The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith
Librarian: Alex Gee
Hut Bookings:  Fiona Lambert

Any alterations, additions or mistakes are entirely due to
copy spacing-Ed

Editorial

Hullo folks, welcome to the first issue produced by your new
editor.  Not many changes you may
say.  Well, I discussed changes with a
number of people and finally came to the sensible conclusion that there is
little point in changing things when the previous Editor produced such a good
magazine.  All that I can try to do is to
produce a similar quality product and that is surely what you want.  However, I cannot do this without articles
from YOU the membership.  So, please send
in those pictures, write up that report, or jot down that anecdote.  If you can send it to me on disc with a hard
copy, so much the better.  I can be
E-mailed but my line is usually busy with other users so replies may take a few
days.  Articles can be dropped off at the
Hunters Lodge or at Bat Products if that will help you.  I can scan pictures if you wish to put an
article on disc and include pictures that you cannot scan yourself.  I am aiming to produce issues in March, June,
September and December with a deadline for issues about the 20th of the month
before e.g. Jan 20 for publication about February 15th.  If you send me enough material there will be
another issue, so your help is needed NOW!

Martin

Cuthbert’s leaders
An appeal to younger members out there who may wish to become leaders.  Some of the current leaders are wearing out
their weekends doing tourist trips. Others are withdrawing into the warmth of the pub for the winter
season.  The club relies heavily on the
goodwill of a few to keep this superb cave accessible to visiting cavers.  If you think you might be able to get up to
leader standard soon, please let the Rich Long/ Mike Wilson know.  Also new leaders for Welsh caves needed. -Ed

A cartoon inspired by a conversation between the old ed.
Estelle and the new ed. in the Hunters one night

 

I have had a request from a Mr. Teagle of Wells.  Phone 01749 xxxxxxx.  He says a member has borrowed some of his
photos of caves and caving and not returned them. This was a few years ago.
Anyone out there got them?

Stop press -Barrel Assured! 150 ft passage found in Balch
cave by John Walsh

Finally, have a good Christmas and lets have those articles
please- especially those of you who roam now you no longer work!!- Martin

 

Club News and Events

Conservation conversation at the Hunters Lodge

The evening of November 20th saw an interesting event held
in the backroom of the Hunters (with thanks to mine host Roger).  Speakers Dave Irwin and Graham Price
presented separate views to do with caving and conservation.  Dave spoke about the Mendip Cave Registry
first implemented in the 1950’s and which continued until about 1968.  Its task was to record all the Mendip sites of
caves and karst features, which were currently known.  By its cessation this quest had resulted in
the production of 12 copies of a complete cave registry.  This was all done in the days of pre-computer
when everything to be copied had to be laboriously done on Gestetner stencils –
resulting in the impressive and highly valuable document known as the Mendip
Cave Register.  (Costing £70 then).  He went on to discuss developments in the
Registry which came about by his own research from 1995 onwards whilst compiling
information for the production of Mendip Underground.  By then technology had advanced to the point
where computers were a valuable tool.  He
now uses the power of cross-referencing databases to store and correlate the
mass of data needed for a new registry. He has now restarted the Registry and already produced and published a
bibliography of cave references compiled from the press.  The registry has been widened to include
Wiltshire, Devon,
Bath and

Bristol
. A number of areas have already been completed with regard to known cave
features and this work continues.  As well
as the mammoth task of recording cave features, the survey work done by all the
major caving clubs on Mendip either as survey sheets or in club magazine is to
be cross-referenced with the registry. This will be produced on CD-ROM within the next 2 to 3 years.

Questions followed and then Graham Price spoke about cave
conservation and the work done by the NCA in association with bodies such as
English Nature and Scottish Nature.  He
has been conservation officer for 16 years. In 1986, it was agreed within the NCA to increase people’s awareness of
cave conservation.  A policy for cave
conservation was worked out to enable statutory bodies to “measure
conservation”.  (My words-ED).  A number of initiatives were proposed
including a cave conservation handbook, an educational pack and a film- the
lost caves of

Britain

was made by Sid Perou.  He discussed the
problems that had to be overcome to enable the production of a cave
conservation policy.  A cave conservation
handbook has been produced which should help other conservation officers and
interested people to produce their own conservation plans for particular
caves.  Guidelines for many associated
activities such as camping, digging and walking and including how to look after
the flora and fauna in the area near to a cave have been produced.  Graham talked widely about the conservation
handbook and how it could be used.  He
talked about the work of the NCA as a co-ordinating body for cavers working for
the good of cavers.  This was followed by
a short break and then an open forum under the chairmanship of yours truly took
many interesting questions from members of the audience.  A good discussion followed this lively debate
with all retiring to the main bar at 10.15 p.m. Many thanks go to Vince Simmonds who organised the whole event, Dave
Irwin and Graham Price for their time. Let us hope that we have other similar events in the future.

Fairy Quarries

Pete Rose writes the following account of his exploits
leading up to the discovery of the new passage in Fairy Quarries.

On the 21st September I drove Pete Glanville up to Mendip,
via Tesco’s Chard for some batteries for his flashgun. We collected the keys
from Prew.  The trip was marred by the
usual incidents … I had brought two left boots with me – I used my walking
boots instead.  We opened up the grill
over the entrance … swore we could hear a stream there.  By Diesel chamber Pete’s light failed.  At Tor Hall we detoured for piccies.  The first flashbulb went off in Pete’s face,
the 2nd in mine, the 3rd in mine when I strategically placed a slave gun on a
ledge.  The 4th in Pete’s hand- burnt
fingers.  After a count of 9 bulbs going
off by themselves I took some pictures of my own.  I led him back to the entrance, hear that
stream again Pete?  He then fell on me
while I was locking the grill – fell off a rock and damaged a thumb.  I told him not to buy lottery tickets for a
while, as his luck was out (ask him about car engine warning lights sometime
… he ignores them!)  He rang me the
following day … Lucky he had forgotten to put a film in the camera he
said.  The 10th of October loomed …. I
was leading the Orpheus down Shatter. Pete G. took Nigel Cox (brother in law) and some Orpheus, I took my
nephew Jonathan and some Orpheus.  We all
stopped at the entrance …. Stream rumbling somewhere.  Pete took photos that worked.  I bet he bribed everyone to tell me that! We
returned on 31st Oct. to look for digs, with Nick (nine lives) Chipchase and
Mark Faulkner and Martin Webster.  Yupp,
same stream at the entrance.  We went to
Tor Hall and beyond.  Nick scrambled up a
rift to look at 20 ft of passage trending back to Tor Hall, and then Chippy
proceeded to attack the entrance chamber, while I looked around the next
chamber.  He could hear the stream all
right.  A rift opened up while he was
sitting on it.  Pete G. had a homemade
light on a cable to lower (he thinks it works most of the time) – definitely
rifts measureless to man.  These things
tend to become smaller on subsequent visits so we thought 20 ft deep would be
O.K. to taunt people with.  We could have
descended but for a ladder.  I had a rope
to lower Pete G. on.  (It was an early
rope from the 70s and I tow the car from time to time with it).  He thought a few feet lower down and decided
against it.  The top of the rift
certainly was loose.  We could always get
Nigel or Martin Grass down it next week! As it was 4 ft or less from the
entrance, we thought of the next party disappearing down one by one … you sit
down in the entrance and back into the cave and slide … so we put a small
sheet of corrugated iron over it.  That
stream certainly roars at you!  It must
head towards Conning Tower (but there is only a small stream in there) but what
was upstream?  Next Sunday and a bolting
kit would solve it.  Pete G. can write
the descent up.  (Or down).

Shatter

Exciting new dig in Shatter, very recently opened by Pete
Rose, Nick Chipchase et al. Warning.  The dig is very close to
the entrance.  Don’t fall in.

 

The picture below shows the actual rift descent – decent eh!

 

The Undergrounders

By Rich Long

Well, here we go again on another trip to wonderful
Yorkshire – and not learning from previous experience I
took Zot again!  No, honestly, only
joking!

The last time we went it was only Zot, my chum Tommy and
myself on the trip and everything was planned to split second military
timing.  Unfortunately, when we got to
Zot’s house, only five minutes after speaking to him on the phone and telling
him we were coming, we were greeted by the distinguished Mrs. Harvey who said
“Sorry, Chris has just gone to Camerton to water his tomatoes”!

Well, who can argue with that?  It was a great trip though, with the help of
the solid and imperturbable Mr.Wilson – who, with whatever Fate throws at him,
conquers all (even me and Zotty descending on him asking for a trip).

So this time I used a cunning ploy.  Instead of going on Friday evening we went
early on Saturday morning and this time I was late – Zot actually phoned me and
wanted to know where I was!

Well: Zot snuggled down in the back of the van and slept
like a baby (you know, breaking wind and dribbling) until we almost got to
Settle where we stopped for the traditional Lottery ticket purchase, breakfast
and a leisurely visit to Alum Pot – then all of the pubs that we could think of
in the area.

We had been advised to go to the Gamecock in Austwick by Big
Roy – which we duly did.  However, the
landlord’s manner was very similar to that of Basil Fawlty.  When asked by a chap along the bar from us
“Could I order a meal?” he looked up, glanced around the totally
empty restaurant and said, “If you haven’t reserved I will see if we have
a table”.

I looked at Zot, then at the tables with serviettes and
several sorts of cutlery and said, “I don’t think so Chris”.  He heartily agreed and we left Basil to his
one customer and empty restaurant.

However, it didn’t take Chris long to upset a poor little
waitress in the Golden Lion who had unfortunately brought him the wrong end of
a chicken for his tea.  “I
specifically asked for a wing, not a leg. Kindly take it back!”  She
did and I am sure that I could hear her sobbing in the back room for
hours.  When our food came we quickly
checked it for spit and broken glass but none was found and it was
excellent.  Next day my party set off for
Gaping Gill for a nice trip on the Craven winch meet and Chris jacked up a trip
to Swinsto, taking Toby and Guy with him, and I believe a great time was had by
all.  I am not saying that they had
difficulty gaining access to Swinsto again (perhaps you read the previous
article on our Swinsto trip) but I think it was beneficial for all concerned
that Mr.Wilson just happened to be passing on his way to the Three Men of
Gragareth.  Mr. Harvey, however, vociferously
denied being lost, and I believe him – (tee heel).

So, in the evening it was the landlady of the Crown whose
turn it was but she won the contest with Zot hands down.  I believe that she has had her sense of
humour surgically removed.

In the pub tales were filtering back of the Craven members’
outrageous behaviour towards the Ingleborough slug population.  Last year they were competing in the amount
of slugs that could be balanced on their heads – I believe that 27 was the
winner – and at least the poor little chaps could slither away to enjoy
whatever slugs get up to.  This year the
Craven had begun to devour the cuddly little creatures between hunks of
bread!  Apparently several have been
reported seeking asylum in Kosovo. Wow – what seven or eight days on the fell
does to people!

So, once again the trip was a great success and we all lived
to tell various versions of the same tale – and that is a success in my book.

P.S. Thanks to Estelle for her excellent BB’s (ooh, er) and
her editorship of the Belfry Bulletin (!)



A Bounced Czech!
Tomas Svoboda e-mailed to say that he is home in the

Czech
Republic

due to a sprained ankle received after jumping down the first waterfall in
Claonaite, Sutherland.  He is hoping to
arrange a two-week trip back to Mendip, S.Wales and
Yorkshire
next year along with his fellow club members. He sends his regards to all,
especially Roger Haskett, J.Rat, Mike Wilson, Jim Smart, Keith Savory Gary
Cullen, Joel Corrigan and little John (who he?).  His Internet address is tomas_svoboda@usa.net

Rich Long and Zot’s adventures continue next issue -Ed



 

Stock’s House Shaft – Part the Third

By Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series
of articles from BB’s nos. 502 and 504.

Ten digging trips during the last two weeks of August ’99
saw the Shaft bottom and all four levels being further cleared of tailings and
526 loads of spoil reaching the surface. On one memorable occasion Mike Willett winched up 183 in one
session!  Lots of new diggers were
recruited and others assisted in a variety of ways.  A rough survey was done by the ex -Camborne
School of Mines contingent to establish the position of the downstream choke –
named by Trevor “the Rat Trap”. Here the fridge¬ sized boulder
which had slid onto AJ was demolished after four shot holes packed with cord
were fired over two trips.  Revenge is
sweet.

The smaller choke some 25ft along the Upstream Level was
cleared to allow AJ access to an apparently natural aven some 15ft high with
the choked level continuing beyond.  (It
would seem that all the open spaces above the level have been formed by
relatively recent collapse along natural rifts or joints due to the failure of
the Old Men’s stemples.  These obviously
did a magnificent job when first installed but time has caught up with them!)

The whole of the Shaft bottom was gradually excavated and
Jake Baynes was inspired to dig the tiny stream inlet adjacent to the Upstream
Level.  This turned out to be yet another
(short) choked level in a calcite vein with a boulder choke above.  After some careful but exciting digging this
was passed to reach a 15ft high by 15-20ft long collapse chamber.  A couple of possible ways on were dug at a
later date – see below.  Jake’s earlier
fervid rantings about an imaginary lost cavern called the “Treasury of
Aeops” gave it its name! (Sad in one so young …. )

September started well with 200 loads hauled out in the
first eight days and lots of press-ganged new diggers.  The Rat Trap choke was banged several times
and on the 6th September some “brown trouser” inducing work with a
long crowbar saw the whole lot collapse with a mighty roar!  It was then possible to look up into a large,
c.20ft high chamber and not the expected collapsed shaft. One more bang was
fired to clear the access point.  A

Wessex
team
took photos of the mine for use in a Mendip digging talk at this year’s
B.C.R.A. Conference.

Due to a constant trickle of water from the Upstream Level a
foot deep pool now covered the floor of the Downstream Level making digging and
hauling more unpleasant than usual.  This
problem was solved on 7th September when RL and AJ took down a hand operated
diaphragm pump and got it working on the first attempt (a miracle).  The ponded water was pumped forwards through
the choke and into the level beyond. Further clearing of the boulders gained
access to the 20ft high chamber but a lack of shot holes or other signs of
previous visitation led to the conclusion that this wide rift was formed by yet
another collapse of the walls of a natural joint into the Old Mens’ level
below.

The level beyond the choke was re-entered on 8th September
after TH had been allowed to play with a 10lb sledgehammer for an hour or
so.  Unfortunately he was slightly too
big to pass the boulder squeeze beyond and had to be content with watching AJ
ambling down the classic mine gallery ahead and admiring its single remaining
stemple wedged across the passage while he counted the adjacent shot
holes.  The point previously reached on
27th August was re-examined to find that the sink hole in the floor was merely
a step down through banks of grey mud which partially block the level.  Tonight the draught was strong and blowing
inwards and this, combined with the natural look of the passage ahead, shows
great promise.

Between the 12th and 20th September there were seven more
clearing trips with banging operations at the Rat Trap choke, the partial choke
just beyond and the heap of large boulders in the Upstream Level aven.  Another 91 loads of spoil reached the surface
and a vast amount more was stacked at the Shaft bottom.  On the 19th some dismay was suffered when two
streams were found to be entering the mine from the Upstream Level and Treasury
of Aeops, resulting in the Downstream Level being flooded to within a foot of
the ceiling as far as the Rat Trap.  The
debris pile here was lowered a foot or so and the stream gaily plunged forwards
to the end of the level where it flowed onwards to the huge cave system, which
doubtless lies beyond.  There was no sign
of it backing up.



With no hope of the place drying out until next summer it was
decided to take advantage of the high water to assist in spoil removal.  After failing to get a too large orange
lifebelt (H.M.S. Defence) down the entrance pipes a 2′ x 1’4″ blue grot
bin was successfully taken to the Downstream Level and tied to the centre of a
60ft rope.  Wet-suited diggers then
shoved two full spoil bags/boulders inside and rammed on the lid.  Non-wet-suited diggers then towed the
“Semi-submersible Skip” back upstream with considerably more ease
than the dragging methods previously used. On the 22nd some 40 loads were shifted in an hour or so.  Even Trevor was impressed!  More clearing was done here on 29th with Paul
Brock joining the team.

Two days later AJ, on a solo trip, dug in the floor of the
Treasury of Aeops (continuing on from a previous dig by TH) to reveal the
ongoing level below

This was followed upstream on hands and knees for 30ft to a
collapsed shaft.  The stemples had rotted
here to leave the stone ginging hanging wedged together with large boulders
filling the shaft centre above.  A large
stream poured down the shaft that had been flourescein tested to come from the
flooded gully across the road.  This
gully also feeds Five Buddles Sink. Further work here will require major shoring and ideally dry
conditions.  It may be too close to the
road for comfort but is still 20-30ft deep.

RL and AJ were back downstream on October 4th and after
filling and dragging back many bags of mud they used these to form a temporary
dam around a Cuthbert’s type steel valve. The stream way could then be turned off at will to allow drier digging
at the end.  When the valve was closed
the sump at the end of the level rapidly drained with encouraging gurgling
noises.

On the 6th a large team hauled out another 100 bags and dug
at the end and the following day a second dam was constructed near the end of
the Downstream Level by AJ and Jake (Johnson). This was made from a 6ft length of 6″ diameter plastic drainage
pipe with an adjustable pipe bung and was found to be more effective than the first
dam, so much so that the steel valve was later replaced by another pipe and
bung system.  Water levels had dropped
slightly due to drier weather in the middle of October so a fair amount of
digging was done at the end.  A grade 5
survey was also started which revealed that the downstream end is situated
beneath the deep rake 75ft NE of the Shaft. The positions of the two upstream passages can be seen on the enclosed
surface plan.  Both may lead to buried
entrances across the road (HGV drivers take note!). Roger Stenner took water
samples from these streams for analysis. The end of the Upstream Level was banged to reveal a 2ft long extension
and miniscule sump!  It will be looked at
again in dry weather as it may be diggable.

With the onset of winter and disappearance of light-fingered
low life from the area it was time to install a powered winch.  Bob and Greg retrieved Alex Gee’s
“lawnmower” winch from the temporarily abandoned dig at Hallowe’en
Rift and it was ensconced in its new home. By 27th October it had lifted 127 loads out – slower than man hauling
but a lot easier.  The whole site was
fenced off to stop tourists garrotting themselves on the cables.

On 25th October a third temporary dam was begun at the mouth
of the Upstream Level utilising the steel valve and three days later a clay
pipe bowl was discovered amongst spoil on the surface.  (Tentatively dated to c181O-more information
to follow) Work from November onwards will be documented in the next BB
article.

Left: Looking up
the 50 foot entrance shaft.  Note the
shot holes





Artefacts

The almost complete bowl of a clay pipe was providentially
found on top of a surface spoil heap, having been partially cleaned of mud by
recent rain.  It obviously came from
underground but the exact location is unknown. Robin suggests that it is from 1865-1870 and further opinions will be
sought on this.

Amongst the piles of crushed and rotten wood at the base of
the Shaft was found a 350mm X 90mm X 178mm lump of timber with a wrought iron
bracket-like attachment.  This is thought
to be the top section of one of the “stillions” or windlass supports
from the Shaft top.  (These are also
called “stillings” or, in Derbyshire, “stows”).  They were in general use from at least the
16th Century up to the 20th essentially unchanged – and can still be found on
some wells.  There is a more modem,
single example of one of these in a west Mendip ochre mine and the windlass
from the stillions used on the miners 1880 Lamb Leer exploration is in Wells
Museum (a photo of this in use can be found as plate 16 in H.E.Balch’s
“Mendip – Its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters” and on p.97 of “A
Man Deep in Mendip”).



“Two timbers a little longer than the shaft are placed
beside it, the one in the front of the shaft, the other at the back.  Their extreme ends have holes through which
stakes, pointed at the bottom like wedges, are driven deeply into the ground,
so that the timbers may remain stationary. Into these timbers are mortised the ends of two cross-timbers, one laid
on the right end of the shaft, while the other is far enough from the left end
that between it and that end there remains suitable space for placing the
ladders.  In the middle of the
cross-timbers, posts are fixed and secured with iron keys.  In hollows at the top of these posts thick
iron sockets hold the ends of the barrel, of which each end projects beyond the
hollow of the post, and is mortised into the end of another piece of wood a
foot and a half long, a palm wide and three digits thick; the other end of
these pieces of wood is seven digits wide, and into each of them is fixed a
round handle, likewise a foot and a half long. A winding-rope is wound around the barrel and fastened to it at the middle
part.  The loop at each end of the rope
has an iron hook which is engaged in the bale of a bucket, and so when the
windlass revolves by being turned by the cranks, a loaded bucket is always
being drawn out of the shaft and an empty one is being sent down into it.  Two robust men (or one Willet!) turn the
windlass, each having a wheelbarrow near him, into which he unloads the bucket
which is drawn up nearest to him; two buckets generally fill a wheelbarrow;
therefore             when four buckets
have been drawn up, each man runs his own wheelbarrow…..and empties it.  Thus it happens that if shafts are dug deep,
a hillock arises around…the windlass. ”

Geogius Agricola, De Re Metallica, 1556 (1912 translation)





In the sides of the solid level, just before the Rat Trap,
the observant John Williams noticed a fine set of stemple hollows cut in the
opposing walls.  These are identical to
those noted by Willy Stanton in Grebe Swallet Mine, Charterhouse (Stanton
1991), who refers to them as “egg” and “slot” hollows,
dating those he found to the 1750s.  The
circular “egg” depression measures 50mm in diameter and is 25mm deep,
the “slot” is 120mm high by 50mm wide and also 25mm deep.  A wooden stemple (in our case 755mm long) had
its pointed end inserted in the “egg” and the other, squared off end
was beaten down into the “slot”.

 


Stanton

experimented to find that a simple hollow could be battered into limestone in
about five minutes. Those in Stock’s House Shaft are in softer (?) Triassic
conglomerate.  There are more of these in
the downstream level beyond the Rat Trap.

Shotholes in the workings have been measured at c.20mm
diameter and up to 300mm deep (long) compared to those found by Stanton in
Grebe Swallet Mine which he measured at 23mm diameter with lengths of up to
480mm (Stanton 1983).  He also dated them
to the late 18th century.  (Those
interested in Mendip mining should read all of

Stanton
‘s exceptionally well researched
papers on the subject).



ADDENDUM:-  The
picture shows Trevor demonstrating some mid-air Morris steps to a confused
Gwilym while Tangent entertains Simon with an obviously fascinating
conversation (wow).  Above, Bob asks Toby
where he should drop the full airsick bag and in the background J. Rat gets his
revenge.

References

STANTON W.I. 1983 Shot holes Containing Lime in a Mendip
Lead Mine.  Proceedings of the

University of
Bristol
Speleological Society, 16
(3),185-189

STANTON W.I. 1991 The Habitat
and Origin of
Lead
Ore
in Grebe Swallet Mine, Charterhouse-on-Mendip,

Somerset
. Proceedings of the

University of
Bristol
Speleological
Society, 19 (1), 43-65

AGRICOLA G. 1556 De Re Metallica (1912 translation,
re-published 1950 and reprinted c.1980)

Additions to the Digging Team

Matt Head, David Blayshaw (Australia), Mark Smith
(Macclesfield), Ryan Moor (CSMCC), Chris Morris (CSMCC), Phil Massey, Stuart
“Mac” McManus, Dave “Wig” Irwin, Greg Brock (ESCC/BEC),
Kevin Tomlinson (Essex Scouts C.C.), Jonathan Driscoll (E.S.C.C.), Paul Brock,
Bob Lewis (Tone Valley C.C. – Doncaster), John Renner (T.V.C.C.), Paul Johnson
(T.V.C.C.), Alex Livingstone, Anthony Marsh, David Loefler, Tom Chapman.

Additional Assistance

John Cornwell (Bristol Mining Archive), Peter Burr (

Germany
and
ex-ULSA), Mark Helmore, Dave Edge, Mike Holmes (W.C.C.), Roger Stenner, Alex
Gee (unwittingly!), Tony Oldham, Jim Smart.

Research and article by
A.R. Jarratt

 

 

Mendip Mines of Long Ago

LEAD AND COALS

Further material on mines in the
Mendips was researched a while back and passed on with the editorship post.  This I am now printing as it bears relevance
to Tony Jarratt’s excellent article on Stocks house and many others previously
published in this magazine.

Being extracts from
the Agreeable Historian, or the Complete English TRAVELLER: by Samuel Simpson,
GENT. from

LONDON
,
printed by R. Walker, in

Fleet
Lane
, 1746.
COMMUNICATED BY MR. R. STANTON CHURCHILL

Now quitting Cheddar
Rocks, again we rise
On Mendip Hills, and breathe serener skies

THEY are called in old records Moinedrop, from the many
knolls or hilltops there, and the steepness of their ascents.  Leland calls them Minerary Hills.  They stretch out a great way, both in length and
breadth, and are the most famous in

Britain
, both for lead and
coals.  They were anciently a forest,
till, as Bishop Godwin writes, they were disforested at a great expense, by
Ralph de Shewsbury, Bishop of Bath and Wells. As for their lead mines, any
Englishman may work in them who has not forfeited his right by stealing any of
its ore.  The Grooviers (for so its
miners are called, as the pits they sink are called grooves) living at some
distance, leave their ore and tools; open all night upon the hills, or at least
in a slight hut.  If any of them be found
guilty of theft, he is shut up in a hut, which is surrounded with dry furze,
fern, etc., and set on fire; when the criminal, who has his hands and feet at
liberty, may therewith pull down the hut, and make his escape through the fire
and begone; but he must never have more to do there.  And this they call burning the hill.

Those employed in melting the lead, if they work in the
smoke, are subject to a disease that will kill them, as it does the cattle too
that feed thereabouts; for which reason the owners set persons to keep them
off.  And Dr. Beaumont writes that they
who live near where the lead ore is washed, cannot keep either dog or cat, or
any sort of fowl, but they all die in a short time; and that children some times in those houses have did
suddenly.  When the miners have got the
lead ore, they beat it small, wash it in a running stream, and sift it in iron
rudders; then they set a hearth, or furnace, in the ground, made of clay or
firestone, and on it put some young oaken Gads, which they light with charcoal,
and blow with bellows that are worked by their feet.  When the fire-place is hot they throw the
lead ore upon the wood, from whence it melts down into the furnace; and then,
with an iron ladle they take it out and throw it upon sand where they cast it
into what form they please.  The veins of
some of the mines have been known to run into the roots of trees, which,
neverthe¬less, look as well at the
top as other trees.

The air here is moist, cold, foggy, thick, and heavy; the
soil is red and stony, and the stones are either of the nature of firestones or
lime¬stones with not the least of
clay, marl, or chalk.  The trees near the
mines have their tops burnt, and their leaves and bark dis¬colour’d and scorched, and grow to no bigness.  The stones that are washed by the brooks and
springs are of a reddish colour, and ponderous.

Snow, frost, and dews stay upon Mendip longer than upon any
of the neighbouring grounds, except near the mines, where snow and frost melt
quickly; and thunderstorms, nocturnal lights, and fiery meteors are more
frequent here than elsewhere.  Sometimes
when a mine has been very near the surface, the grass has been yellow and
discoloured.  Damps are seldom met with
in these mines.  If in sinking, they come
to a Moorish earth, they expect a jam, i.e., a black thick stone that hinders
their work, and to be closed up with rocks.

Their grooves are supported by timber, a piece of which is
no bigger than a man’s arm, will prop up ten tun of earth and last a long
while.  For a supply of air they have air
boxes exactly closed, of about six inches in the clear, by which they carry it
down above twenty fathom.  They make use
of leather bags of eight or nine gallons apiece to draw up by ropes to free the
water, and if they finds a swallet, i.e., a quantity of water breaking in upon
them, they drive an adit, or a new passage upon a level until it is dry.  When they can’t cut the rock they anneal it
with a fire made of wood and coal, so contrived that they leave the mine before
it begins to operate and take not to enter the groove again before it is quite
clear of smoke, by which some have been killed.

Their beetles, axes, wedges, etc., unless so hardened as to
make a deep impression upon the head of an anvil, are not fit for their use;
and yet they sometimes break them in an hour, other last three or four days as
it happens.  They work in frocks and
waistcoats by light of candles of 14 to 15 to the pound that will last three or
four hours if they have air enough, which if they want to keep in the candles
the workmen can’t stay there.  A vein
being lost, they drive two or three fathoms in the breast, as the nature of the
earth directs them.  White, yellow, and
mixed earth are the leaders to the country, as they term it; changeable colours
always encourages their hopes.  They go
sometimes 12 fathom deep before they meet with stones.  A black stone they reckon a bad sign and
leads to a jam, the nearness of which they also guess at by short brittle
clay.  They carry out their materials in
elm buckets, which hold about a gallon and are drawn by ropes.  Their ladders are also of ropes.  The ore runs sometimes in a vein, at other
times it is dispersed in banks and lies many times between rocks.  Some of it is harder and some softer.  There is spar and chalk about it and another
substance they call crootes, a mealy white stone, marled with ore and
soft.  The spar is white, transparent,
and brittle like glass; the chalk is white and heavier than any stone.  The clearest and heaviest ore is the best,
and 3,600 of such of ore may yield a tun of lead.  The hearth for melting the ore is about five
foot high, set upon timber, to be turned as a windmill to avoid the
inconvenience of smoak upon a shifting wind. It will hold half a bushel of ore and coal.  There’s a sink upon the sides of the hearth
into which the lead runs, that holds about one hundred and half.  They have a bar to stir the fire, a shovel to
throw it up and a ladle made red hot to cast out the melted metal, which, when
formed into what the miners call sows and pigs, is conveyed to Bristol, and
form thence exported elsewhere…… On the highest part of these hills, which is a
flat of some length, there are several swamps, very troublesome and dangerous
to man and horse; and in some places are grooves, into which drunken fellows
sometimes fall.

As to the coal mines, of which there’s the greatest plenty
with five miles of Stone-Aston, we shall make use of the words of the learned
Dr. Beaumont, who was born there, lived amongst the Mendip Hills, and made such
frequent visits to the dark worlds in the caverns of Mendip, that no man upon
earth was better qualified to satisfy the curious with respect to these mines
than he was.  About two miles to the S.E.
of Stone Aston at a place nearly bordering on the Mendip Hills, begins a running
of coal of several veins, which extends itself to the east for miles.  There is much working in this running, and
fire damps continually happen there, so that many men of late years have been
killed, many others maimed and a multitude burnt.  Some have been blown up at the mouth of the
works.  The turn-beam which hangs over
the shaft has been thrown off its frame by the force of the blast.  The middle and most easterly parts of this
running are so very subject to these fiery damps that scarce a pit fails of
them.  To prevent mischief, the colliers
keep their air very quick and use no candles in their works but those of a
single work, 60 or 70 to the pound, which, nevertheless give as great a light
there as those of 10 or 12 to the pound do in other places; and they always put
them behind them and never present them to the breast of the work.

 

Drawing photographed at the Charterhouse Centre – original
believed to be in

Weston
Museum
.

 

Caving in Burrington during the 1960’s

I was living in Hengrove during the 1960’s and was lucky
enough to hang around with a reasonably adventurous group of people.  Transport was always a problem.  Basically all of us were on poor money; some
of us were apprentices (including me). None of us could afford a car, so we cycled everywhere or thumbed lifts
where possible!  One of our more bizarre
stunts was to regularly race from the Bali Cafe in

Union street
Bristol

(the IN place to be) to Piccadilly Circus in

London
starting when the cafe closed at
midnight.  The idea being to get there by
walking and thumbing lifts.  The last
person to arrive would have to stand a round of beer in the White Lion pub at
midday (in those days quite a dive).  My
friend and myself never managed to arrive first but we used to run to the BRS
depot in Bedminster and cajole drivers to take us as far as the infamous Golden
Arrow cafe on the A4 in their clapped out lorries (quite an experience and mega
uncomfortable!)

Back to the Combe!  We
had very little money, but possessed a 1 inch to 1 mile ex army map of

Somerset
, a grotty cotton
tent, and an American Army sleeping bag which my Uncle Bob had brought back
from the Korean War.  We carried our rag
tag camping kit in an old rucsac – the canvas and leather type.  One Friday night my pal Gary Moulder and 1
decided to thumb and walk to Burrington Combe and find the caves marked on the
map.

By the way I still possess the aforementioned map (sadly I
have mislaid my early Caving Log.)  We
were forced to walk up the main Wells road as far as Whitchurch but just beyond
the humpback bridge two men, who were going out drinking gave us a lift to
Blagdon – which was rare luck in those days. Stopped for a beer in the Live and let Live (it’s still there but much cleaner
now) then walked the rest of the way to Burrington past the Cafe which in those
days was just a grubby shed with dirty windows. Past the Rock of Ages and up towards Goatchurch, making camp on level
ground partway up the valley near the stream. By now my shoulders were sore due to the pack straps rubbing and

Gary
had blisters on his
heels.  Having brewed up I climbed into
my luxurious sleeping bag while

Gary
,
muttering about jammy buggers, rolled himself up in a grey blanket complete
with blanket pins (Who remembers those?). Dawn arrived with a frost covering everything.  We cooked breakfast over the highly dangerous
meths stove and drank our tea which was real leaf tea and sweetened tinned milk
(I still have a soft spot for this kind of milk probably because it can be
spread on bread and eaten while it drips down your arms).  Warning. My brother, a few months later tried to refill the same stove while it
was still alight (hard to tell the difference in daylight ).  The pint bottle of meths erupted burning his
hands, he dropped the bottle inside my tent and the lot burnt down in about 11
seconds flat.  Luckily we were outside
trying to cook a meal.  All that was left
was two charred tent poles, some metal eyelets, one half burnt guy rope and
some partially burnt sleeping bags (they were probably damp which saved them.)

Back to the trip … We caved in grots in those days – dirty
old clothes and the lighting consisted of two old

Raleigh
cycle battery tubes with 3 U2
batteries in.  These were connected to
cap lights by thin cable.  We were lucky
to have 2 very battered Miners hats which a neighbour of mine had given
us.  He was going to put them out for the
dustman!!

Three spare U2 batteries in the combi jacket pocket and off
we go.  Combat jackets had just arrived
in the surplus stores due to the end of the Korean War.  They were very cheap and if you bought one
with holes in which could easily be sewn up they were dirt cheap. 

Gary

said he knew the way to the cave so we walked up the streamway which was quite
overgrown in those days looking for a cave on the left.  It took four attempts at climbing up the left
hand bank before eventually we found the lower entrance.  Luckily we then walked up higher to find the
main and what used to be a tourist entrance complete with some steps and a hand
rail – now missing.  Pull on an old pair
of trousers over the good ones, put on an old pullover tie light tube to belt
with string, spare batteries in pocket and in we go.  What an adventure!  Reaching the bottom of the tourist bit we
slid left into the cross passage and cautiously went right onto the end then
ascended left and to our surprise emerged into daylight at the tradesman’s
entrance.  My first round trip!  Bloody Hell said

Gary
, have we tramped all this way just for
that!  So we sat and had a fag (I smoked
in those days).  While we were debating
whether to go down again and risk getting lost in the huge labyrinth a man
arrives with 2 young lads.  He is a youth
leader from
Bristol at the old Co-op Hall behind

Redcliffe
Church
. Nice guy who kindly offers to show us the cave proper so we go
underground again and discover the coal chute the maze the coffin lid water
chamber etc.  On the way back down the
valley he shows us Sidcot swallet and describes Reads Cavern.  We thanked him for the trip and brewed up at
the tent then decided to walk to Reads Cavern on Saturday afternoon and locate
it.  This proved to be a question of
thrashing about in undergrowth until the stream way was located.  From then on it was simple to approach the
rock wall and find the cave.  The main
chamber was explored and a note was made of the passages leading off but we
decided to explore it properly at a later date. Pottering back to camp we packed up and walked down the Combe to the
main road.  As it was opening time we
decided that the Plume at Rickford would do and then we would walk as far as we
could that night.  Lo and behold! a van
stopped and offered us a lift to Chew Magna. What a piece of luck!

So we ended up at the Crown at Chew – quite hard to find
near the old Gas Works.  Wobbling out of
there just before closing we walked through Chew Magna to the cricket ground
and crashed out there in our respective bags –

Gary
still using his grey blanket with
blanket pins.  The wall was an ideal
place to sleep unobserved from the road. Woke up at dawn cold and damp brewed up tea with no milk.  It was common practise in those days when
walking to liberate milk from doorsteps but only if there were more than two
bottles as this implied that the occupants were probably stinking rich.  Sadly the milkman was late that day.  Nipping over the wall we tramped back to the
Happy Landings on the Wells road in time for last orders midday.  Home Brewed or Simonds being the popular
brews.

Having caught the Bug we returned many times to the Combe
and eventually met Zot who took me on what was a big trip in those days down
Swildon’s via the 40 foot pitch to sump 1. On the way back I really struggled on the 40 trying to climb up in grots
and a large waterlogged mohair sweater my wife Hilary had spent hours
knitting.  This magnificent article of
clothing unfortunately reached my knees -Zot was not impressed with my final
feeble thrust to the top (because he had been standing in the dreaded hole
soaking wet to his waist lifelining me. Still it was the beginning of a lengthy friendship and we have caved off
and on for a long time now.

We had great fun in those days and some of us are still
having fun now.  I hope that my modest
meanders on Mendip have not proved too boring for all you tigers in the club.

PS. Meths stoves are still dangerous nowadays despite
soothing noises from the manufacturers.

MISTER WILSON

 

Mr. Wilson refers to past days within memory, but Robin’s
cartoon below needs some small explanation, so for all of you tigers who haven’t
read “Ten years Under the Earth” by Casteret, here is a small
clarifying extract.

… Being hardened to cold water
and to the negotiation of difficult underground passages, I did not hesitate to
pursue the watercourse on its way under ground. Undressing completely (clothes hold water, catch on projections, and are
hampering and dangerous in caves) I slid head first into the descending fissure
which swallows the brook.



 

Past exploits of a (not very bold) caver

by your Ed.

Like many other people, my first experience of caving was at
college, when 1 decided to try a taster course from one of the many sport and
club activities on offer to freshers.  It
was with some trepidation that I joined the hard men of Portsmouth Poly cave
club and braved the journey over to the Cerberus SS cottage in
East Mendip.  Along
with a number of other students-long hair, old boiler suits and a pair of ex¬army boots from Sams we were shown the
delights of caves such as Hillier’s and Conning tower in the quarry, with a
trip down Swildons Hole on the Sunday.

(See pic at end of article for definitive student
wear).  My memories of the first few
trips are vague, but 1 soon found myself caving with the likes of Rose, Price
and others from the Poly.  It must have
been 1968/9 and Eastwater was the cave to be in.  I think I did a large number of trips into
the cave but cannot ever remember my way through the boulder ruckle.  I clearly recall sliding across the traverse
with an old NiFe cell strapped to my waist, pursuing some incredibly slim and
lithe leader who seemed to vanish into a hole. Who he was I do not recall.  My
caving continued for by now I had got the bug, bought a lead acid
Oldham and risen to the heights of equipment
officer.  This largely involved getting your
fingers all soft and gooey as you checked the alkaline cells and neutralising
them when you serviced the
Oldham.  It was better this way round!  I had also purchased at great (student)
expense, a plan and neoprene sheet and glue to make my own wet suit.  With a fellow student, Paul Buckley (where is
he now, I wonder?) we put together two suits and bootees.  I chose Paul because he was the same size as
me and we could measure the cut but unglued sheets alongside each other.  I upset the landlord of my digs here, not
because of the glue on the carpet but more because it had a back panel shape
cut out of it where the Stanley knife bit through the neoprene and into the
carpet below.  (Actually he didn’t
discover it for quite some while). Having constructed two grand suits, it seemed that caving took on a new
(warm) dimension.  I recollect quite
clearly my first time going down through sump one in Swildons.  Standard wear apart from the articles
mentioned earlier was a pair of old jeans and a woolly sweater.  The trip out (and in for that matter)
involved balancing on ledges above the streamway and the water at the junction
above the well was always knee deep at least. The old 40 had gone just before I “arrived on the scene” so I
have no recall of that but I spent at least thirty minutes at the twenty
pushing a motley collection of people up the ladder.  The way out was always via the letterbox and
then the zig-zags – which I was usually quite glad to see.  Although I never really suffered from a right
soaking and chilling, the new wetsuit was a marvel.  My status in the club reached dizzy heights
now for with a few Swildons trips logged I was now a “leader”.  This largely consisted of taking the best
looking birds down the streamway until they began to quake and then assisting
them out with appropriate après cave gratitude and pints in the Hunters
Lodge.  Yes, I had discovered the dread
drink and really went to town caving weekends with Rogers roughest cider, which
was about all I could afford (I drank too much).  Memories of the pub come over very strongly
on the side of masses of singing and getting pissed on 8 pints of beer for a
quid.  We were still resident at the
decrepit Cerberus hut and it was now winter. A dreadful “genny” supplied the light in those far off
days.  One of the first jobs on arrival
at the hut was to set about the “genny” with spanners, bits of pipe
and so on in an attempt to make the bugger start.  It usually took to its task once the carb had
been stripped down, the plug warmed in the fire or someone’s car.  It was started (laugh) on petrol and you had
a two way or was it three way tap to change it to paraffin.  Often a “new boy” would be set the
task of subduing the genny and they would spend hours trying to start it on
paraffin.  It certainly warmed you up
pulling the cord which ALWAYS broke and skinned your knuckles on the shed
door.  Two particular experts were
Trevor? (now deceased) and Tony – he was the lithe thin one.  Another great expert caver, raconteur and
drinker was Tony Powell, whose father owned a pub in

Portsmouth
(the Volunteer?).  Perhaps someone reading this will know
him.  The other way of staying warm was
to gather wood locally and get the f**cking awful useless stove to light and bum.  This produced much smoke.  Had it produced even equal amounts of smoke
and heat it would have been bearable, but no. Finding the axe and chopping wood was one of the other first jobs you
did.  There was also trying to get the
water to work but I am vague here.  Our
nearest non driving pub was the Jubilee Inn – called something else then and
now.  Coming home quite pissed and wobbly
with a few other reprobates one afternoon and finding the stove OUT (a great
sin) I recall someone took a swipe at the bloody thing with the axe.  This bounced off the stove and bit a large
hole in the back wall.  On trying to
remove the axe – pissed and with the usual precision of the drunkard – the bit
of wood panelling got ripped out to reveal a very old, dirty but highly
serviceable range which was lurking behind the panel.  Someone cleaned it up and we never saw the
old stove again.  I believe I may have a
photograph of same.

 

     Note interest in
fire- desperately lacking in old one! Ed.

Back to the caving. There was always someone attempting to push a tiny slit of an entrance
called St. Dunstan’s Well cave, although I can comment with hindsight that even
then when I was a bit slimmer could never have got into it.  I needed bigger caves.  Since they were so local, I delighted in the
quarry caves.  Shatter was absolutely
stunning and I suspect that it is due another trip by me soon now access has
been re¬granted.  Although strictly forbidden for some unknown
reason, I still have somewhere a set of slides of this very beautiful
cave.  The originals were lent to
someone.

There was one particular incident that I remember well-very
lucky at the time.  I was down Swildons
with two or three others on a trip to the Black Hole.  The water was quite high and necessitated
care at the lavatory pan.  I was wearing
my new wet suit so didn’t mind being the bung for a while.  I passed through a ladder and two ammo boxes
then moved on to negotiate the quite tricky duck that it was.  Forging forward on the held back water I was
rammed through the hole and firmly wedged under water in the streamway.  My companions were a little way on and didn’t
immediately see my plight.  Finding
myself under water wasn’t too much of a problem for I was an excellent swimmer
but the wedgedness of my situation demanded action which I performed in the way
of actually twisting myself out of the vice like grip of the rocks.  In doing so I severely damaged my sacro iliac
joint (where the back joins the pelvis I think) and widened the cave slightly.  At the time it didn’t hurt and my companions
helped me up and asked how I was.  I said
OK and carried on.  A few minutes later,
I asked them if they wouldn’t mind stopping as I needed to empty the water out
of my boots and proceeded to unlace one boot. Very wisely they both realised the gravity of the possible situation and
helped me out back to the entrance via the short dry way.  On reaching the surface it took me nearly
half an hour to walk across the fields doubled up with pain.  An evening of blurred liquid painkiller
followed.  On getting back to Pompey, the
doctor declared all was well and gave me pain killers which I was on for 6
months.  I only discovered the extent of
my injury some 15 years later when it seriously flared up again.  It nags a bit now and then but what should I
expect?  Daft bloody caver!!  I hope to bore you with more reminders of the
past next time.  By the way, we used to
get the key for the cottage from a Brian Prewer, I wonder if he is still around?!



      A trip down
Eastwater sometime in the late 60’s

 

THE LOST CAVES OF MENDIP

An overview by Dave
Irwin

It has been sometime since anyone has published a review of
the lost caves of Mendip – that is, in my definition, sites that have been
recorded in the past but whose location is now unknown.  Some sites are well known because of their
inclusion in the commonly used references such as guide books, but others are
new to caving publications, details of them only recently coming to light as a
result of researching early documents and publications.  It is worth noting that records relating to
some of these sites deserve a more detailed examination in the hope that the
odd fact might just give that lead necessary to ‘home in’ on the entrance
location.

There has been surprisingly little written on the subject,
most seemingly contented to accept what has been published, mainly writings
associated with Balch.  The only other
person to write on the subject was Howard Kenney of the WCC. (note 1) His
coverage of the topic was superficial and fearing to upset Balch failed to
analyse the topic any further than that taken by him.  John Beaumont in his letters to the Royal
Society during 1676 and 1681 said that he knew of many caves, excepting Wookey
Hole, on Mendip but the largest of them all was to be found on Lamb Hill. (note
2)

Our Miners in digging daily meet
with these Caverns, which are of different widenesses, some of them being very
large, but the most considerable Vault I have known on Mendipp hills is on the
most Northerly part of them, in a hill call’d Lamb, lying above the Parish of
Harptry …

Only five of the lost caves are truly legendary: Maskall’s
Wood
Cave
which is said to lie in the wooded area between Cheddar and Draycott;
Elborough
Cave
near Banwell,

Rickford
Lost
Cave

and the lost caves in Burrington Combe and Ebbor Gorge.  As far as I am aware there is no written
evidence that these legendary caves ever existed, only reports based on local
‘hearsay’.

Tales, which are related to the ‘shaggy dog’ stories that
suggest that Cheddar caves are connected to Wookey Hole, or Ebbor Gorge to
Wookey Hole, are not discussed in this article.

When the author commenced this paper it was thought that
there were a dozen or so sites that came within the definition set above –
however, surprise, surprise the number almost trebled!

Burrington Combe and neighbourhood

Blagdon Fissure

A bone fissure excavated in 1872 and located (note 3)

‘ … near the top of Blackdown
ridge, above the

village of
Blagdon
…. ‘

Miners, searching for iron ore, accidentally broke into the
fissure at a depth of 40ft.  Pleistocene
bones were removed from the site but the entrance has since become blocked and
its exact location is now unknown.  E.K.
Tratman of the UBSS searched for it but was unsuccessful. (note 4)  Shaw suggests that it may be one of the
fissures in Swancombe Wood and Morecombe Wood. (note 5)  References to the archaeological finds are given
in the UBSS Proceedings for 1953-54, 1964 and 1988. (note 6,7,8)  The site is also mentioned in

BSA
Caves

and Caving. (note 9)

Burrington Hole

Previously listed as an unidentified BEC dig during 1945 –
1946.  Now shown to be Lionel’s Hole,
Burrington Combe.

Snogging Pot

The earliest reference to this site may be an entry in the
BEC log for the 31 st March 1946  (note 10)
and was simply recorded by R.A. Crocker as ‘Burrington Hole 2′.  At this time Crocker, D. Howell and Chas
Lloyd made’ … a strenuous attempt on the large boulder blocking the way ahead
…. ‘  The only other reference to this
site is to be found in the same caving logbook and the visit dated 11th May
1946.  Don Coase made the following
entry:

A trip to Swancombe  (note 11) for survey followed by a [?] to
Burrington.  Snogging Pot was examined
also the U.B.S.S. Dig.  D.A. Coase &
THS examined entrance to East Twin Swallet. …

UBSS Burrington digs at this time were scattered around the
Burrington and Charterhouse area.  They
included Bath Swallet and Plumley’s Hole so little help from the location of
these sites.  A further dig was made
later in the summer.  The log entry by
Don Coase is headed ‘Burrington Hole, Snogging Pot, Sidcot Swallet & the
Tunnel in W. Twin Valley.  Sun. 18th Aug
46’ .

… The Snogging Hole was
inspected.  Hasell getting stuck &
after various manoeuvres he retreated. Coase & Pain went down & came straight out with emphatic ideas
of what to do with the ‘ole ….

Harry Stanbury, the founder member of the BEC in 1935, is
sure that Snogging Hole was named after H.S. ‘Snogger’ Hawkins, a post-war club
member who was known to be a misogynist!

Guy Hole

An unpublished manuscript housed in the county archives at

Taunton
by John Strachey,
c.1736, tells of a cave lying below the fortifications at Dolebury near
Burrington Combe.  He wrote: (note 12)

… under this fortification is
an hole or Cave called Guy Hole, altogether as remarkable as that at Woky but
the former being near a City & this remote from any place of Entertainment
is not often visited by Travellers …

A discussion, with extracts of Strachey’s work, was
published in 1987 and shows that Guy Hole was known to him as early as c.1720. (note
13)  It is difficult to place this site
but in the view of the author it is likely to be Goatchurch, for it lies below
the Dolebury fortification, i.e. at a lower level, and travelling up the West
Twin Brook valley would have been the most direct approach to Dolebury
itself.  Further it was compared with
that of Wookey – and not unfairly for the entrance passage with its stalagmite
deposits and the immediate lower chambers which would appear quite large in
poor light.  No other record of this cave
has been found.

Further, Williams, in his discussion relating to the this
site, and another known to Strachey as Goechurch, came to the conclusion that
both names were alternatives for the same site, that which is known today as
Goatchurch Cavern.

Dolebury Cavern

There was extensive mining activity on and around Dolebury;
several mining sites and shafts may be seen close to the hillfort.  In 1830 the Reverend John Skinner recorded in
his extensive diaries (note 14) details of a lead mine adit at Dolebury.  This site may subsequently have been called
Dolebury Cavern.  Today the mined tunnel,
half way up the valley from Rowberrow, is known as Dolebury Levvy.

Knight in Heart of Mendip records a deep mine shaft midway
from the fort to the eastern end of the hill which he thinks was opened up for
lead. (note 15)  He also outlined the
horizontal gallery driven during the period 1829-1831 and infers that at the
time of writing (1915) the entrance to it was blocked.  This is probably the same site referred to by
Skinner, i.e. Dolebury Levvy.

A tiny cave was found, c.1975, on the hillside above the
adit, whose very small entrance had been walled up.  This was explored by Chris Richards and the
writer.  The total length of this site is
barely 50ft and the floor is covered with thermoclastic scree.

Lost

Cave of
Churchill

There have been rumours of a lost cave at Churchill but the
writer can find no evidence that such a cave existed, excepting those that lie
on Dolebury itself.  There is a 20-30ft
long cave in a little quarry at the rear of the houses that line the edge of
the A38 at the Churchill cross- roads. This is known as

Churchill
Cave
. (note 16) A small
cave, whose entrance was once closed by an iron gate, was mined for brown ochre
and pyrites about 1865. (note 17)

Lost

cave of
Burrington
– 1: the ‘famous’ one!

The ‘lost’

cave of
Burrington
is a superb
example of researchers relying solely on secondary sources thus perpetuating
the errors.  However, Boon and Donovan,
carried out independent research and arrived at the same conclusion.  The standard references commonly used for
information relating to early cave discoveries are Balch and Knight.  In the case of the Burrington ‘lost’ cave
these authors used Rutter as their principal source.  Several cavers have written about the lost
caves of Mendip, notably C. Howard Kenney, in the 1950’s but most seemed to
have spent more time in the field rather than inspecting the written evidence
which changes the picture dramatically.

Rutter outlined the discovery of Aveline’s Hole and then
makes the, now well-known, statement: (note 18)

… About half a mile distant
another of these curious places of sepulture was discovered, which was
calculated to contain not less than one hundred skeletons; and higher up the
Combe, not far from Goatchurch, is

AN EXTENSIVE AND INTRICATE CAVERN

but little known.  Its entrance on the
side of the hill is small…

If one reads this note carefully it becomes clear that
Rutter is not inferring that the other burial site is higher up the combe as
assumed by Balch and others.  He is
simply changing his subject matter and point of reference to another part of
the combe called Goatchurch and the cave entrance that exists there – today
known as Goatchurch Cavern.  Note the all
important semicolon that divides the topics.

During their researches, Boon and Donovan located a copy of
Seyer’s Memoirs of Bristol  (note 19)
which included an account of the discovery of Aveline’s Hole and a reference to
the source material is given.  The result
of their research is reported in the 1954 UBSS Proceedings. (note 20)  An independent search for the ‘lost cave’ was
carried out by Lennon of the Wessex CC and he arrived at the same conclusion
quite unaware that the answer had been found some eight years previously. (note
21)

Lost
cave of
Burrington
– 2:

Axe-head
Cave
 (note 22)

Shortly after the discovery of Aveline’s Hole in 1797, (note
23) not 1795 as stated below and in a number of other publications, (note 24) a
second site some 50 yards away was explored and a bronze axe-head was found on
one of the side ledges.  Reference to
this site, now lost, was given in Mr. Urban’s column  (note 25) in the Gentleman’s Magazine for
1805. (note 26)

The instrument was found in a
natural cavern, 28 feet below the surface, on a ledge in the rock at Burrington
Coomb [sic], in Somersetshire, about five miles from Stanton Drew.

Within 50 yards of it, in 1795, was found in another cavern, 80 feet deep, an
ancient catacomb or interment of the dead, consisting of near 50 perfect
skeletons lying parallel to each other, some of whose bones were petrified.

It is of Corinthian brass, and weighs full 8 1/7 times its bulk in water, and I
apprehend was an interment of war.

Yours, &tc. H.W.

This reference is of particular interest in two ways.  It records an unknown cave site and
illustrates an important bronze tool. Who found this and where the instrument is currently stored is
unknown.  The location of the cave
clearly indicates it not being Aveline’s Hole or Fairy Toot but another site
that was probably located in the zones of the two quarries that were worked
either side of the promontory in which Aveline’s Hole is located.  One wonders why Aveline’s was not quarried
away – possibly a requirement placed upon it by the landowners of the day,
Whalley and, later, Somers.  There are
fragment caves in the immediate area such as Pseudo Aveline’s – a small
vertical feature at the top of the quarry face immediately east of Aveline’s
Hole entrance.  It is highly unlikely
that Pseudo Aveline’s is the ‘lost’ site as cave explorers of this period would
not have penetrated such a small feature; their principal use of caves was for
the purpose of discovering bone material which might be associated with the
Diluvian ideas of the late 18th century. Further, it is not Plumley’s Hole for
this cave was not opened up until December 1874.

Lost

cave of
Burrington
– 3: Mystery Cavern

In 1948 H.S. Hawkins published an extraordinary article on a
new ‘lost’

cave of
Burrington
. (note 27)  Entitled ‘New Mystery Cavern in Burrington
Combe,

Somerset
‘,
Hawkins claimed to have unearthed a previously unrecorded site, the details of
which were embedded in a paper published by the Somerset Archaeological and
Natural History Society in 1864.  The
paper was written by William Boyd Dawkins entitled ‘On the Caverns of
Burrington Combe’ (note 28) and in it Dawkins described the work carried out by
W. Ayshford Sanford and himself at four Burrington caves, namely, Aveline’s
Hole, Foxes Hole, (note 29) Goatchurch Cavern, and Whitcombe’s Hole. (note 30)  Hawkins wrote two papers dealing with the
‘mysterious’ elements of west Mendip caving and patently did not know that
there were two Plumley caves in Burrington Combe. The upper, Foxes Hole [Plumley’s
Den] and the lower site, Plumley’s Hole – the cave where poor Joseph Plumley
met his untimely end. (note 31 32)

Hawkins failure to realise that there were two caves named
Plumley created his illusion of a lost site and so his argument that Dawkins
had used the name Plumley’s Den, in error, for the upper cave which he,
Hawkins, knew as Foxes Hole falls apart at the seams.  He further argued that Dawkins and

Sanford
‘s Plumley’s Den
could not be Foxes Hole for the latter had three chambers, whereas the site
described in the SANHS paper had only two. There is a low extension off to the left of the first chamber, which
undoubtedly Hawkins classifies as the third chamber. However, the Dawkins
survey is an elevation, which shows the chambers in which he had excavated.

Lost

cave of
Burrington
– 4

To the south (left) of The Link, leading to the Plain, lies
a shallow valley.  In it a cave was said
to have been opened and filled almost immediately.  It is thought that the information relating
to the site came from the late E.K. Tratman. No other details are known.

Lost

cave of
Burrington
– 5

In his well-known ‘
Swallet
Caves … ” Balch in his
delightfully vague manner discusses the probability that the famous lost

cave of
Burrington
was not in the Combe but in
the valleys.  However, his final thoughts
on the matter related to a thirty foot deep hole – but is described without any
definite point of reference.  However a
clue is gained from the preceding paragraph where he explains that the lost

cave of
Burrington
might be located in the Twin
Brook valleys.  Balch wrote: (note 33,34)

There is a hole, however, on the
other side of the Combe, in solid rock, with evidence of much wear by passing
of feet, which might expand below its present depth of 30 ft., if some clearing
were undertaken ….

If this assumption is right and that the 30ft deep cave is
on ‘the other side’ then the hole could be one of two mined shafts  (note 35) that can be located east of Foxes
Hole: Toad’s Hole and Lizard Hole.  Both
of these are ‘opposite’ the East Twin Brook valley. J. Harry Savory, in 1911,
also refers to a site opposite Ellick Wood. (note 36)

It is three quarters way up cliff
opposite Ellick Wood just above S curve above E. Brooklet.  It shows a bush of yew and some bare rocks
from the road.  After zigzagging up to it
over loose surface scree we found it to be a vertical drop slightly inclining
in to the cliff, avo 5-6 ft diameter all the way down, silted up at the bottom,
resembles Plumley’s Den but larger, 30 ft deep shown by reflected sunlight,
shows promise of further galleries from one or two recesses now choked, a
little work might clear these ….

One wonders whether Balch had the details of this site from
Savory – the descriptions are too close for comfort!

Lost caves of
Burrington – 6: Boyd Dawkins’ Hole

J. Harry Savory noted the following in his diary –  (note 37)

Balch had told me of Boyd
Dawkins’ hole on opposite side of W. Brooklet to Goat-church.  We looked for this and found a promising
crack among loose boulders and in the nettles 15 ft above foot of path leading
to Goatchurch, could see but a few feet in here and there, imperfectly examined
by B.D., might get in by excavation. Took photo but it wants a distant one taken with morning light from other
side of stream.  We then took immediately
below this the swallet at present acting for W. Brooklet.  When this cannot take all, there are one or
two subsidiary swallets further down W. Brooklet gorge.  We took higher road to Morgan’s and had
tea.  We were looking for Squire’s Well
and M [Morgan] reported this to be beyond lake at Rickford, but we could only
find a dry trough, which takes drainage of wood on W. of Blagdon Combe.  Still to do swallets behind Mendip Lodge Wood
and Squire’s Well.  Found no other signs
of caves.

In all probability this was the jumble of boulders that now
mark the entrance to Sidcot Swallet.  The
path to Goatchurch gently ascends from a point on the east side of the valley today
cavers generally take the ‘direct’ route further up-valley.  A photograph, taken by Ralph Reynolds in
1925, clearly shows the Sidcot site before excavation began. (note 38)

Rickford Lost Cave

A cave has been rumoured to have been open in the area.  No other details are known.  It is possible that the site is one of those
recorded near Blagdon.

Swancombe Hollow Dig
[Hole]
(note 39)

Active diggers of the BEC were working at a small site in
Swancombe Hollow, near Blagdon.  Members,
including the late Dan Hasell worked at the site on 22 December 1945, 10th February
and 11th May 1946.  A survey was made on
the latter date but this has not been located; the exact spot of the entrance
is unknown.

The area was extensively mined and a number of sites have
been recorded by
Stanton  (note 40) including Swancombe Hollow Hole – it
could be this site and may also be the lost

cave of
Rickford
.

Central Mendip

Cheddar Hole

The first note of a cave on Mendip is to be found in the
many versions of the book Historia Anglorum by Henry of Huntingdon who wrote
his work, in Latin, about 1135. (note 41, 42) The famous description of the
cave at Cheddar occurs in the section dealing with the four wonders of

England
;
Cheddar Hole is listed considered the third wonder

Tertium est apud Chederhole; ubi
cavitas est sub terra, quam cum multi saepe ingressi sint, et ibi magna spatia
terrae et jlumina pertransierint, nunquam tamen ad finem evenire potuerunt.

The English translation reads:

….The third is at Chedder-hole,
where there is a cavern which many people have entered, and have traversed a
great distance under ground, crossing subterraneous streams, without finding
any end of the cavern …

Recorded as ‘Chedre Hole’  (note 43) in the Domesday Book it is also the
12th century name of the modem

village of
Cheddar
.  The earliest reference to this site in caving
literature was in Balch’s 1935 Cheddar book (note 44) and since that time it
has become known as the ‘Lost Cave of Cheddar’ – a purely 20th century
invention.  There are no caves in the
Cheddar area that fulfil the 12th century description and, though there is a
sizeable stream flowing from the risings near Gough’s Cave it is quite
impossible to follow any stream underground, except by diving the underground
river at Gough’s Cave, this having been first explored in the mid-1980s.  It is most unlikely that Henry actually
visited the area, let alone the cave but gained his information from an earlier
unknown source or by word of mouth.

There are many interpretations of his writing, but two of
them are worth mentioning.  Willie
Stanton suggests that the description given may have referred to the Cheddar
Gorge.  Before the Enclosure Act in the
1790s the gorge would have been so overgrown and full of scrub that it could
have been quite dark and cave-like before goats and sheep were allowed to roam
freely removing most of the vegetation. Jim Hanwell, on the other hand, has suggested that building of the
waterfall by the hotel, at the time of it being a grist mill, has artificially
raised the stream floor between it and the risings by some 10ft or more.  If the stream were lowered to its original
level access to some of the river passages in Gough’s Cave may well be
gained.  However, these explanations are
really ‘shootin’ from the hip’ without any serious investigation of the
historical evidence.

The Wonders as written by Henry, were plagiarised / copied
into many other manuscripts of the 12th – 14th centuries.  These include the 40-odd copies of Historia
Anglorum, now in the British Library, and also in a miscellaneous collection of
manuscripts collectively known as the ‘Wonders of Britain’.  These were written at various dates mostly in
Latin, but some were also written in Norman French and Welsh all of which
include details of the Four Wonders including the Chedre Hole reference. Shaw
has summarised these documents in Mendip Bibliography Part II. (note 45)
Polychronicon (Many Chronicles) by Ranulph Higdon (1327) was copied / published
in a number of editions.  The first
English translation of Higdon (1480) by John Trevisa was the earliest printed
reference to an English cave. (note 46) 

The final reference to list the Wonders is to be found in
William Harrison’s  (note 47)
contribution to Raphael Holinshed’s The First and Second [and Third] Volumes of
Chronicles, 1577.  The Wonders were not
repeated again in any topographical book of the 17th-19th centuries; excepting
of course 19th-20th century reprints. Why did such a famed site become lost to local memory, let alone its
claimed national importance, so suddenly? During the course of the 16th-18th centuries many travellers kept
private diaries of their tours of the country – very few of these had any
contemporary influence upon other travellers as their notes were not published
until much later, generally during the 19th century.  Significantly none of the travellers who had
visited Cheddar and its Gorge make any mention, let alone describe, the Wonder
cave’.  Further, the earliest note of
caves having been explored in Cheddar Gorge is to be found in the letters to
the Royal Society by John Beaumont in 1676 and 1681. Possibly earlier than

Beaumont
, John Aubrey of
Chippenham described and prepared a map of Long Hole, c.1670. (note 48)

(note 49) In the early editions of

Camden
‘s Britannia, first published in 1586,
there is no mention of any caves at Cheddar or in the gorge.

Coincidentally as the demise of Henry’s cave came about an
increase in the available information relating to Wookey Hole is to be
found.  William of

Worcester
 (note 50) visited the cave in 1478 and
outlines the cave features and that guides were available.  The names of the three principle chambers are
as we know them today; permission to enter the cave though had to be obtained
from ‘Mr. Porter’, an upright stone at the cave entrance!  The fact that the cave appears to have been a
place of tourist interest for some time and that it had in the ‘dark ages’ been
used as a place of sacrifice and burial would imply that the cave was well
rooted in local memory and that its fame had spread far and wide before William
made his visit at the end of the 15th century. All of the diaries and topographical books of the 17th and 18th
centuries relating to

Somerset

have a description or at least a mention of Wookey Hole (in all its various
‘ancient’ spellings).  I have long held
the view that it is more likely that Henry was referring to Wookey Hole, a mere
five miles away and that a cave in Cheddar Gorge does not exist.  The large wide passages and river would fit
his note that many:

… have traversed a great
distance under ground, crossing subterraneous streams, without finding any end
of the cavern …

Further, Henry admits that many visitors had visited this
site prior to the production of his book for he says:

… there is a cavern which many
people have entered …

Henry does not mention Wookey Hole at all in his manuscript,

Daccot’s Hole

Alexander Catcott, 1725-1779, a Bristol vicar in his later
years, amateur geologist and brother of George Symes Catcott of Pen Park Hole
fame, made a lifelong study of geology and in particular the formation of
caves.  He recognised that the caves had
been formed by water action and concluded that they were formed during the
rising and draining of the waters of the great flood of Noah.  Catcott was a supporter of the Diluvian
ideas, outlined by

Hutchinson
,
and he summarised his field work studies in his book, more so in the 2nd
edition that was published in 1768. (note 51)

Catcott had spent much of his time wandering the Mendip
Hills and explored the, then, newly discovered caves in the Bleadon and Hutton
ochre mining area, fully describing them in his Diary of tours. (note 52)  On the 10th August, 1756 he, accompanied by
Mr. Gore of Charterhouse  (note 53)
visited Blackdown after which he wrote a long description of the hill, (note 54)
the valleys descending into Burrington Combe and the mining area then known as
Pits Close, today best known to cavers as Groffy Field.  In August 1757 he revisited the area with a ‘
stranger’ to show him the wonders of Cheddar Gorge and the local hills.  On this occasion he met a miner by the name
of Will Hares who was at that time digging for ore in the caves that had been
opened at Pits Close. The cave was briefly described stating that water was met
with and that the caves’ depth was about 40 fathoms (240ft). Catcott wrote:

…. One Will Hares told me that he
was digging for ore in Daccot’s Hole in Charterhouse Mineries .. , he came to a
spring of water, in which they threw all the rubble, which so muddied the
spring at Cheddar, that it could not be used …

Of the three caves known in Gruffy Field could Daccot’s Hole
be one them?  Both
G.B.
Cave and

Charterhouse
Cave

show signs of being worked by these miners.

Dick Turpin’s Cave

A fabled cave said to exist on Shute Shelve.  A friend of John Chapman’s father, named
Faulkner, living at Axbridge, remembered when as a child playing in a cave
(c.1900) which they knew as Dick Turpin’s Cave. Its exact location is unknown.


Green
Ore
Cave

The single reference to this cave is in a travel guidebook
first published in 1856. (note 55)  The
cave is mentioned in passing and is said to exist on Green Ore Farm.  In the vicinity of the farm a number of
mineshafts have opened up and have been recorded from time to time; all are now
effectively capped.  The lost site may
well have been one of these.

Lost

cave of
Axbridge

Miners recall that in the 1920s a cave was opened with a
chamber as large as

Axbridge
Square
. Members of the ACG accompanied one of the old men in order to locate the
cave.  This resulted in the opening of
Triple-H
Cave
in 1952 and

Large
Chamber
Cave

in 1954; both of these sites were shown not to be the site of the lost
cave.  However, in 1992, the ACG
systematically searched Shute Shelve for any possible sign of the lost
cave.  One particular site, at the base
of an old ochre working gave good results leading to a cave with large chambers
and signs of the ‘old man’ – Shute Shelve Cavern.  This discovery is now assumed to be the lost
cave.

Maskall’s

Wood
Cave

A rumoured cave said to exist in Maskall’s Wood [ST/470.537],
east of Cheddar.  No written evidence has
been traced of this site.

Priddy Lead Works
Shaft

During the August Bank Holiday week, 1944, members of the
UBSS commenced digging at Plantation Swallet. Though they achieved little they managed to investigate another site –
its location was not recorded.  The log
entry for the 7th August, 1944 contains the following note:

… The shaft opposite the old mine
workings was also examined and found unpromising ….

Can anyone offer any information?

Rift
Cave,

Compton

Martin

A general account of the 1921 UBSS Christmas holiday
activities, appeared in the Wells Journal for the 12th January 1922. (note 56)  Twelve members were present and on one
occasion they went on a cycle ride visiting a number of cave sites including
inspection of Lamb Leer Cavern entrance, which was then in a poor state and was
blocked.  Embedded in this account is a
visit to a quarry owned by a Mr. Bath at Compton Martin where a number of holes
had been exposed.  One of these emitted
the sound of a running stream.  It would
appear that the UBSS worked at this site for the next five years, how
frequently and what results were obtained is unknown for their logbook covering
this period was destroyed in the

Bristol

blitz early in the Second World War.  It
can reasonably be supposed that not very much was achieved for no mention of
the site was made in the Field Work notes that appeared regularly in the UBSS
Proceedings during this period.  The only
reference to establish the fact that members of the Society actually worked at
the site is recorded in their Logbook Volume 4 1927. (note 57)  Which quarry is unknown but it is likely to
be one of the group to be found at the lower reaches of Compton Combe on its
western fringe.  The writer is carrying
out further research.

Rowpits and Small
Pits

In the forested area of Stockhill lies the Chewton Rabbit
Warren.  This area was extensively mined
for lead in the 16th and 17th centuries. Between 1657 and 1674 Thomas Bushell sunk up to 20 shafts in the area
but regular flooding severely hampered work. In order to drain the water, an adit level was driven out from a natural
passage at the depth of 120ft.  Currently,
the BEC have opened a site on what

Stanton

thinks is the lower edge of the working area in the hope of entering this lost
swallet.  A report of the current
situation has been published. (note 58, 59) (see also the recent series of
articles on Stock House Shaft in BB’s. Much of this is natural cave enlarged by the Old Man -A. Jarratt)

Site near St.
Cuthbert’s Lead Works found and closed by miners, c.1900

C. Howard Kenney in his article on the lost caves of Mendip
written in 1953 suggests that a cave had been found by the miners at about the
time they had excavated Plantation Swallet around 1900. He wrote:

… It seems that the miners at
the old Priddy Lead Works discovered a cave or chamber, but owing to the
lawsuit Nicholas v. Ennor, (note 60) restraining the miners from polluting the
Axe at Wookey Hole, they were anxious that its discovery should not be known.
and they hastily concealed it. …

Kenney’s source material came from Balch’s

Swallet
Caves

of Mendip  (note 61) and there we find
that the location of the site is fairly well described.

The miners had regular problems of flooding in the floor of
what is now known as St. Cuthbert’s Depression. About 1900 they opened up Plantation Swallet but failing to excavate a
successful drainage path for the water overflowing from the Mineries Pool they
turned their attention first to the South Swallet [now commonly known as the
Maypole Sink for it is the stream sink of that which flows through the Maypole
Series in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet] and then to the lowest part of the
depression.  This section of the
depression still floods in wet weather conditions to the east of the present
entrance to St. Cuthbert’s Swallet. After clearing out the lead bearing mud a collapse occurred revealing a
passage or chamber.  This was quickly
filled for fear of infringing the High Court Injunction granted at Wells in
1863.  Two collapses have occurred here
since that time. (note 62)

Ubley Farm Rift

In his wide ranging paper on the bone caves of Mendip, the
Reverend William Jones outlined the frequency of bone bearing fissures opening
up in various parts of Mendip.  He wrote
that in some cases  (note 63)

… the fissures are open and on
the surface.  An instance of this kind
occurs in a field on Ubley Hill farm, on the Eastern side of the range.  A stone dropped into the hole may be heard
for several seconds in its downwards course ….

The site location was not given except that it was not far
from the farm buildings but an indication of what Jones had observed may be
related to an exploration by the MCG close to Ubley Hill Farm.  In November 1984 Tony Knibbs et al explored a
5m deep shaft that had opened up and found that it was part of an open rift
aligned 15° – 195°. Knibbs wrote that the ‘…. magnetic bearing of the rift
corresponded to surface indications of a filled-in rift and it was concluded
that the hole had been caused by slumping of this infill ….’ (note 64)  Similar occurrences of this type may account
for the ‘lost’ caves of Blagdon and Rickford.

Eastern Mendip


Emborough
Cave

The only reference relating to this site is to be found in
an article written by E.E. Roberts in an early British Caver published in 1943,
entitled ‘Legends, Dead & Alive.’  (note
65)  It appears to have been brought
about by a prank played by Platten on Devenish and Roberts.  No other reference to the cave has been
found.

Fairy Slatts

These natural fissures were first recorded by Collinson but
can hardly be considered caves. (note 66) Partly natural, partly mined, open fissures said to be up to 21 ft
deep.  They were partially filled about
1860 to protect livestock.

Poking Hole

John Strachey records a cave at Great Elm the so-called
Poking Hole. (note 67)  This appears not
to be natural for, he writes, ‘… but made with hands … ‘  The description indicates that it is on the
north side of the

Wadbury
Valley
. Williams has
suggested that it could have been one of the Clinker Caves, but this seems
unlikely that such a small feature would have been recorded for such a
publication as Strachey’s planned ‘Somersetshire illustrated.’  (note 68)

Stoke Lane Fissure

Balch noted in the 1907 Netherworld of Mendip  (note 69) that he had been notified of a
potential bone fissure above Stoke Lane Slocker and that it might possibly
connect with the cave below.  The slocker
cave had been first explored about 1905 and its extent known.  In 1909 Balch and Troup recorded that an
excavation had been carried out at the spot but no bone remains had been found.
(note 70)  Its location is now lost
though it is possible that it is Stock’s Hole opened by MCG in 1961. (note 71)

Western
Mendip
Bleadon Cavern

This cave has been rediscovered and is currently open to
cavers.  It was discovered by Beard and
Williams in 1833.  They originally
entered the cave via an entrance on land within the Hutton Parish boundary.  Instability problems forced the excavators to
sink another shaft nearby but within the parish boundary of Bleadon – this is
the entrance open today.  Once the 19th
century excavations were complete the entrance collapsed and was lost until
being reopened in 1969.  At first it was
thought to be the lost Hutton Cavern – 1 but later proven not to be.  A full report on this and other sites in the
area has recently been published with a bibliography and so no further
discussion is required. (note 72)

The Gulf, Sandford
Hill

The earliest record of this site is to be found in two
letters from the Rev. David Williams of Bleadon to the vicar of Shaftesbury –
William Patteson, dated 4th January and 16th February, 1829.  Rutter used the latter letter as the source
for the information relating to the lost cave in his book. (note 73)  Summarising the sites found by the miners at
Banwell and Hutton Williams continued:

… The mouth of the largest,
which the miners call the “Gulph,” lies, they say 80 fathoms, or 480
feet below the plane of the Hill.  They
also affirm they have let down a man, with a line, 240 feet deep, but that he
could see neither top, sides, or bottom. Miners, like other men in their station of life, are very superstitious
and wonder-working, when they meet with any thing like this fissure, which they
cannot fathom ….

Though so well known surprisingly little has been written
about this site.  Various ideas have been
proposed as to the likely known sites that may be the whole or part of the lost
cave.  The most persuasive argument put
forward has been that of

Stanton

which states that the dimensions must be wrong or that the rift feature in the
Levvy might be part of the lost cave. The plane of Sandford Hill is only about 420ft OD and the water table
only some 20ft below the lowest part of the valley beyond where it is near sea
level. Therefore there must be something wrong with the figures!  However, in 1981 the writer, accompanied by
Marie Clarke of the ACG, surveyed the hill using the Williams’ measurements in
the way in which they were intended to be interpreted.  Oh ! you may well say – if the entrance lies
480 feet below the plane of the hill and the height of the hill itself is only
420 feet how can you mistrust the

Stanton

argument?  Simple.  Up to and well into the early 19th century
the height of a hill was commonly measured by the distance you have to walk up
it!!  Hence Blackdown is about one mile
high, though today we would say it was some 1000ft vertically above OD.  During the earlier centuries a vertical
measurement is frequently referred to as being ‘in the perpendicular’ .

Using this rule of measurement, the late Marie Clarke and
the author surveyed the hillside and found that Mangle Hole was 470ft from the
edge of the plane of the hill – measured down the slope of the hill. However,
that still leaves the 240ft of line used by the explorer.  Letting a man down on a 240ft long rope does
not necessarily imply that was the vertical range of the descent – it could
also mean that the man penetrated into the cave that distance.  A full discussion will be found in an article
on the subject published in 1984. (note 74)

Hutton Cavern – 1 and
Hutton Cavern – 2
 (note 75)

The lost Hutton Cavern -1 has been searched for since the
1930s by a number of societies including ACG, UBSS and WCC.  None found the elusive cave.  However an intensive period of digging by the
ACG between 1970 and 1974 produced some good results, Hutton Caverns -3 and
-4.  They succeeded in reopening the lost
Bleadon Cavern [q.v.] and two other natural sites, both of which had been
worked by the ochre miners of the 18th century. (note 76)  Alexander Catcott became aware of Hutton
Cavern -1 being a source of bone material in late 1756 but it was not until
10th June, 1757 that he actually visited the site.  There are three accounts of the cave, the
first written about 1761 in the form of a letter to an unknown recipient. (note
77)

From the 16th February, 1829 letter of Williams to Patteson
we know that the cave was lost and it was not until a miner pointed to the spot
that workmen were hired and excavation work commenced.  The cave was re-entered in 1828 and the
results of their work reported in the letter. Since that time location of the entrance has been lost.

Not so well known is the second site, Hutton Cavern – 2,
explored by Alexander Catcott – it lies some 40 yards west of the Hutton Cavern
– 1 entrance.  But until Hutton Cavern -1
has been rediscovered this site, too, remains lost.  It could have been the second of the two ACG
sites, Hutton Cavern – 4.

Lost

cave of
Elborough

The background to this site was given to the author by John
Chapman of Cheddar.  He recalls, when a
lad, that a man living at Canada Combe, Charles Ponsford, told him of a cave
that was said to exist near Elborough ‘ … which goes back under.’  The cave is supposed to lie close or in
Benthill’s Wood.  Mining activity was
undertaken in the area in the early 19th century; it is possible that the cave
was an old mine working.

Loxton Cavern

There is often confusion between the lost cave and the cave
known today as

Loxton
Cave
.  However, there are two caves known to exist
on Loxton Hill, the second, quite different, site being the lost cave – Loxton
Cavern.  The cave was famed in its day
for its copper stained formations.  For
the record the lost cave was first recorded by Alexander Catcott in 1757. (note
78)  The second, that open today, was
found by quarrying in 1862 and its discovery was widely reported in the local
press; it bears no resemblance to the lost site.

The lost cave was found by miners associated with William
Glisson of Loxton and who accompanied Catcott on his visit on May 19th,
1757.  An outline description of the cave
is to be found in Catcott’s Diaries The cave was still accessible as late as
1794 when C.I.H. [name unknown] made a descent. His account of experiences and an outline description of the cave was
published in the Gentleman’s Magazine. (note 79) Accompanied by the farmer on
whose land the cave entrance lay C.I.H met the guide who cleared the brambles
spanning over the entrance.  Once done
and a rope belayed to a stake, the party commenced the descent.

… Our guide (whose father was
the discoverer of the cave about fifty years ago) went in first; and, as I had
been told there was no difficulty or danger, I readily followed; and, having
slid down a steep slope for about six yards, found myself at the mouth of a
very awkward black-looking pit, down which I was to swing by means of the
rope.  I got down a few yards more,
where, fixing my feet in the crevices of the rock, I stood astride the gulph;
and there I thought I must have given up the scheme.  I could see nothing but a dark chasm, which
appeared to be bottomless …. [At the bottom of the shaft] we then lighted our
candles, and followed the guide, who carried us along an narrow passage towards
the West. The sides of the rock were here covered with beautiful stalactites,
very similar to what I have seen in a cavern at a village in

Italy
called Palo, near Folingo,
but much more delicate.  Having explored
the passage for some yards, we turned aside into a small chasm, just large
enough to admit my body with a great deal of squeezing, and which, as we
advanced, did not permit me to go on all fours. I was obliged to crawl like a snake, and could not have proceeded much
further, as I found my breath getting short from the fatigue and heat of the
place; but was at last relieved by reaching a large arched room most
beautifully covered with sparry incrustations. The rock (a limestone) was so hard, that our tools were unequal to
procure me the specimens I wanted, and I was sorry to find those we saw had
been much defaced by Cornish miners, who, in trying for copper a few years ago
broke off the finest pieces to send to their friends.  For the satisfaction of your readers, who
delight in the Quixotic and marvellous, let me assure them, that I here saw the
Magician of the Cave, in the form of a bat, clinging to the cieling [sic] of his
crystal palace.  That our return might be
prosperous, I would not suffer him to be disturbed .

… Our descent was difficult; our return neither arduous nor dangerous; perils
once known are half conquered. However, I made a firm resolution never to make
another attempt to explore the place, in which I was joined most heartily by
the farmer, who by no means liked crawling ten fathoms underground. we visited
the other branches, diverging in different directions from the main shaft; they
contained petrifications more or less beautiful, and of different colours, as
tinged with iron or copper, of both which there are veins in the cave.

Having been buried alive for more than two hours, I was glad to revisit the
regions of mortality, though completely bruised and battered in every part of
my body.

Rutter’s account is based on a transcription of Catcott’s
Diary made by David Williams.  From the
past tense in the account it would appear the cave was closed at the time of
publication of

‘Delineations’ in 1829. (note 80)  Neither Williams nor Beard are known to have
visited the site.

Sandford Bone Fissure

This site was opened by William Beard of Banwell on 29th
January, 1838, having been, no doubt, prompted by the knowledge that bones had
been found there in the 1770s.

Beard had his men, Robert Brown and William Cuff, working
for him removing bone material until the 29th May, 1838. For this they were
paid 1I6d. a day (7Y2p). (note 81)  The
site was still open in 1863 at the time of James Parker’s visit.

There are many trenches and mined features along the plane
of Sandford Hill that it would be difficult to identify the actual pit, many of
which were worked as late as the mid-20th century.  Some persons claim to have identified the
site but this is far from proven.

Lost

cave of
Worlebury Hill

Sometime during the late 1940s a local caver recorded that
he had explored a cave on Worlebury Hill which contained stalagmite
formations.  The note is to be found in
the Local History Library at
Weston-Super-Mare.  Although an intensive search has been made
the cave has not been found.


Somerset

– general


Cothelstone
Hill
Cave
.

Not far from Holwell Cavern lies

Cothelstone
Hill
Cave
.  This, it is reported, was an inhabited rock
shelter. (note 82)  Recent work in the
area by Pete Glanvill and Trevor Knieff have uncovered a small cave
(ST/1866.3199) but it does not resemble the lost site. (note 83)


Dodington
House
Cave

During the late 18th century Cornish miners migrated to the
Mendip area in search of work.  A mining
agent, William Jenkin left a wealth of mining records including details of work
in the

Somerset

area.  Among his records is a reference
to a cave in the Quantocks ‘ … a little above Dodington House.’  A selection of Jenkin’s records was published
in 1951 edited by AK. Hamilton Jenkin in which the following extract of a
letter may be found.

Extraordinary

Somerset
Cavern.

To Scrope Bernard Esq. 19th Dec.
1795

The surprising cavities and large
caverns we have discovered under the beech grove a little above Dodington House
are beyond my power of describing.  One
in particular which is about 28 yards in length and from 4 – 12 yards high and
wide, the top of which is 14 yards below the surface, strongly indicated that
this spot must have undergone some wonderful convulsion, and the cracks and
fissure we find in the walls of the cavern are no less wonderful, through which
fissures come strong currents of air, to the great refreshment of the labourers

Oldham noted that the cave must be located in the area on
the seaward side of the Quantock Hills where there is a small outcrop of
Devonian Limestone [ST/173.405] at an altitude of 400ft. (note 84)
Oldham continued:

… The beech grove mentioned
still remains above Dodington House.  At
the western end of the grove is an old quarry (probably excavated after the
account was written), the greater part of which appears to be off the
limestone.  At the eastern end of the
grove is an old copper mine building, probably constructed after 1795, which
also appears to be just off the limestone. The easternmost end of the quarry appears to have bisected an old shaft
in the limestone ….

No doubt the idea of rediscovering one of these lost sites
will intrigue cavers for many years to come. However, to do so will entail many
hours of researching old records lodged in county collections and
archives.  The very best of luck!

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Ray Mansfield, Chris Hawkes, John Chapman and
Chris Richards for their helpful comments.

Dave Irwin,

Priddy.

Originally published in Shepton Mallet Caving Club Journal
Series 10 No.3 (Spring 1998) and BCRA Speleo-history Group Journal No.2
(revised version, 18th August 1998)

notes

1.                  Kenney, C. Howard, 1953, “Lost” caves
of Mendip. WCC Jn12(39)12-14(Apr)

2.                  Beaumont, John, 1681, “A Letter of Mr. John
Beaumont Jun, giving an account ofOokey Hole and feveral other Subterraneous
Grottoes and Caverns in Mendipp-hills in Somerfetfhire, etc.”, Phil.
Collections, [Royal Society], No.2, pp 1-8; extract from pp 4-5

3.                  Anon, 1876. Geological Section. Proc Bristol
Nats Soc., Ser 3 1,137-140(1874-1876) pp137-138

4.                  Tratman, Edgar K., 1945.

University of
Bristol

Spelaeological Society Field Work Log.

Bristol
:
Quarto MSS, 2 vols., surveys

5.                  Shaw, Trevor R., 1972.

Mendip
Cave

Bibliography. Part II Books, pamphlets, manuscripts and maps, 3rd century to
December 1968. CRG Trans 13(3) viii + 226pp(Jul)

6.                  Donovan, Desmond T., 1954. A bibliography of the
Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip,
Bath
and

Bristol

area. Proc UBSS 7(1)23-24(1953-1954)

7.                  Donovan, Desmond T., 1964. A bibliography of the
Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip,
Bath
and

Bristol

area. First supplement. Proc UBSS 10(2)89-97(1964)

8.                  Mansfield, Raymond W. and Donovan, Desmond T.,
1989. Palaeolithic and Pleistocene sites of the Mendip,
Bath
and

Bristol

areas. Recent bibliography. Proc UBSS 18(3)367-389(Nov)

9.                  Jackson, J. Wilfred, 1937. Schedule of Cave
Finds. BSA Cav Cav 1(2)48-51

10.              BEC Caving Log, Volume I, 1943-1946

11.              The survey has not been located.

12.              Strachey, John, c.1736. Somersetshire
Illustrated. MSS held at the Somerset County Archive,

Taunton
. Ref .. No. DD/SH.I07 (1-2) and
DD/SH. 108 (1-3)

13.              Williams, Robert G. J., 1987.  John Strachey on some Mendip caverns and
antiquities in the early eighteenth century. Proc UBSS 18(1)57-64(Nov)

14.              Skinner, Rev. John, 1788-1832. Journal of
Travels and Parochial Matters. Quarto MSS, 98 vols., maps, illus. BM Ref.: Add
MSS 33717 Vol. 85 ff182a

15.              Knight, Francis A., 1915. The Heart of Mendip.

London
: J.M. Dent &
Sons Ltd., xvi + 547pp, maps, illus., figs [p.2IO]

16.              

Barrington
,
Nicholas and Stanton, William 1.,1977. Mendip: the complete caves and a view of
the hills. Cheddar: Barton Productions with Cheddar Valley Press, 236pp,
illus., maps

17.              Knight, Francis A., 1915. [as above] [p.2IO]

18.              Rutter, John, 1829, Delineations of the North
Western Division of the

County of
Somerset
. Shaftesbury:
printed and published by the author., xxiv + 349 pp, map, plans, sections,
illus. [p.118]

19.              Seyer, Reverend Samuel, 1821-23, Memoirs
Historical and Topographical of Bristol and its neighbourhood. 2 Vols. Vol. 1 :
xx + 535pp, maps, illus. [Published 1821] : Vol. 2 : 603pp, maps, illus.
[Published 1823].

Bristol
:
Printed & Published by John Mathew Gutch.

20.              Boon, George C. and Donovan, Desmond T., 1954.
Fairy Toot: the ‘lost

cave of
Burrington
‘ Proc UBSS
7(1)35-38(1953-1954)

21.              Lennon, I.G., 1960. The lost

cave of
Burrington
.
WCC Jnl 6(76)28-30(Nov. 1959/ Mar 1960)

22.              So named by the author.

23.              

Bristol

Mercury, 16th January, 1797, page 3, column 4, Vol. VII, No. 360 [account of
the discovery of Aveline’s Hole]

24.              Irwin, David J., A History of Aveline’s Hole.
[in prep]

25.              The equivalent of the modern ‘

Peterborough
‘ or Aunt Agony column that
appear in newspapers and magazmes.

26.              H.W., 1805, Mr. Urban. Gentleman’s Magazine Pt.
II, p.408-409, illus. ; reprinted in Gomme, George Laurence [ed.], 1886, The
Gentleman’s Magazine Library. Archaeology.

London
: Elliot Stock, 2 volumes [Vol. 1,
p.22-23]

27.              Hawkins, H.S., 1948. New mystery cavern in
Burrington Combe,

Somerset
.
Brit Cav 18,29-31

28.              Dawkins, W. Boyd, 1864. On the caves of Burrington
Combe, explored in 1864 by Messrs. W. Ayshford Sanford, and W. Boyd Dawkins.
SANHS Proc 12(2)161-176(1863-1864), surveys

29.              Foxes Hole was known to Dawkins as Plumley’s Den
– a name that has fallen into disuse because of its confusion with Plumley’s
Hole, a short cave located at the bottom of Burrington Combe.

30.              It was Dawkins who named this site. Who
Whitcombe was is unknown.

31.              Plumley’s Hole was not discovered until December
1874.

32.              Dougherty, Alan F., Irwin, David J. and
Richards, Christopher, 1994. The discovery of Plumley’s Hole, Burrington Combe
and the death of Joe Plumley. Proc UBSS 20(1)43-58(Dec), illus., table

33.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937. Mendip – its swallet
caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 21lpp, illus. figs, surveys
[p.121]

34.              Balch, Herbert E., 1948. [as above] [p.97]

35.              Howell, Christopher, Irwin, David J. and
Stuckey, Douglas L. 1973. A

Burrington
Cave
Atlas. BEC Cav Rep
(17)35pp(Jul), map, illus., surveys

36.              Savory, John. 1989. A man deep in Mendip. The
Caving Diaries of Harry Savory 1910-1921

Gloucester
:
Alan Sutton, xviii + 15Opp, maps, illus., figs, surveys. [p.15-16]

37.              Savory, John. 1989. [as above], [p.16]

38.              Howell, C., Irwin, D.J. and Stuckey, D., 1973. A

Burrington
Cave
Atlas. BEC Caving Report 17, 35pp,
illus., surveys, maps

39.              Hasell,D.H., 1947, Swancombe Hollow [Dig]. BEC
Belfry Bulletin 1(2)3(Mar) 40Barrington, Nicholas and Stanton, William I.,
1977. [as above]

40.              

Barrington
,
Nicholas and Stanton, William I., 1977. [as above]

41.              Henry of Huntingdon, c.I135. Historia Anglorum.

42.              Forester, Thomas [trans & ed], 1853, The
Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon, comprising the history of
England

London
: Henry G. Bohn, xxviii+442pp, illus.
[first translation in English]

43.              There are many different ways in which Cheddar
has been spelt in the past. For the purposes of this paper only one version has
been used – that used by Thomas Forester in his translation of Henry’s document
in 1853.

44.              Balch, Herbert E., 1935, Mendip – Cheddar, its
Gorge and Caves. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., Ltd. The Cathedral Press. 177pp,
illus., figs, surveys [p.23]

45.              Shaw, Trevor R., 1972. [as above] [877]

46.              Trevisa, John [Higden, Ranulph], 1480,
Policronicon … descripcion of Britayne according to the translacion of
Treuisa. [

Westminster
]
: William Caxton.

47.              Harrison, William, 1577, An Historicall
Description of the
Island of
Britayne … [in] Holinshed, Raphael, 1577, The
Chronicles of
England,
Scotlande, and Irelande …
London: John Harrison

48.              Boycott,

Antony
,
1992, Cave References in John Aubrey’s Monumenta Britannica. BCRA SHG
Newsletter (OS) (4)2-5(Aut), illus.

49.              Irwin, David J., 1992, A thought about the John
Aubrey Long Hole survey. BCRA SHG Newsletter (OS) (4)5(Aut)

50.              William of

Worcester
,
c.1478. ltinerarium sive liber rerum memorabilium.

Cambridge
MSS
Corpus Christi
College
,
no. 210. [Refer to Shaw, Trevor R., 1972 for details [see above]]

51.              Catcott, Alexander, 1761. A treatise on the
deluge …

London
:
Withers, xiii + 296pp, illus. ; Two editions and a supplement exist, 1761 and
1768. Full details of each and the Mendip cave content in Men Bib Pt II, No.
169A & B, 170.

52.              Catcott, Alexander, 1774. Diaries of tours made
in
England and

Wales
.
MSS; 11 sheaf of loose papers, various sizes bound together. 17.5 cm
[1748-1774]. Sheaf1138p, sheaf 5 44ff :

Bristol

Ref.. Library. B 6495. Strong Room IB3. A bound photocopy is available for
general inspection.

53.              Mr. Gore lived at Lower Farm, Charterhouse. His
coat of Arms may be seen above the front door.

54.              A transcript of the Blackdown description is
given in: Richards, Christopher, 1979. Early observations on the Cheddar catchment at Charterhouse. BEC Bel
BuI33(372-373)24-27(Apr/May)

55.              Anon, 1856, A Handbook for Travellers in
Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire.

London
: John Murray, 1st ed., [iii] + 235pp,
map. At least five editions of this book are known published between 1856 and
1899.

56.              Wells Journal, 12th January, 1922; page 8,
column 3.

Mendip
Caves
// Underground Stream near Compton
Martin.

57.              

University of
Bristol
Spelaeological
Society 1927, General Log IV: 19th April 1927 [p 58 – 59] and 8th May 19/27 [p
67]

58.              Jarratt, Anthony R. et ai, 1997. Five BuddIes
Sink – A lost cave rediscovered – Part 1. BEC Bel BuI50(494)37-63(Dec), map, illus.

59.              Jarratt, Anthony R. et ai, 1998. Five BuddIes
Sink – A lost cave rediscovered – Part 2. BEC Bel BuI50(500)39-45(Dec),illus., survey

60.              This is an error – should read [Nicholas] Ennor
v. Hodgkinson.

61.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937. Mendip – its swallet
caves and rock shelters. Wells: Clare, Son & Co., 211 pp, illus. figs,
surveys [p.170-171] AND
— 1948. Mendip – its swallet caves and rock shelters.

London
: Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., 2nd
ed., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, illus. [p.135-136]

62.              Irwin, David J. et ai, 1991. St. Cuthbert’s
Swallet. Priddy,
Somerset,

Bristol
Exploration Club. ii + 82pp, map,
illus., surveys, (Oct)

63.              Jones, William Arthur, 1857, On the Mendip bone
caverns. SANHS Proc 7,25-41(1856-1857); p.33

64.              Knibbs,

Antony

J., 1984, Ubley Hill Farm Rift. MCG Newsletter (174)8-9(Dec), survey
(elevation)

65.              Roberts, E.E., 1943. Legends, Dead & Alive.
Brit Cav (10)95-97

66.              Collinson, John, 1791. The history and
antiquities of the County of Somerset, collected from authentick records and an
actual survey by the late Mr. Edmund Rack … Bath: R. Cruttwell, 3 vols. :
Vol. 1 : Iii + 45 + 277pp, Vol. 2 : 507pp; Vol. 3 : 650pp; maps illus.

67.              Strachey, John, c.1736. [see above]

68.              Williams, Robert G. J., 1987. [see above]

69.              Baker, Ernest A. and Balch, Herbert E., 1907.
The Netherworld of Mendip.
Bristol: J. Baker,

Clifton
, xii + 172pp,
illus., map, index

70.              Balch, Herbert E. and Troup, Reginald D., 1909.
Report on cave research MNRC Rep (3)23¬27

71.              Cowley, Alan, 1962. Stocks Hole. MCG Jnl
(3)58-59, survey

72.              Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997.
The Bleadon and Hutton Caverns,
West Mendip
a reassessment. BCRA Speleo-history Group Jnl (l)14-23(Autumn), illus.,
surveys.

73.              Rutter, John, 1829, [as above]

74.              lrwin, David J., 1984. ‘The

Sandford
Gulf

A new look at an old problem. BEC Bel Bul 38(426)3-7(Oct)

75.              The numbering system is that adopted by the
Mendip Cave Registry to identify the four different caves each known as Hutton
Cavern! Refer to Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997. [see above]

76.              Irwin, David J. and Richards, Christopher, 1997.
[see above]

77.              Catcott, Alexander, n.d., Discription [sic] of
Loxton Cavern. MSS. c.1761. Transcribed by C.J. Harford. Photocopy presented to
Bristol Central Reference Library 1974 by Dr. H.S. Torrens, Dept. Geology,

Keele
University
.
66ff 4to, illus. MSS belonged to Bath Royal Literary and Scientific
Institution.  The location of the Catcott
original letter is unknown, presumably lost.

78.              Catcott, Alexander, 1774. [see above]

79.              H[ ], C.I., 1794, [Loxton Cavern exploration]
Gents Mag 64(1)399-400 [author is possibly C.l. Harford, a geologist]

80.              Rutter, John, 1829. [refer above], p.163

81.              [Beard, William], 1824-1865. [Manuscript Note
Books on the caves at Banwell, etc.].
Taunton:

Somerset
Record Office.
No. D/PIban/54/C1l93

82.              Page, John Lloyd Warden, 1890. An Exploration of
Exmoor.

London
:
Seeley, [ii] + xv + 318pp, map, illus., index

83.              Irwin, David J., 1997. Howell Cavern, Merridge,

Somerset
. BCRA
Speleo-history Group Jn1. (l)1-13(Autumn), surveys, illus.

84.              
Oldham, Anthony
D., 1968. The Mendip Caver. Men Cav 4(7)9pp(Oct/Nov)

 

Belfry Extension

Planning permission has been granted for the clubhouse
extension.  Ideas for fundraising are
required (not stomps)  The target is a
cool £8000 which would allow a margin for equipping with up to date utilities.

Completely Bats Beer

 

A sensible name for a beer that all Belfryites should
liked-e-mailed by pete Rose.

Can we have some more please – Ed.  (pictures of cave theme beers that is)

 

My Photographic Off Day

I hadn’t been underground for some months so rang Pete Rose
who organized a 2-man trip into

Shatter
Cave
.  The night before I started hurling flash
bulbs and guns into my camera box and checked out my nicads.  Then came my new pride and joy – a genuine
Firefly bulb flashgun and the insertion of its new battery.  Pete arrived at the appointed hour and after
a trip to Tesco’s for more batteries and a detour via Clarke’s Village in
Street for Pete’s new shoes we were heading for Bryan Prewer’s. 

Bryan

handed over the keys with detailed instructions and drawings as to how to open
and lock the gate securely.  Twenty
minutes later we were getting changed by

Fairy
Cave

quarry.  During changing (when Pete found
his usual boots were missing) various witticisms were exchanged about my light
– which I ignored even when he pointedly put a spare Petzl zoom into an old
carrier bag before leaving for the cave.

After a trek past a pond complete with bull rushes and
through the evolving wood which is now Fairy Cave Quarry we arrived at the
gated entrance which lies beneath a cliff which has been threatening to
collapse since it was last blasted 30 years ago.

This was Pete’s first visit for many years and he was
certainly savouring it.  First a bit of
comparative gynaecology was needed to persuade the cave to open its
portals.  After some fiddling with the
key the padlock’s metaphorical G spot was hit and we were able to coax the
bolts back and slide into the welcoming darkness.  The distant musical gurgle of a stream could
be heard somewhere tantalizingly below the boulders that smothered the
floor.  After a false start we entered
the First Chamber and, first mistake, dumped the spare light.  A detour was made to West Chamber beyond
Diesel Chamber for Pete to show me a potential dig (incidentally a couple of
weeks later a turn of the century ginger beer bottle was found in here
suggesting a surface connection at some time in the recent past) before we
scrambled on past Diesel Grotto into Helictite Chamber en route to Tor Hall.

As everything went dim in front of me a voice behind said
‘Well at last it made half an hour’ with an accompanying Rose-like
snigger.  I switched to pilot, cussed and
we headed into Portcullis Passage for our photo session.  The pilot got dimmer.

 

At the end of the short tunnel cameras and guns were
extracted from boxes and the serious stuff started. The new Firefly was given
to Pete and the shot set up.  The slave
refused to fire and after various fiddlings a disgusted Rose handed me a bulb
with a pink spot and we started again.  A
case of premature bulb ejaculation then turned the air blue and Pete
blind.  2 attempts later I gave up that
particular shot.  The next one was
framed.  I pressed the shutter – ‘Click’
– no flash – no nothing.  The camera
batteries had picked that moment to die. ‘Oh well’ I thought (you wouldn’t want
to read what I actually said) I’ll go onto manual. Several Rose sniggers later
and the tally was: successful shots 2, prematurely ejaculated bulbs 4, and
burnt fingers.  I gave up and let Pete
try.  He was having a good day so after a
few images had been collected by him we set off back to Tor Chamber where after
more attempts I realised my light had packed up pilot and all.

Pete wandered off into Pisa Passage while I sat grumpily in
the dark.  There was a dull thud from
Portcullis Passage – god knows what that was! Rose appeared and we left the cave, Rose snapping pics and me attempting
to do so.  Back at the first chamber Pete
dug out the Petzl- not a flicker – time for me to snigger.  We signed off and left.

We popped out of the cave no doubt scaring the living
daylights out of a group of kids mountain biking in the twilight.  I completed the day’s proceedings by falling
on the gate while Pete was locking it and succeed in bruising my thumbnail.  Rose continued to snigger in the pub but that
wasn’t the worst of it.  Three days later
I realised I hadn’t put a film in the camera!

Peter Glanvill October
1999

 

Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details
–  Contact

12/12/99                     Redcliffe
caves trip – Vince Simmonds

7/1/00                        BEC
Committee meeting

4/2/00                        BEC
Committee meeting

5/2/00                        CSCC
meeting – All at the hunters Lodge 10.30

20/2/00                      Deadline
March BB – Editor

3/3/00                        BEC
Committee meeting

7/4/00                        BEC
Committee meeting

8/4/00                        CCC
AGM – 10.30 AM Hunters Lodge

6/5/00                        CSCC
AGM – Ditto

1/1/2000                     Columns
open day OFD

14/1/00                      ISSA
meet Derbyshire – Robin Gray

31/1/00                      Deadline
Ghar Parau grants

 

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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.