
knowledge from Williams.

Being a geologist, Williams horizons widened, which resulted
in a geological study of the southwest counties.  These manuscript notebooks are in Taunton
Castle Library but some of his notebooks are missing.  These most likely contained the earlier years
of his explorations on Mendip.  His son,
who in later years, was to become the Rev. Wadham Pigott Williams, found fossil
bones at Bleadon Quarry.

From Beard’s disordered manuscript book, with its confused
dates, we learn that he began work on Bleadon Hill in January 1883, which
resulted in the discovery of Bleadon Cavern.

“15th January 1883.  Paid JnO Heal of Shipham for Dialing the
second cavern at Hutton….5/-“

and later that year, Williams explored this same
cavern.  Beard’s latest discovery was on
Sandford Hill in 1838.

In 1829, John Rutter of Shaftsbury, published the
Delineations of N.W. Somerset.  This work
undoubtedly involved many visits and considerable correspondence, and so here
is included a copy of a letter written by David Williams to John Rutter.

Bleadon January 4th 1829


As our progress on Hutton Hill
daily increases in interest, from the abundance and variety of the organic
remains we discover, I shall be happy to forward to you a paper on these
figures to the topographical work you are about to publish.  I have been required to do it by some very influential
men in the neighbourhood but I wish to know from you first whether it will suit
your wishes – if it should I shall defer publishing my account of them ‘til you
come out.  Be kind enough to let me know
when you require the Paper(s).  We have
specimens of all sizes and varieties from the Elephant to the mouse.  I hope you will give the “quantum merit” of
the discovery of

where it is
due.  I regret to say, tho’ he assumes
the merit, Professor Beard had nothing to do with it.  Dr. Randolph, wishing to ascertain the truth
of a rumour that such a cave existed, offered two men a pound to clear out the
shaft that led to it.  The men worked a
week or ten days without success – it was abandoned – subsequently Coleman (who
now works on Hutton Hill) and another, thinking the minerals might repay them,
continued clearing out the chimney and ultimately came to the large Cavern, or
the “

” as it is called.  This is the simple truth – I am sure our
Professor has too much respect for his really high reputation to wish to sully
by purloining what belongs to another.  I
have lately obtained other evidence from


authenticating its history.  I hope
before you publish, I shall be able to give you some account of an immense Cave
on Sandford Hill, which has never been explored, near which an Elephant was
found in 1770.  The mouth of it is said
by the miners to be 80 fathoms below the plane of the Hill, and they have let
down a man upwards of 300ft from its verge, without coming to the floor, nor
could he see any sides or termination to it – they call it the Gulph.  They deal in the marvellous, I know, and I am
determined to find out this mare’s egg.  When you see Mr. Patterson, I will thank you to give him my best

am Sir

Doctor Williams

Attention is immediately drawn to the fact that it was Mr.
Randolph who paid £1 to two miners (Coleman and Webb (?)) to dig out the shaft
to the

.  Beard had nothing to do with it.  It should also be borne in mind that Dr.
Randolph’s sole intentions on opening this cave were to admit the public, and
in doing so raise funds for the charity school. The ultimate finding of the

was accidental and
profitable, and hence forth it appears that Beard and the Bishop took
charge.  When George Bennett visited the

in February 1825 he understood that
“money is intended to be applied for the purpose of purchasing cloathing for
the use of the second poor of the Parish and I know not a better purpose to
which it could be appropriated.” However. Beard was instructed otherwise, and it is not known whether any
money was contributed to the charity school. Also from this letter we have the first intimation of the finding of the
Gulph on Sandford Hill.

This enlightening letter of Williams must have caused Rutter
much consternation, as he and already committed the dedication of his book to
Bishop Law, having placed the Bishop beyond any shadow, if only on account of
his exalted position.  It could be argued
that more credit should have been given to Dr. Randolph.  So it was Dr.Randolph was deprived of a
notable place in the history of the discovery of

while Beard was congratulated and dubbed ‘Professor’.  Law’s letter regarding the channelling of
funds speaks for itself; he at least did not seem perturbed by the temperature
of hell!


disappointment must have been great; and it is remarkable that Williams’ letter
should, have, survived for 150 years, containing the true           facts.


Baker, E. E. History of
Weston-super-Mare (various publications):

Beard, W. MSS

Bennett, G. MSS

Brown’s New Guide, Sed. Ed. 1854.

Robbins & Scotney’s New
Handbook to W.s.M. & the Neighbourhood.1865

Rutter, J. Delineations of N.W.
Somerset.  1829

, C.S. Banwell Parish Magazines.   Oct & Nov.  1970

Williams, D. Typescript copy of
letter in


Woodforde, C. Stained Glass in

.  1946

Marie Clarke,

Banwell, Feb. 1979


Will members and guests staying at the Belfry please make
sure that the Belfry is locked and all lights switched off before leaving at
the end of their stay.

Members will realise that it is impossible to lock the Belfry
during the weekend and so they will make sure that any valuables left lying
around is done at their own risk.  The
hut warden has requested that members lock any valuable item in their cars or
better still, don’t bring them.  The
building cannot be ‘policed’ and so to prevent ‘undesirables’ entering when
everyone is out at the pub or underground.

Sue Tucker is currently clearing up the backlog of
subscription receipts and should be in the post in the next few weeks.  There is a shortage of membership cards and a
new supply will be available as soon as Tony Corrigan gets them printed.

The editor apologises for the late publication of the April
B.B. – his greenhouse has taken priority and so members have had their April
B.B. combined with the may issue.


A Trip

Stu Lindsey has been grazing in
pastures north; trips to Kingsdale and now the first report on Mendip of the
new discovery connecting Pippikin with the great



After the Friday, past midnight, excursion into valley Entrance
to retrieve tackle left in Swinsto Great Aven, it was a sorry looking bunch
that assembled at Bull Farm later that day. Fortunately this was not to be another trip into


(see March BB) where; contrary to the Ed’s comments was STRAW CHAMBER and not
Easter Grotto (my apologies – Ed).

Finding the Red Rose Cottage locked (all had gone caving)
the awesome task of pulling on a soaking wetsuit in ankle deep mud was executed
in deathly silence, faces contorted with the harsh realty of cold clammy neoprene
against warm flesh!  With a clear blue
sky over our heads we bounded off toward the Beck, passing the unimpressive
opening that leads to a superb 110ft free hanging pitch of Lancaster Hole.  Putting up a few grouse we soon reached our
goal, an entrance on the far side of the beck, now a dry, dull rock littered
river bed.  The entrance shaft we were
going down was a tight (8-10″ wide, 10ft long, 50ft deep) finely fluted
rift, 8ft above the beck; and is the key which has opened the door to Britain’s
longest cave system…. yes, this tight slot I was so snugly fitted in was Link

Steeping from the ladder I found myself in a box section
passage same 20ft square and 100ft long. After a little time our ‘leader’ became unwell, and so with another not
too fit member of the party returned to the surface to join yet another non
participant with and ailing zip!  By this
time Martin W. (YSS) and myself had moved from a sea of mud floored phreatic
half tuber into a walking passage containing some fabulous ‘old’ looking
formations.  At the first I went to the
right and found myself in Night Shift Chamber (30ft x 30ft x 15ft) sloping down
to the left and the way on to 1½ miles of Link Pot.  Backtracking I soon rejoined M.W. who was a
little reluctant to press on and find Pippikin Pot’s hall of Ten.

From here on we rarely got off our hands and knees, a couple
of rifts did give some respite from the knee grating sand and gravel
mixture.  The passages, low phreatic
developments were adorned throughout with straws etc.  After a few hundred feet we came to a Stu L.
special …..9” high, 9ft long and 2ft wide duck containing 4” of cold muddy
water……UGH!  This was followed by a
squeeeeeeeze in boulders and we were in a cross rift.  There appeared to ways on to the right and
left but we squeeecezed our way down through more boulders, still flat out
crawling, less gravel in the passage. Passing a muddy pool (2nd one) my feet disappeared under the wall when I
dipped it in.  I managed to get my leg in
up to the knee but M.W.’s shouts sent me off up the passage to investigate, it
began to look tighter, starting to trend upwards…..there was a chamber (30ft x
15ft x 7ft high) my eyes were transfixed, there before was a single crystal
column, white and glistening, 2ft high and 3” in diameter, in contrasting
attendance were glistening various stals and straws – grubby ones!  The way on proved to be through the stal’s
bedding plane at the top of the chamber, which we passed through with great care
because of the straws and stal.   The way
on suddenly reduced to a 2ft square tunnel, no problem here with sand and
gravel….the flat out crawl was in mud, filthy, gluey, dirty, suckerous,
choclaty, spongenous gloop – 6” of the nasty stuff.  Our progress for the next one hundred feet
was liberally splattered with expletives, some unheard before! – then we turned
back for more of the slithering and ‘sluddering’.  Time was against us but we were only 20ft
short of the Pippikin System.

At the sump, Stu L. with his digging hoe, rescued from the
mud, began damming the obvious feeder stream and hacking hell out of the
floor.  He called it a day after
enlarging it to accept his ample ‘bum’! (At this point there are two streams merging.  One from the Squeeze Rift with a fair flow of
water.)   Braking the dam did not
increase the depth of the pool to any great extent, drainage there being, or
appearing quite ‘free’.  Further
examination showed the water from the rift to be flowing along under the wall
and with phreatic development, in general, doing as it pleases, one day this
sump might go.

We regained the entrance chamber and crossed the stream to
get to the ladder.    Stream, one from
the left and one from the right? – they were not there earlier, were they?  The excitement of the trip to ‘pip’ must have
caused us to miss them on the way in, so up I climbed, no bother – surprise,
surprise, but my eyes peeped over the lip to see the beck in the throes of a
‘pulse flood’ yet the sky was blue; the sun was low across the moors and the
shadows were lengthening, we were going home, but I’m going back, back to find
that water down in the depths of Link Pot.



Tim’s Retreat – an ochre mine at
West Horrington

OR – EMI Electrocutes SRT caver….

The following report by the B.B.
regular – Graham W-J – describes the exploration of a newly discovered mine
West Horrington.  It also puts the BEC well ahead in the
digger’s barrel competition with the WXXXXX….

We heard about this mine from Prew, as it was discovered by
his son.  It had been looked at by Albert
Francis and Tim Large but large quantities of ginging had fallen, making the
entrance shaft even less safe than previously. Some of Albert’s new climbing rope was destroyed by the falling boulders
and Tim beat a hasty retreat from the shaft when it attempted to bury him with
stones.  With that any ideas of exploring
the mine were abandoned and forgotten. However, some of us are stupid enough to believe that the odd boulder on
the head is incapable of sever harm. Besides, Prew IS the MRO, so he could rescue us.  There was no reason or excuse not to descend.

It was decided to use single rope technique largely because
with this method it is possible to move extremely slowly and carefully and
thereby avoid touching the ginging. Martin Grass obviously did not like this idea.  He therefore cunningly left his key with me
saying he would follow us over to Horrington. Thus he was unable to get his SRT gear and could not make the descent.  And he had the audacity to blame me!

The mine is situated on the south-eastern edge of Horrington
Hill, amongst cow-trampled mud and unkempt coppice.  Best bluewater was belayed to a couple of
dead looking, shallow rooted bushes. Just in case these should make us over-confident we laid a piece of
angle bar (meccano?) over the shaft and hung the rope over this, causing it to
bend in a slightly disconcerting way.  By
tensioning the rope to another bush we managed to get hanging plumb down the
centre of the shaft.  Tim had made the
mistake of hanging his rope on the edge of the shaft.  Descending gently John reached the bottom at
-17m without incident, leaving me no excuse.

Avoiding touching the sides was fairly awkward in the
confined shaft (less than 1m in diameter) and we both caught beards in racks at
the same point, trying to look behind us. Below the ginging, which looked as it a puff of air might bring it
tumbling, it became clear that the mine was worked in an orchreous filled
rift.  While the width of the shaft
diminished to about 30 or 40cm at one point, its other horizontal dimension
increased to over 3m.  The soft mud at
the extremities of the rift showed many pick marks, while the solid rock walls
were cut with occasional shot-holes.

John has hidden himself from falling bodies and boulders in
a low, narrow passage which headed roughly east.  Crawling by several animal skeletons he came
to the end of the working after 20m. Across the rift from this passage and slightly higher was another working,
both wider and higher, but ending after 16m. I climbed a short drop over ginging at the base of the shaft and entered
a third working, heading roughly north-west. After 14m there was another shaft, but the top was blocked with large
boulders.  Old, black, rotting stemples
could be seen across the shaft, which seemed to be about 10m deep.  Lacking rope, ladder or a means to remove the
boulders we surfaced into the chill evening air.  We were led back to Prew’s via some devious
route through the brambles.  The rigours
of the day were compensated by one of Brenda’s superb Sunday teas.

Week 2.  My turn to
back out of the trip, but if I’m not going then nor is anyone else. “Isn’t
it cold”; I don’t fancy walking over there in the rain”; In front of the fire,
cat burring its tail; “That rain looks its turning to snow”; “Look,
that’s sleet on the windows”; Prew began to assist, “Temperature’s
dropping.  This is just what happened
before, and the village was cut off for three days:” They eventually

Week 3 – John’s turn, “I’ve left my boots behind”.
Unfortunately for him, Martin drove him back for them.  20m of bluewater was fed down the shaft while
the remaining 50m was wrapped and knotted, macramé-like, around several
bushes.  As John descended, first again,
the multitudes of knots began to tighten, juddering him down the shaft.  We were soon gathered at the head of the
second pitch, also with an acro-jack, ladders, hauling rope, hammer, chisel,
etc.  John tried to break up break up the
boulders blocking the top of the pitch, and these fell to the bottom, taking
with them several stemples.  We descended
to find the boulders blocking the way on. John and I swapped places and we de-rigged and lowered the acro.  With its help or hindrance, John moved the
boulders aside and squeezed head first into the hole, only to find the
horizontal continuation closed down after 1 metre.  After we had carefully retrieved the acro and
fixed the ladder once more John decided o free climb out.  Typical.

On the surface Prew arrived with half of Mendip plus a new
communication device.  While we surveyed
the mine he lowered his device down the hole. We could hear Prew reasonably clearly, but when I pressed our transmit
button it gave me an electric shock. Prew apologised and informed us that it operated on 110 volts!  “Perhaps you have wet feet,” He suggested.

Martin is of the opinion that the miners were after
ochre.  The mine has been worked in a
yellow mud-filled rift trending wnw/ese. Some of the rock at the sides of the rift, mostly limestone, is very
soft and contains patches of a red mineral, presumably haematite, or
red-ochre.  Above the second pitch a
narrow band of calcite could be seen running along the line of the rift.  There are several other spoil heaps on this
southern side of Horrington Hill, evidence that this area has been well worked
at some time in the past.  However, we
know of no records of mining activity here.

A survey of Horrington Hill Mine – Tim’s retreat

NGR  ST 44/45 –
5775.4775       an ochre mine, West
Horrington, Nr. Wells, Somerset.


Length of the mine is about 250ft.

Surveyed by John Dukes, Martin Grass and Graham

BCRA Grade 3   Scale


The Annual Report of M.R.O. Activities

by the Hon. Sec. Jim

Rescuers were called to just one incident underground during
the year.  As the log accompanying this
report shows, the decade enters its final year averaging less than a callout
every month.  Hardly one in six calls
prove to be potentially serious on Mendip according to this record.

On the surface, however, MRO preparations have been
undiminished whilst even elsewhere in the country offer clear portents of the
next decade.  Firstly, we look back to
review the effectiveness of the former and, secondly, glimpse beyond to preview
what holds for the future.

At the beginning of the year, Chris Batstone and Nigel
Taylor became Hut Wardens whilst Dr. Tim Lyons joined the team of Medical
Wardens.  Soon afterwards, however, Dr.
Chris Hulbert had to resign on moving to another part of the country.  In April, we were pleased to entertain Police
Officers from the Mendip Division of Avon and Somerset Constabulary for a film
kindly loaned by the Cave Rescue Organisation in
Yorkshire.  This successful occasion was arranged by Alan
Thomas.  During the summer, Dr. Oliver
Lloyd checked our cache of rescue sear near Lisdoonvarna,
Clare, on his annual visit to

.  Mid-October saw what was probably the largest
gathering ever of MRO Wardens underground to assist the Avon Branch of the Red
Cross on their yearly field exercise. Our part in the ‘disaster’ was to treat and rescue several victims from
the Boulder Chamber in Goatchurch.  Since
the third casualty was whisked out in half the time it took to move the first
one, we must presume that practise pays. David Mager’s purpose designed stretcher showed up well during the
exercise.  As much more equipment is
acquired, we are grateful to the Bristol Exploration Club for allowing
modifications to the Belfry Store.

With the help from local cavers familiar with the old
freestone mines in Wiltshire, Dave Irwin prepared annotated maps of all the
systems known.  Copies deposited with the
police there should help considerably in the event of future searches and
rescues in these complex workings.  On
Mendip, we were pleased to be of some assistance to our climbing cousins in
their founding of a cliff rescue team for Cheddar Gorge and local crags.  It should be noted that MRO’s involvement is
to handle the call-out of this team to avoid the likely confusion that the alternative
of a dual emergency system would bring in the Cheddar area with all its caves
and climbs.  It is encouraging that
climbers have followed the local caver’s tradition of helping themselves in the
best manner suited to their sport.

Our glimpse into the future came as a revelation on attending
the inaugural meeting of the South West England Rescue Association at Honiton,
Devon, last October. The Chief Constable of Devon and


addressed the various rescue bodies represented including the RAF, Coastguards,
Mountain and Mine Rescue Teams.  What
emerged was the need fur a common approach whilst maintaining the expertise and
autonomy of each specialist unit with local knowledge.  There are good technical reasons for this
trend which we will have to consider carefully…..

J.D. Hanwell
Wookey Hole
10th February 1979

At the 31st January 1979 the Accumulated Funds of MRO stood
at £364….

Now follows the incident report ending at the 31st of
January 1979…..

As we move into the last year of the seventies, it is worth
reviewing, the since the beginning of the decade as follows:
























































Thus, during the last year we have topped over one hundred
call-outs since 1970.  The following log
based upon the reports received by the Wardens involved brings us up to date
with the details of each call-out.

Sunday 5th March 1978.  Swildon’s

Brian Prewer received a call from the police at Frome, ten
minutes after midnight.  A Mr. Cooper


had raised the alarm from Priddy Green about two friends still in the
cave!  All three had entered the cave
about 5 pm the previous day for a trip to Swildon’s Four.  Cooper had intended going via the streamway
to rendezvous with his friends in Four, however, he had turned back on reaching
Sump Three and had lost contact with the others.  Whilst Prewer was in conversation with Cooper
over the phone, the overdue pair arrived. They had lost the way on the return journey and had been delayed!

Thursday 14th and Friday 15th September 1978.  Wells in


Fred Davies, Brian Prewer, Martin bishop, Rich Test and Jim
Hanwell assisted the police in a search of old wells in and around Glastonbury
for a body reported missing.  They were
joined by Chris Bradshaw and Bruce Bedford on the second day.  Nothing was found and the search was called
off by the police when no positive clues could be found.

Sunday 17th September 1978.  Reads

Tim Large received a call from the police at Wells at
2.55pm.  A Mr. R.S. Liddiard from Shipham
had informed them of a party of Scouts overdue from Read’s Cavern,
Browne-Stewart Series.  The troop had
gone down the cave at 10.30am led by Chris Liddiard aged 19, the others being
Steve Mansfield (17), Pete Cornish (13), John Benson (13) and Gavin
Munnery.  All lived in the Shipham area.

A strong party comprising Tim Large, Chris Batstone, Martin
Bishop, Nigel Taylor, Tony Jarrett, Stewart McManus, T. Hughes and J. Crick
went from the Belfry to conduct a search of the cave.  Richard Gough remained at the Belfry phone
and dave Irwin stood by at Priddy in case others were needed.  The search party was joined by Rich Websell,
Pete Moody and Alison Hooper at Burringtion. Nigel Taylor and 6 others went underground at 3.30pm and soon made
contact with the scouts.  Apparently,
they had lost their way and lights on returning through the boulders in the
Brown-Stewart Series.  Their shouts had
been heard by another party who had been unable to direct them out of their
predicament other than to surface and warn MRO. Nor did they use the call-out procedure posted outside the entrance!

The lost party was brought out of the cave by 5.30pm and
every one stood down.  This was the only
occasion during the year that MRO had to go underground on a rescue call!

Sunday 1st October 1978.  Mangle

A call was received by Brian Prewer at 8.00pm from Chris
Bradshaw who had heard that a party was overdue, probably from Mangle Hole but
not definitely so.  Bradshaw offered to
go and look for the car belonging to the cavers concerned and to report
back.  Meanwhile, Prewer notified the
police that the search was being made. Soon afterwards, he received a call that the party had been found.

Monday 2nd October 1978.  Lamb Leer.

Frome police contacted Brian Prewer at 4.40pm with
information that a Mr. Rolands reported a party of seven from the Royal Army
Pay Corps overdue from Lamb Leer.  He had
expected them thirty minutes earlier! Whilst explaining that this was not unusual to Rolands over the phone,
Prewer was told that the party had emerged.

Saturday 9th December 1978

Wells police alerted Brian Prewer at 7.30pm that a Mrs.
Baggott in


had informed them of a party overdue from Swildons as she had expected one of
them to phone her at 6.00pm.  Prewer
contacted Alan Thomas at Priddy to check for cars on the Green.  At 8.00pm the informant rang to say she had
heard form the cavers concerned.

Sunday 31st December 1978. Evacuation of snowbound party at Charterhouse.

A party of six 9 – 11 year old Red Cross Cadet Girls with
two adult instructors was reported as trapped by heavy Snows in the Venture Hut
at the head of Velvet Bottom Valley.  The children had been holidaying in the area from

but not
caving and did not Mendip.  Their leader,
Mr. P. Avery of Burgess Hill, Sussex, had alerted the Police at Weston-s-Mare
that they had food and heating for another day. The Police requested MRO to assist in evacuating the party since severe
blizzards were forecasted.  Brian Prewer
received the call at 10.40pm and alerted the cavers at the Belfry.  Whilst a party would set out for the hostel
on foot from Priddy, it was understood that climbers form the Cheddar Gorge
Rescue Team were approaching Charterhouse from Burrington with a police Land

Nigel Taylor assembled a party comprising Chris Batstone,
Alan Thomas, Jo Dukes, D. Bradshaw and Jess Carson, a medical student for the
‘overland’ journey.  With radioed permission
from Somerset County Council,
Taylor requested a
snow plough which got to the

Castle of
before deep
snow drifts prevented further progress. The rest of the journey was made on foot across the fields and the party
reached the stranded cadets at 2.30pm. The Burrington rescuers arrived twenty minutes later having left the
Land Rover only a mile away at Paywell Farm. 


decided that all should make for the Land Rover as the children were in good
spirits.  This was accomplished
successfully by 3.40pm and the Red Cross party was driven to Weston-s-Mare for
the night.

The Belfry party reached Priddy at 6.45pm ready for New
Year’s Eve Festivities.

J.D. Hanwell,
Hon. Secretary & Treasurer

50 Wells Road

Wookey Hole


10th February 1979.


Equipment Notes

Introducing an occasional series
of articles discussing various items of new equipment currently appearing on
the caving market…

By ‘

There is still silence from Jumar’s to give a date when we
may expect their ascenders to re-appear. They are produced to what amounts a ‘cottage industry’, but last year
were forced to re-build a large proportion of their ageing equipment.  While they were doing this it was proposed
that they would do a re-design to produce a ‘super-Jumar’.  Last information was, however, that they were
having second thoughts on the lines ‘we have a good product – why change it?’

They may have to think yet again with the introduction in
this country of the American CMI (Colorado Mountain Industries) 5000
Ascender.  This is very much Jumar shape,
but has an extruded and. machined, rather than a cast body.  There are double anchor points at the bottom
for karabiner attachment, the safety catch is designed for ease of use wearing
gloves and is hard wearing, impregnated nylon material.  The cam safety catch and return spring is
removable for cleaning or replacement. Points of criticism seem to be the lack or a moulded handle, and the
circlip fixing of the cam pin which seems a little flimsy.  They should retail cheaper in caving shops
than climbing shops, but are around £30.00 a pair at the time of writing (March

Also now arriving in quantity from

are spring-loaded Gibbs Rope
walkers.  The standard Gibbs has been
discontinued and they are now all fitted with quick release pins.  The old model (QR) is now the standard, and
the sprung model is the same but with the body punched to form a lip on which
the body is held back.  Both models can
surprisingly be purchased at the same price, about £10 each.

Clam products of Littletown,
are preparing to market an ascender-descender system based on wire rather than
ropes.  Details will remain secret until
their patent comes through!

Another patented device soon to enter the scene is the Lewis
descender.  This is a self braking
device, with a ‘dead-man’s’ handle built onto the side.  It can be used on a single or double ropes,
but is similarly to a certain well known Mendip ‘Buggery Box’ leads one to
think that perhaps Glyn Bolt, of Goldlock fame may have one or two words to say
about this patent!  The breaking bar
itself is also reminiscent of the Petzl shunt.

Petzl are also said to be experimenting with a self-braker,
but no details are known.  Bridon’s
Kevlar cored ‘Viking Super Speleo’ rope is now commercially available.  The theory is that the Kelvar fibre, which is
very strong and has negligible stretch, will provide a rigid SRT rope, but in
the event of a fall it will break and the shock absorbed by the double nylon
outer sheaths.  However, the core is said
to have the strength of 1000kg, which will give the person on the end of the
rope a nasty jolt!  That, together with
the very dubious flexing quality of ‘Kelvar’ makes one hope that Andy Eaves,
who helped design the rope really does know more bout it than most.  Cost, about £24 per hundred feet.  A thought worth bearing in mind is that a
manufacturer of rope using nylon to construct a drive belt for a machine.  The nylon lasted (on average) 1000
hours.  They thought Kelvar would solve
their problems, but a belt of this material lasted only three minutes!


Aygill Caverns

By Martin Grass           

Although a little late here’s
Yorkshire trip reported by our Caving

On our way to the annual BEC Lake District trip this
February, Graham Wilton-Jones and I decided to make a detour via the Yorkshire
Dales and take a look at the lessee visited caves of Casterton area.  The night before the trip was spent at Fred’s
(Valley Caving club) at Padiham, and the following morning an early start was
made for the dales after pinching some of Fred’s tethers which are closely
guarded by a giant man-eating white rabbit!

The drive was uneventful until we reached Bull Pot Farm road
which was only half cleared of snow but, with the help of some university bods
the car finally reached the farm.

Once changed we made our way to the pot, not an easy feet as
the moor was two feet deep in soft snow and the Wygill stream was completely
buried.  All that was visible at the
entrance was a small hole about two feet across with a large cornice hanging
dubiously above it.  Sliding down a snow
slope a small chamber is entered, full (at the time) of small, stumpy, ice
stalagmites – these were found up to one hundred feet from the entrance.  From the chamber a small mainly, crawling
passage leads to a second chamber and the first pitch.  This is only fifteen feet deep and not thirty
as stated ion

.  The belay point is a large boulder back in
the chamber, and the take-off for the pitch is somewhat awkward.

The obvious way on from the bottom of the ladder soon chokes
and the route to the lower streamway is through boulders in the floor of the
passage.  A downward squeeze and cascade
leads to the top of the second pitch, thirty feet deep.  The belay is a large eyehole at the head of
the drop.  The ladder lands in a large
stream with fine cascades leading upstream which quickly ends in a choke.

Downstream the water tumbles down some good cascades and
flows into a flat-out bedding plane – this can be by-passed by a dry muddy
oxbow to the right of the passage. Rejoining the stream can now be followed down to the terminal sump and
the Pre-Cambrian Series.  But if the dry
oxbow is kept to crawling it ends in a small stal chamber.  Keeping left out of the chamber leads one to
the base of a large boulder slope, at the top of which is Curtain Chamber with
a good but dry, large curtain.  At the
foot of the slope a stream can be seen to sink amongst the boulders but is
followed upstream to a low wet crawl beneath cemented boulders and a larger
streamway giving way to the New Year Series. A tight wet crawl for about ten feet followed by a tight vertical
squeeze between blocks enters the large New Year Cavern.

From here on we had the impression this part of the cave was
seldom visited.  More hands and knees
crawling inn the stream, past some fine straws and stal leads to a large stream
passage again with some good stal and a couple of notable avens to a boulder
collapse.  The stream can be followed
beneath the boulders and about fifty feet further on the water disappears into
an impassable choke, but the passage can be followed over mud and boulders
until it reaches the roof.

If this blockage could be past, the large stream passage
(which obviously continues beyond) would eventually lead to the Barbondale
caves and add another link to the Three Counties System.  An uneventful trip out was made and a quick
dash back to Padiham for food and to see the Keld Head film on the box, before
we drove on to Langdale to meet the rest of the crew.


Early Observations on the Cheddar Catchment at Charterhouse

By Chris Richards

experts have excelled themselves this month.  First Marie Clarke with her paper on the

and now Chris Richards presents
the following paper which asks possibly more questions than it seeks to answer….         

During the eighteenth century, the Noachian Deluge was
regarded as an event of utmost significance in the geological history of the
Earth.  Features ranging in scale from
continents and ocean basins, down to some minutise of the landscape such as
tors and sink-healers were all claimed as part of the diluvial legacy.  The Rev. Alexander Catcot (1725 – 1779) – a
Bristol born geologist and devine – sought to uphold the Deluge Theory in his
well established classic “A Treatise on the Deluge” (first published in 1761)
by reference to his own detailed geological observations made in the
field.  Catcott visited the Mendip Hills
many times during the 1750’s and 1760’s and in his “Diaries of tours….” left us
a view of an area so little described previous to the nineteenth century and
which subsequent to Catcott’s writings saw great changes during the realisation
of the Enclosure Acts which started to affect Mendip during the close of the
eighteenth centre, and during the gradual transition form a mining to an
agricultural economy.

For some time I have been studying Catcott’s accounts of
Western Mendip and attempting (with varying degrees of
success) to locate caves, mines and other topographical miscellanea described
by Catcott.  In view of the great amount
of work, scientific and other, which, particularly in the last two decades, has
been carried out in the Charterhouse Swallets, I have not been able to resist
with holding Catcotts observations on the natural drainage of that same area
even though I have not carried out a detailed analysis of the relevant
material, nor of the actual ground (which close study it well deserves).  In presenting the extracts from Catcotts’
writings I have tended to treat them as pure topographical description well
aware of the fact that they provide a window (so to speak) on the eighteenth
century comprehension of topography, a stand point more or less avoided in
this, article.

Both of the extracts presented below, with the minimum of
editing, are from Catcotts “Diaries of tours made in
Wales” (MSS) preserved
at the Central Reference Library,

.  The first is dated the 2nd April 1756.

“Took a view of Blackdown
Hill situated about 1 and ½ mile from Mr Gore’s house, and the country
beneath.  This hill is the last and
highest on the western side of Mendip, in length about 5 or 6 mile, reaching
from the beginning of  ____(2)____Brook
Combe, (which has a spring at its head, about a mile from Mr. Gore’s house) to
Crook’s point, which terminates Mendip to the west (3).  This Hill is situated about 4 miles from the
Severn or British Channel, and I believe in perpendicular
height may be near a mile above the water. On the top of this hill, at different places, is very moist ground,
being the ousing of Springs (10).  About
a mile from the beginning at Brook Combe (which points eastwards) to the west
on Crook’s Point there is a standing pool on the very summit of the hill, 20yds
long, 10 broad, and bout ½ foot deep, but the ground very moist all around it
and the bottom of the pool so…… tracing the moistish part of which…… I found
several little gusts unite into one spring about 300yds down the hill, which
meets another about 200yds further; and here begins a small Combe (thro’ which
the stream runs pretty fast) which extends about ½ mile further, & there is
not deeper than 5yds & about 8 over; and here it is ended by a Swallet (or
Swallow as called in the north) which terminates the Comb & receive the
spring into it, which never appear again, but passes down thro’ the bowels of
the Earth, as the water did at deluge, after it had made this Swallet to
receive it self, (4).  This Swallet is
about half a mile’s distant from the top of Blackdown Hill; & is 40yds over
and 14 deep (5); & near to it are four lesser Swallets, each about 4yds
deep and 6 broad; to which annexed in another lesser comb, coming in line as
far from the Hill, & so little…torn by the waters that, in their descent,
made these lesser Swallets; as the other comb tending in front of the hill to
the larger Swallet.  About 100yds further
on, another, very regular Swallet, (6) of an oblong form: 20yds deep: its
length at top 30yd 30yds over & breadth 20: its length at bottom 12yds
& breadth 7.  It lies oblong,
pointing South, as from the hill, with a sudden descent downwards at its
entrance & at the farther side it is quite perpendicular; as the waters
rushed against this side, & were stopped in its passage directly forwards,
& so entered the hole or cavity at the bottom of the Swallet; the mouth of
which is now covered over with large loose stones, which were either brought
from the Hill or part of the Cavity which was torn to make the Swallet: &
as these stones are plainly worn & somewhat rounded & are covered over
thick with moss, & turned quite black, they shew, they are of long
standing.  The Strata here lies in a
position inclined with the hill, ? towards the South, and this way the length
of the Swallet is (as having been torn by the water sucking from the Hill) so
that the Strata lay this way, & the horizontal fissures directly opposite
to the course of the stream, in all probability that waters made their way
thro’ a horizontal fissure to the Abyss beneath; had it been a perpendicular
fissure it can scarcely have been so broad as it is, we’d have been torn more
in length: & narrower (in) breadth; in the manner the….or veins, then they
come day, appear on Mendip.  There are
hereabouts the appearance of 2 or 3 more Swallets, &  when the ground was dug for Calamin, they
found it very cavernous, & many Swallets underground, which were not
visible above, being covered & stopped by time or accident (7).  The ground where these Swallets are is about 7 or 8 acrea, & is called
Pit-Close; is situated in the middle of a large flat space, about 7 miles in
circumference, first at the foot of the declivity of Blackdown Hill, &
reaches to Cheddar Cliffs: and the reason why this space or ground was flat
& level & not at all torn with combs (which occur in places all about)
was doubtlessly the free passage that the water, in descending, found thro’
these Swallets.  The stones in Pit-Close
abound with entrochi, (8) & sometimes the shells of this creature are found
here, & the branches many and united: & a curious kind of Honey-comb
Coral. (7)”


1.                  Where was Mr. Gore’s house?  The Gore family were once important
landowners, and as this date (1756) land at Charterhouse was held by a Mr. Gore
at whose home Catcott stayed for a few days on his Charterhouse visit. (Gough,
1930, pp89 – 90).

2.                  Catcott evidently expected this brook to possess
a name & under this conviction left the blank for later inclusion of a
name.  To which brook does Catcott refer?

3.                  In Catcott’s day the westernmost point of Mendip
was regarded as Crook’s Peak (= “Crook’s point”)

4.                  Catcott considered Swallets as being natural
drains for and created by (like the dry valleys of Mendip) the retreating
waters of the Deluge, rushing powerfully away, through pre-existing lines of weakness,
towards the Abyss – a subterranean reservoir lying beneath the surface of the
whole world.

5.                  This is almost certainly Tyning’s Farm Swallet
(Barrington & Stanton, 1977, p.166). At this point I should like to say that great care should be taken in
comparing Catcott’s text on this and further swallets mentioned with the
present – configuration of the ground as this particular area has no doubt
undergone modifications effected by man’s activities and natural processes
(such as the flood of 1968) which was shown (Hanwell, J. D. & Newson, M. D.
1970 pp) to have effected substantially this immediate vicinity.

6.                  This is obviously the ‘Great Swallet’
(Barrington, N. R. & Stanton, W.I. 1977)

7.                  Dr. John Woodward (1665 – 1728) a geologist and
physician had in his possession.  “A
mineral map, by means of Veins and Partitions, divided into various cells.  The Partitions are hard, and of a dusty
brown, near a Rust Colour.  The Cells are
filled a friath, yellow Ochre.  Digg’d up
near the Road betwixt Shipham and Charterhouse, Mendip.  They had raised a considerable Quantity of
it; but whether for the Ochre, or in expectation of Calamin in it, I cannot
tell” (from John Woodward, 1728, p.23).

Juxtaposing this with Catcott’s text, I am led to think that mining on the spot
may have commenced decades before the year of Catcott’s visit, if indeed the
site referred to by Woodward is one and the same as Catcott’s Pit Close, for
Woodward made his mineral collecting between 1684 and 1695 (Dictionary of
National Biography, Vol. 62  pp423 – 425)

8.                  The name ‘entrochi’ refers to the class

9.                  The curious kind of Honey-comb Coral must be one
of the Order of colonial cords (Tabulate.) e.g. Michelinia

10.              Of these springs, Catcott wrote: The Pools and
moist ground on the very summit of Blackdown Hill (……..& which gives rise
to several springs, undeniably refute the opinion of those who, imagine rain to
be, the cause & origin of springs.

Catcott believed (like many of his contemporaries) that
Springs, on the top of hills proved that such out-flowings of water were
created by the condensation of ‘streams’ or vapours rising from the Abyss.

In the following year (1757) on a visit to the same
locality, Catcott discovered more about the natural drainage of the Charterhouse

“Went to Cheddar Cliffs to show them to a stranger”,
writes Catcott in his diary (entry date 10th August 1757).  “The Spring at the bottom was vastly
shrunk to what it was when I last saw it in March 1756 ….. There had been an
uncommon draught & scant water everywhere for several months past.  One Will Hares told me that as he was digging
for ore in daccot’s hole in Charterhouse mineries (2 miles from this spring) he
came to a stream of water, in which they threw all the rubble, which so muddied
the spring at Cheddar, that it could not be used: 40 fath: deep.

Where exactly is daccot’s hole’?


, N and Stanton, W (1977) The
Complete Caves and a view of the hills. Third revised edition.


Catcott, A (1748 – 1774).  Diaries of
made in
England and

.  MS Bristol Central Reference Library.

(1761 A Treatise, on the
Deluge.  First Edition.

: M. Withers.

Gough, J (1930)  The Mines of Mendip.  First Edition. 

:  Clarendon Press

Hanwell, J & Newson, M.
(1970).  The Great Storm and Floods of
July 1968.  Occasional Publication of the

Club, Series 1 Vol. (2)

National Biography, Dictionary
of. Vol.62

Woodward, J (1728).  A Catalogue of the Additional English Native
Fossils in the collection of J. Woodward. Tome II,

F. Fayrum.

C. Richards, April



Last, but not the least
Tim Large presents his monthly….

As the year progresses it looks inevitable that subscription
rates will need to be raised at the next A.G.M. From all quarters costs are rising. Recently the Belfry insurance was revised and consequently the premium
has risen substantially.  When you
consider that at least 2/3 of the sub goes on publication and distribution of
the B.B., there is not much left for all our other expenses.

At a recent committee meeting the guest rates at the Belfry
were raised from 45p to 70p per night in an attempt to cover the running
costs.  But the Belfry income will go
nowhere towards long term projects of improvement and any structural
maintenance that may become necessary. Already the Belfry is beginning to age and fall behind normal domestic
standards which it is desirable for us to maintain.  For a property that is now insured for
£30,000 we have not much, to show for it. In the past the Belfry, regulars have taken care of this maintenance,
but it appears to be a much bigger job nowadays.  Much of the problem is caused by the design
of the building, lack of adequate heating and lack of easily maintained
facilities.  Basically I think the Belfry
needs money spent on it to bring it up to a standard suitable to attract the
right sort of members and be worthy of the Club Headquarters.  The running costs are greatly helped by the
Navy groups that say midweek.  Take that
away and we have problems.  At present we
resist any increase in adventure sports trends. Despite our cries it may still continue to increase.  Perhaps the club should have the forthright
to be in a position should it occur to take advantage of it and offer suitable
accommodation, during midweek periods, to school groups, filed study parties
and the like.  Thereby we could relay on
a steady income to more than cover running costs and plough the excess back
into club activities or future projects.

At present the finances of the club are arranged so that the
Belfry has to support all its costs which include rates and insurance.  Perhaps it is not unreasonable for such
expenses as rates, insurance, etc., to be borne by subscription.  These are not running costs but necessary and
obligatory overheads of having a club headquarters which I consider should be
paid for by the membership.

From what I have said some members may think that the Belfry
regulars and the Hut Warden are not pulling their weight.  I can assure you that is not so.  With the high usage that the Belfry gets, in
particular, by guests, it is not surprising that all is not well.  I might add that the BEC is not the only club
to experience problems in running their H.Q.

Consider these points: –

1.                  Is heating and ventilation adequate?

2.                  Is a stove in the centre of the main room
desirable – consider utilisation and cleanliness.

3.                  Are the showers adequate?  How often have you found the water cold?  Is it desirable to have the wettest room in
the building right in the centre of the building?

4.                  Are there adequate storage facilities for
members, bearing in mind the recent losses and apparent thefts.

5.                  As a caving club perhaps more priorities should
be given to the changing areas, showers and drying facilities.  A drying room could be incorporated with a
locker room!

6.                  Isn’t is about time we utilised the attic,
possibly putting the bunkroom upstairs and releasing some space downstairs for
other facilities.

7.                  Separate kitchen facilities would keep the main
living room more respectable and confine one of the dirt producing factors in
another room.

Just a few ideas which I am sure all reasonable members have
thought about at one time or another, and could probably add some of their
own.  I think I can just about hear the
cries of ‘a country cottage on Mendip’ and ‘it’s up to the Belfry regulars to
look after the place’.

All I am trying to point out is that we need a practical
H.Q. with facilities that can cope with usage and ensure that then fabric of
the building is preserved in good order. The facilities at the Belfry I am sure fall below those in even the most
modest home.

Soon after the increase in guest rates I heard one person
state, ‘Why stay at the Belfry when facilities are better at the

?’  Recently the Committee had the idea of
reciprocal member rates with clubs that we visit in
Derbyshire etc.  On discussing the matter
with some of our
Yorkshire friends their
comments was ‘Good idea, but the Belfry facilities are not as good as
our.’  So I hope the right message has
got home.  To get back to where I
started, the subs, when they go up perhaps it is a good idea to have a portion
for the Belfry as a permanent feature? (That is the general idea at the moment and has been for many years to
build up a fund for capital expenditure on the Belfry – Ed.).

Money is only half the Belfry problem.  As with all jobs in the club, volunteers are
always needed.  Since the appearance of
Nigel Taylor’s list of jobs (in the BB and on the Belfry notice board) I have
seen only a few bods doing some work – the same ones as usual.  Food for thought!  Any comments? (ED. NOTE – please let the committee have your thoughts in writing so
that they can be published in the BB during the run up to the AGM).


At last, after much effort by all the diggers the cave has
been re-opened.  At present quite a lot
of work is still needed to ensure it stays open this time.  The squeeze into the cave from the mud
blockage is very tight being difficult on the return.  After crawling up the mud slope which
resembles the texture of thick porridge you are not in the best condition for
negotiating an uphill squeeze.  Until the
entrance is finally stabilised it would be appreciated if anyone wanting to
visit the cave males sure of the access position.  We now have to set up an access arrangement
with the new owner.  In the meantime
cavers should call at the Belfry and find out what the current situation on
access is.


948       Axel R. Knutson,

Milford Street
, Southville,

949       John C. Watson,

113 Abbey Road

950       Stephen Smith, 39 Tintagel
Close, Keynsham,

951       Roger Smith, 39 Tintagel Close,

952       Bob Hill, 32 Ridings Mead,
Chippenham, Wilts.
953       Jim Watson, c/o 15 Farm Close,
Rugby, Warks.
954       Elaine Ilse, 50
Close, Stockwood,

955       Jack Culvert,

19 High Street
, Steeple Ashton, Trowbridge,
956       Ian Caldwell, 44 Strode Road,
957       Dave Morrison, 27 Maurice Walk,


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registered in England and Wales as a co-operative society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, registered no. 4934.