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In the last belfry bulletin, we explained something of our aims to produce a “balanced “magazine – attempting to reflect something of all the various activities of the club.  In addition to this, a certain “shape” has been given to the general layout of the Belfry Bulletin which by this stage should be apparent to our readers.

Our first year of publication is getting on now, and the season of Christmas and the New Year is not very far away.  This is a good time therefore to begin to think of any changes to the contents or layout of the magazine.

Most Bristol members, as far as we can judge, seem to be reasonably satisfied on the whole, and we have had a few letters and words of advice from members further a field.  There are, however, quite a few members whose only regular link with the club is via the Belfry Bulletin and it is from these especially that we would like to hear.

A criticism which we happened to hear the other day was to the effect that ‘the B.B. didn’t let you know what was going on in the club’  We think that the speaker may have meant that there was insufficient “personal” news and wondered if this was generally felt amongst members.

If anyone has any strong feelings, we will be very pleased to listen and assure them that their suggestions will be given careful thought.


September Committee Meeting

The electrical wiring of the Belfry is now complete and we are waiting for the South Western Electricity Board to inspect the wiring and connect us up.  Progress in obtaining mains water has gone one stage further and the only hold up now is the obtaining of a suitable water meter.

There is no caving news this month as the Caving Sec. is in hospital under observation.  The Climbing Sec. reported that some members have been to the Pyrenees and Austria.  The lino in the women’s room is now almost completed and two calor stoves have recently been donated to the Belfry and are in the progress of being installed.


This month the usual space appears       

And I attempt once more to cope.
The stuff I keep between my ears
Will do the trick again – I hope!
‘Cos very soon I’ll have to strain
It’s dicey workings even thinner
To see if I can write again
Some nonsense for the Annual Dinner.

New Members.

We should like to welcome T.J. Smith, R.G. Brown and R. Francis to our ranks.

Addresses and Change of Address.

R.G. Brown (384)  91A Oxford Gardens, Kensington, London W10.
F.R. Francis (385) address as above.
Bryan Ellis’s address is now: - 3 Marlborough Avenue, Fishponds, Bristol 5.
Keith Gardner’s address is now: - 10a Royal Park, Clifton, Bristol 8.

Dave England and Scott have moved recently.  I have not got their addresses to hand at the moment.

Winter Lantern Shows.

A programme of Lantern Shows is being arranged in Redcliffe Hall during the winter months.  The first two shows are: -

October 24th.  “The North Welsh Mountains.”

November 21st.  “St. Cuthbert’s.”

Both shows are in colour.  The first will be given by Etough and the second by Don Coase.

Redcliffe Hall

The canteen appears to be working regularly again.  Members coming round to the hall recently have had no difficulty in getting coffee etc.  The canteen has been opening at about 8.


Have you any unused crockery at home????  The Belfry could do with it!!!!  Cups, plates &c would be very welcome.

Climbing News

14th September.

The climbing section held a meet at Cheddar.  Beginners were introduced to rock climbing via Wind Rock Slab, Knight’s Climb and Humerus.  The beginners showed ability, and it is expected that they will soon be climbing well.

A four wheeled transport is being hired to travel to North Wales on the weekend which includes the 12th of October.  The Oreal M.C. have offered us the use of their hut which is within easy distance of Cwm Silyn.  Enquiries should be made to: -



As you will have noticed the B.B. is now accepting advertising matter from firms selling caving and similar equipment.  Please mention, in replying to such advertisements, the fact that you saw the advert in the B.B.

Mendip Mining

…….Part III of the series by Mervyn Hannam……..


At the onset of the eighteenth century, the production of the Mendip mines was decreasing.  The Lead Reeve’s book for Chewton Minery, during the period from 1700 to 1708 showed an average return of three tons of Lead Lot per year.  This compares unfavourably with the production in the period 1600 to 1666 which averaged fourteen and a half tons per year.  Apart from small localised revivals, the industry never recovered its former prosperity and it became completely extinct in 1908.

The reasons for the start of this deterioration were mainly competition from the superior quality Peak Lead from Derbyshire, and the exhaustion of ore veins near the surface.  Working the deeper lodes required expensive draining and hauling equipment, which the miners were not prepared to finance because of their fear that the Derbyshire and foreign lead industries would overwhelm that of the Mendips.  The water drainage problems must have been serious, as some of the richest mines, at Rowpits to the North of Stock Hill, had to be abandoned because of flooding.  This suggests that many of the eighteenth century pits must have been two or three hundred feet deep despite their poor equipment.  (Some shafts well over a hundred feet deep and still, or until recently, in existence, show no signs of extensive flooding).

As the lead mines regresses, so the calamine industry at Shipman, Rowberrow and East Harptree progressed and prospered and in 1778, an arrangement was made to apply the mineral code for lead to all other metals – zinc, iron and manganese – mined on the hill.

Large quantities of zinc were sold to a Bristol brass company and Collinson writing in 1793 described Shipham as having “Up to one hundred mines (of zinc) working in the streets, the yards and some in the very houses.”  However, soon after this, even the calamine industry was to die out.

Through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century, some lead was still being mined, but another crippling blow was struck when import duty on foreign lead was reduced in 1825.  The mining privileges and customs died with the enclosing of the land in the early nineteenth century, and the position of the lead Reeves was abolished; first at Chewton and lastly at Harptree in 1834.  A Dr. Somers made a few attempts to find lead and ochre at this time, and was responsible for digging at Dolbury Adit (now sealed).  Also a Mr. Webster attempted to drive a tunnel through Sandford Hill, while somebody else put forward a plan to drive an adit from Compton Martin to Wookey Hole in an attempt to drain the mines.  This project was not even started.

With the mining industry virtually dead, Dr. Somers turned his attention to smelting the roman and medieval slags at Charterhouse.  Some of these contained up to 25% lead, and from 1824 to 1848, Dr. Somers made the re-smelting pay.  In the 1840’s he also worked on the slag at Priddy.  After Dr. Somers death in 1848, a Cornishman, Nicholas Ennor, started smelting at Priddy.  Ennor introduced mechanical budding and reverberated furnaces, and he was also responsible for building the horizontal flues – the remains of which can still be seen.  The main flue for collecting lead is eight hundred yards long.  In 1863, Hodgekinson of Wookey Hole Paper Mill brought a successful lawsuit against Ennor, restraining him from putting budding water into the swallets (Plantation and St. Cuthbert’s) and soon after this the works were taken over and further mechanised by Horatio Hornblower.  Hornblower used Blast Furnaces to melt the slag, erected a number of buildings, and built a railway from the old workings north of Stock Hill to St. Cuthbert’s.  By smelting the old slags, he produced up to one hundred and thirty tons of lead in six months.  Lead was then priced at £30 per ton.

At the same time, another Cornishman was operating a works at Charterhouse, where a Pattinson plant for silver recovery had been installed which often produced a thousand ounces of silver in a year.

In 1869, St. Cuthbert’s Works closed, through falls in the price of lead, but in 1879 work restarted and continued under various ownerships until 1902.  A new firm, The New Chaffers Extended Mining Company was then formed to produce metal and send dressed ore for smelting in Bristol.  Production of dresses material increased to over nine hundred tons in 1906 but then declined, and the works finally closed in 1908.  This was the last smelting activity to finish on Mendip, the Charterhouse and East Harptree works having closed in the 1870’s.

The existing mineries pools were the budding reservoirs for Chewton and Priddy Minery at this period, while the majority of the black slag to be seen was re-smelted between 1850 and 1908 and now contains less than 1% lead.

The import of lead from rich deposits abroad coupled with the scarcity of remaining deposits on Mendip forbids the possibility of any further mining activity on the hill.

Caving in S.W. Wales

by Roger Stenner

A geological map shows large areas of carboniferous limestone in South West Wales, but ‘British Caving’ has little to say about the district.  On paper it looks just as interesting as the Gower area and I wondered if it had been neglected by cavers.

Early in April I was able to spend a week in Tenby where I met the curator of the Tenby Museum, an octogenarian who is still the authority on the geology, archaeology and history of the district.  In his younger days he visited Mendip as a guest of Mr. Balch, but his interest in caving was chiefly of an archaeological nature.  He told me that he knew of nobody else in the district interested in caving and he knew of no cavers making a thorough examination of the district.  He told me of several swallets he knew, and a bus journey showed me several others I did not have time to look at.

A wide strip of carboniferous limestone runs from Tenby to Pembroke, the height above sea level being only about a hundred feet.  To the north of this is an Old Red Sandstone ridge about three hundred feet high.  Drainage from this sinks into the limestone in a long line of swallets to the north of the road from Manorbier Station to Manorbier Newton, the most important swallet being about three quarters of a mile from the station, at 21/058997.  The swallet is muddy and looks as if explosives might be needed.

Much more interesting is a swallet near Pendine in Carmarthenshire about one mile North West of Pendine at 22/220092 where a stream flowing down the valley enters a limestone cave.  It is just to the north of the road not far from Greenbridge Inn.  (See sketch map on next page – Ed.)

The entrance is about five feet high and twenty feet wide, after about sixty feet the roof rises to twenty feet high and this chamber extends for about a hundred feet.  A chamber to the right rises to a boulder choke near the surface.  At the end, a chamber to the right rises to a boulder choke near the surface.  At the end, the stream flows through a passage about three feet high and ten feet wide.  When Mr. Leach had seen the swallet in 1921, and entered barefoot carrying a candle, this was a sump.  He could tell me of nobody else who had entered the cave before or since.

Beyond this point there’s no trace of previous exploration even in parts unaffected by flooding.  Even in the entrance chamber we did not notice the engraved initials that might be expected in an open cave.

The stream passage beyond was followed for two hundred feet the roof often dipping very low.  A short way along, a scramble up a mud bank lead to a chamber, one half containing some well formed stalagmites, the other containing a cluster of helictites but everything is covered in mud.  In the stream pieces of rotting wood, bottles and tins were found sticking out of the mud, some times at heights of ten feet above the stream, so the cave is obviously subject to flooding in wet weather.  Only where the rock is washed by water is there an absence mud. Lack of time ended the exploration just before another long flat out crawl in the stream. The stream seems to bend into the hill to the west, and the gradient is shallow, so there must be two hundred feet of height between the stream and the resurgence.

If anyone has any further information about this swallet, of if further exploration is done in this district, both Mr. Leach and myself would be very interested to hear of it.


Caving Comment

By Jack Waddon

 “The absence of rain in any quantity earlier this year together with an increased activity on the part of Bristol Water Board pumping stations, led to a drastic change in the character of Swildons Hole.  On the 6th July there was scarcely a trickle of water entering the cave and the wet way was bone dry – almost to the point of being in danger of becoming dusty!  At the junction of the bottom of the wet way with the main route from the Old Grotto there was a thick patch of fog, enough to impair visibility.  Whether this was caused by currents of air at different temperatures meeting or the result of large number of bods in the cave, is a debatable point.  The familiar roar of the forty foot waterfall was absent, the pool at the bottom of the pitch being fed by the smallest of trickles.  The unpleasant stagnant pools in the St. Paul’s Series had reduced only a little in extent, but joy of joys, the mud sump leading to Paradise Regained was completely dry!

While a dry cave trip is not an unpleasant experience, I hope that the lack of water in Swildons will not long continue.  There are certain caves on Mendip that no-one would be sorry to see dry up, but Swildons without water is like a pewter pot without beer – interesting but not very satisfying!”

The Missing Addresses!!

These have turned up (see page 2) just in time to be squeezed in: -

R.A. Setterington is now at 4 Galminton Lane, Taunton, Somerset.
Dave England is now at 114 West St., Bedminster, Bristol.




13/-  each complete







13/- EACH



4/9 EACH





PHONE 3331   (3 LINES)

Editorial Board.

Dave England has recently joined the board in place of Alan Sandall who will be shortly going into the Merchant service.  The board now consists of : -

A. Collins; C. Rees; B. Price and D. England to whom any queries about the B.B. should be made.

Belfry Bulletin No. 117.  Editor S.J. Collins.  Secretary R.J. Bagshaw.


In the Belfry Bulletin for July, the extensive efforts which is being made in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet by club members was commented on, and recent numbers of the Belfry Bulletin have reflected this work by the large amount of Cuthbert’s news published.

Last month, even greater efforts have resulted in enough news form Cuthbert’s alone to fill an ordinary size B.B. and so for September we are presenting a twelve page B.B. (twice the ‘official; size) nearly all of which is taken up by the month’s report on Cuthbert’s.

Since the exploration work described by this report is very recent, we decided not to keep any of it back so that cavers could be informed of the latest discoveries.  Because of this, we must apologise both to those whose articles will thus have to be put back a month and also to those members whose interests are not predominantly of a caving nature – our archaeologists, climbers and the like.

Naturally, as the journal of a caving club, the B.B. should contain a high proportion of space devoted to the club’s caving activities but in doing this, a balance must be maintained to include other  types of articles.

This normally restricts the average monthly quota of space available in the B.B. – an arrangement which has been set aside this month to enable the whole of the Cuthbert’s report to be included.

If this effort and its associated reporting continues – and we are sure that all cavers hope that it will – we shall be in the happy position of having more caving to report than the facilities of the Belfry Bulletin can handle.  The solution, in our opinion, is to publish the ‘highlights’ of new work in the B.B. and the full details from time to time in Caving Reports.


August Committee Meeting

In addition to the usual items being dealt with by the committee, the renovation of the club projector and slides and the organizing of winter lantern talks was discussed.  The redecoration of the Belfry continuous, together with the other projects being dealt with by the committee.

New Members.

We should like to welcome Steve Tuck, George Honey, Alan Nash, Pete Miller and Daphne Clague  - all of whom have recently been elected to membership of the club.


We hear that Dave England and Janet, also Keith Gardner and Ann are getting married in the 7th of September.  We should like to wish them every happiness for the future.

We also hear that “Pongo” Wallis is now a proud father and offer our congratulations.

Mervyn Hannam and Sago are next on the matrimonial list we understand.

Tom and “Rusty” Neil are now back from Canada and are hoping to settle on Mendip.

John Lamb, Tony Rich and “Neddy” are now over in Canada.

“Prew” is now back from Malaya and on Mendip again.

Annual Dinner.

The time is coming round when the committee have to book up for the Annual dinner.  They have not yet decided on the place, for the Annual Dinner.  They have not yet decided on the place, the price, or any of the arrangements.  NOW is the time to tell committee members of YOUR preferences.  Do you want the dinner in Bristol or on Mendip?  What do you want to do after dinner?  It will be no use grumbling next January.  NOW is the time to act!

Members Addresses

Some of these will be found on page 9.  A complete list of member’s names and addresses will be published in the Christmas number which will be out on December 5th, in plenty of time for addressing Christmas Cards.

Special Notice.

Owing to a change in the printing staff, readers will find pages three to five of this issue rather faint.  We apologise.  This is due to technical reasons which we hope will be soon under control.  Because of the reprinting of pages one, two and four, the B.B. will be out one week late this month.  Again, our apologies to all readers.

Caving Report

July – August 1957.

Once again a very active and profitable month’s caving in St. Cuthbert’s.  Seven trips to date.  The main work has been in the Rabbit Warren Extension (to help follow the reports, a rough sketch map of this section of the cave is inclined on page 4) and in fixing up a traverse wire to bypass the Stalagmite Pitch, just below the Dining Room.  In addition, the new section of the cave, beyond what was the sump, was investigated with disappointing results.  The climax of the month was probably the findings of the six inch long horizontal helictite in Erratic Chamber.

Members are probably wondering why so little is reported of other caving apart from Cuthbert’s.  People apparently do go down other holes, but unless they write them up in the Club Log – or even report it to the Caving Sec. – no mention can be made in the monthly report in the B.B.

A volunteer is required to lead a full Stoke Lane, as a number of members would like to visit it.  A full report is also required.  How about you Roy?

D.A. Coase.

St. Cuthbert’s

Sunday, 21st July.

A party descended to the Rabbit warren and continued to remove boulders from the partially choked passage at the top of Continuation Chamber.  After an initial enthusiastic outburst, Chris Falshaw sustained injuries to a finger and retired from the fray.  The rest, accompanied by shouts of “ON man, on!” from Jean Campbell and Chris, fell to manfully and removed a fair amount of debris.  The passage has now been opened for four feet and from the general trend it seems that it may possibly join up with the T Junction Passage.  It has therefore been decided tom leave the dig along until a centre line survey has been done.  Since digging operations were started a small trickle of water has appeared in the dig.  However, no corresponding trickle can be found in the T Junction Passage.

Kangy and Chris investigated a loose passage above the entrance to the Continuation Chamber.  Some obstructing scenery was removed, but the passage tightened after a five foot drop.  This passage is vertically above the point where the smallest stream enters Continuation Chamber.  Following the recent rain the main stream in this part of the cave has risen amazingly during the preceding week.  A sump existed where before had been the merest trickle.  On the way out, running water could be heard in Chain Chamber.

C.F. Falshaw.

Saturday, July 27th.
Rabbit Warren and Extension

During a four hour trip, Coase, Etough, Falshaw and King tidied up some further loose ends in the Rabbit Warren Extension proper, which commences at the flat out crawl on a damp stalagmite floor immediately before the point where one squeezes past a shelf of stalagmite a foot wide and two feet above the floor, a small crawl was noticed at floor level.  This went straight along the strike for twenty five feet, being relatively roomy after the initial squeeze, then turned down dip and was choked with sand and gravel.  A possible dig through it leads to the region of Plantation junction.

The Rabbit Warren Extension, through the stalagmite crawl, follows a descending passage past some nice gours with raised rims one inch high.  Then a tight squeeze leads to Chain Chamber.  This small chamber is interesting as it is formed by the intersection of two small passages.  The low level passage by which the chamber is entered and its continuation straight ahead goes until the roof dips steeply and is choked by the stal. floor.  At this point the sound of running water has been heard, probably the so called Plantation Stream.  The stal. is somewhat eroded and should yield to work with a sledgehammer and crowbar.  A worthwhile point of attack which should help to clear up the mystery of the Plantation Stream.  The other passage is on a high level, at right angles to the entrance passage.  The right hand section is known as Helictite Passage, and to the left the continuation leads to the far reaches of the Rabbit Warren Extension.

Helictite Passage has, at the beginning of the right wall, a fine display of threadlike erratics, a larger one of which resembles Cinderella’s glass slipper stuck by the toe to the wall.  Beyond this, the passage descends steeply and there are three dry gour barriers, spanning the passage.  The first is nearly six feet high.  The route is somewhat lower under the gour rim by a hands and knees crawl into the Soapflake Pool where the passage breaks into a fifteen feet high rift with quite an amount of stal. flow.  The ‘soapflakes’ are in fact a film of calcite forming on the surface of the pool, then sinking under its own weight to the bottom when another film forms and so on ad infinitum.  At the beginning of the pool the flakes are several inches deep.  Looking closely at the surface of the pool with a light reflected at grazing incidence, new flakes can be seen forming.

Coase has a theory the ‘soapflakes’ only form when there is a strong draught, producing rapid evaporation, so a close look was made at the far end, where it was noted that the rift did not end after ten feet.  The apparent end is formed by a big mass of stalagmite almost sealing the rift, but a 42” wide hole admitted the expected draught through which it was possible to see the pool and rift continuing for at least another fifteen feet, until it curved out of sight.  The only way of getting beyond might be at times of drought, when it is possible the pool, eighteen inches deep at this point, may dry up and there may be a chance of squeezing under the stal. mass which does not appear to completely reach the bottom of the pool.  Again it is possible that the Plantation Stream causes the draught.

The upstream continuation of Helictite Passage is reached by climbing up a steep ten foot stal. bank from the Chain Chamber, the climbing being assisted by a short length of chain as a hand hold.  On the left is a nice group of stalactites, the finest of which was two feet long and had erratic growing out of it.  Unfortunately is was broken recently by careless members of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.  A short distance up this passage on the left is a very fine white stal. flow with a glimpse past a lovely white curtain to a crystal pool.  Again some careless individual has planted a very muddy handprint right in the middle of the flow.  Further along the passage on the right is a low undercut arch with a small muddy pool in it.  Rather surprisingly (should one be surprised at anything in a cave) this leads into a fifteen foot high narrow chimney with a foot wide rift leading off at the top parallel to the main passage and separate from it by only two feet of rock.  Kangy, supported by Etough, forced this for some forty to fifty feet gradually climbing until the rift split in two and became too narrow.

Proceeding up the main passage for thirty to forty feet, a climb up a passage to the left leads to the high irregular Octopus Chamber.  To the right of the entrance a gravel choked passage would be another point of attack if anyone has any surplus energy.  This is now called Dig II.  It was here that one of the Sandhurst people climbed up into the roof and couldn’t get down again.


Continuing up the main passage one is soon confronted by an evil squeeze – the Vice - - where it is necessary to climb up eight feet into a narrow rift, squeeze sideways into a V-shaped opening and drop down the other side.  Beyond the vice is a flat out area on stal. which is liberally supplied with a film of water.  The roof gradually rises and it is possible to stand up again.  On the left is a small passage partially choked (Dig!!).  Not far beyond this point, T-Junction is reached.  From the passage on the right running water can be heard.  At the junction, the floor is covered in an imposing array of small gours unfortunately thinly coated with mud but fortunately protected by a low roof over them.

Following up the dip past a very nice stal. flow, pure white and six feet high, T-Junction passage finally finishes in a confused series of high rifts, all choked with gravel.  Before any digging is done here it will pay to complete the survey of this part of the cave as Coase has the idea that this section may be the other side of the choke at the end of the Railway Tunnel.

Turning right at T-Junction, and following the sound of running water, after thirty feet and awkward six foot drop, leads into Continuation Chamber, with the stream flowing through it.  This chamber is so named as it is believed that the stream is the upstream continuation of the presumed Plantation Stream.  Under the drop leading in, which is due to the undermining of a stal. flow, is a small tributary stream coming in through eroded stal. and small rocks.  The chamber slopes down to the right, where the walls and roof close in and the stream goes flowing off in a low bedding plane passage.  The stream has been followed down for some distance but the passage has not been forced as far as possible.  Upstream, beyond where the chamber is almost divided into two, the stream rises in a small pool from under the rock wall.  Coase thought this was the main Plantation Stream, but Falshaw and King state that the pool was dry several weeks ago, at the same time that the Plantation Stream was still running strongly, and that they got down some three feet until the way on was a narrow rift only six inches wide.  To the left and beyond the rising the chamber ends in a rough semi-circular shape with several passages much too small to get into.  At one point only is a possible passage, blocked with stones and stal.  This is the point that Falshaw and King have been digging, but it looks like hard work.

D.A. Coase

Sunday.  July 28th.

Coase, Falshaw and King again descended the cave, together with Daphne Clague, Roger Stenner and Pete Miller.  A 7 hour trip this time.

Dining Room.

On the previous day, still having some surplus energy, the cement Rich had carried down some months previously with a view to building a dam before the sump and since stored in the emergency food tin – much to the detriment of the emergency food, was found to be still in good condition, so it was made into concrete and used to form a level top to the Dining Room table.  Daphne was now persuaded to use her skill as a sculptress and carved the club initials and date on the font edge.  We now require someone with the necessary skill to line the lettering with, it is suggested, gold leaf.

Stalagmite Pitch Traverse.

For some time Coase has been toying with the idea of making a traverse across the stal. bank at the head of the Stalagmite Pitch to a point where it is possible to climb down to the stream twenty feet below and thus avoid the ladder pitch itself.  The problem was a lack of handholds and the unpleasant exposure as the bank steepened and dropped over the pitch.  So a rawlbolt was fitted to the top and a combination of wire rope and chain hung from it.  This made it possible, by keeping close to the wall, to reach a small ‘annex’ and then drop down the slope to the opposite wall from which point it is an easy climb leads to the bottom of the pitch.  Work still has to be done to complete the traverse.  An additional bolt is needed to secure the middle of the wire and handgrips need fixing on the wire itself, but even in this incomplete state, it proved its worth later on returning from the sump, as it avoids the climbing up and down the Rabbit Warren.  There is only one snag, the route to this traverse opens up – the Sewer – or rather the mud in the Sewer.  A start was made to clear some of this out of the beaten path and a shovel has been left there.  If each person who passes shovels a bit of mud away, it will soon be clear, and an obvious place exists for dumping the mud removed.

Plantation Junction.

It was noticed on this trip that the smooth stal. slope down which one slides when climbing from the Rabbit Warren had a six inch diameter hole in it.  Investigation showed that most of this slope is just a thin crust with a six inch gap underneath, with some of the water from the rising flowing through it.  Falshaw received quite a shock when breaking some of this crust away as the section on which he was kneeling collapsed and deposited him in the water.

D.A. Coase.

Bank Holiday Saturday, 3rd August 1957

Tony Crawford, Chris Falshaw, Bob Knott and Steve Tuck investigated several of the old digs noted on the previous weekend.

Rabbit Warren Extension.

Dig. I.  In the Chain Chamber, a hole was made in the stal. floor and a very tight waterlogged passage can be seen to continue a few feet.  A more extended effort will be needed at this point.

Dig. II.  Octopus Chamber.  The large loosely chocked passage on the right of the chamber was excavated. After an awkward right hand bend, an ascending and descending passage was entered also partly choked with gravel deposits.  These still require clearing.

Dig. III.  This is beyond the Vice and is a small tributary passage.  This was cleared of mud, stones etc. and was duly entered.  On returning it was promptly named the Sausage Machine as cavers emerged from it carefully extruded in a smooth skin of mud.  Beyond, and awkward ascending passage was entered and, after several loosely cemented stones were removed, followed for twelve feet.  At this point, a large flake of rock projects from the right-hand wall and prevents further progress.  The passage continues however and a black void can be noticed.  This passage looks quite promising.

C.P. Falshaw.

Bank Holiday Sunday, 4th August 1957.

Coase, Falshaw, Jack Browne, Cecil Thompson and two friends of his put in a six to seven hour trip.

Stalagmite Pitch Traverse.

Handholds were fitted to the wire and a bolt cemented in the slope to fix the middle of the wire.  It was impossible to use a rawlbolt here as the stal. was too soft.

Rabbit Warren.

During similar explorations, a passage was entered in the Rabbit Warren that leads to a point in the roof over Plantation Junction.  Not being sure where the start if this passage was located, recourse had to be made to entering it from the Plantation end to find the beginning.  To get into it, it is necessary to climb up onto a wide shelf between the plantation and the main streams.  The climb is made from the plantation side and is difficult until one thinks of using the opposite wall for a pressure hold.  The entrance to Struggle Passage, as it is now known is cunningly hid round the corner of the shelf.  Incidentally, another passage can be seen higher in the roof which has yet to be entered.  Struggle Passage is itself quite straight and roomy rising all the way.  Apart from a cross section giving no level floor and which is singularly free from holds.  It is just nicely coated with damp clay.  The reason for the name will probably be obvious.  A narrow slot in the floor at one point leads back down to the Plantation Junction but is too narrow. After struggling for another twenty feet, the passage enters a small chamber via a hole in the stal. floor.  Straight ahead, the passage is now of a respectable cross section, having a level floor and an arched roof.

After a further twenty feet, a passage appears on the left.  Straight ahead, a narrow squeeze over a dried up gour pool leads to a very small passage that doubles back to a higher level and a glimpse can be had into Erratic chamber but it is too tight to enter.  This small chamber was located from the far side by means of a thick fug of tobacco smoke blown through it from Struggle Passage side, where quite a strong draught was noted.  Returning for the moment to the descending passage, after ten feet, a four foot drop leads into a short passage straight ahead that connects within the main route through the Rabbit Warren.  Also from the drop where there are some thread-like erratics, another passage, a crawl this time, loops to look into the main route again from a window six feet up in the wall.  Keeping right through the Rabbit Warren, and entering the passage leading to Rabbit Warren Extension, the second entrance to Erratic Chamber is straight ahead, where a stal. flow can be seen.  To the right, an impassable slot looks into the dried up gour pool.  Erratic Chamber cannot at present be entered from here as there is not quite enough room but it is hoped to be able to open out this spot to make the chamber reasonably accessible.  The reason for this is that, when approaching the chamber from the Struggle Passage side, there is an exceedingly fine erratic just by the entrance.  Any attempt to enter from this side is almost certain to break this erratic, hence the need to open up the second entrance.  Until this is done, no attempt should be made to enter the chamber.  A further point is that it is impossible to photograph, or even to study the formation from the struggle Passage side.

The erratic itself is nearly horizontal and measures something in the order of six inches or possibly more.  A sketch from memory approximately full size is shown below: -

There is a smaller one several inches long in the roof at the junction of Struggle Passage and the ascending passage.  It looked as if there was one or two more similar helictites at the far end of Erratic Chamber, but the writer’s lamp was getting dim and he could not swear to this.  It would appear that the form of the erratic drawn is due to the draught blowing into the chamber but further work is needed to check whether this hypothesis is correct.  Everyone will agree however on the need to protect such a unique formation as much as possible.

D.A. Coase.

5th August 1957.

A party descended to the sump on a semi-tourist trip.  A bolt was cemented on the climb up from Beehive Chamber to Gour Hall.  The party then adjourned to the Rabbit Warren where further abortive attempts were made to pass the construction in the Sausage Machine Passage.  The way out was via the Railway Tunnel and Harem Passage.

C.P Falshaw.

7th August 1957.

Kangy and Chris ascended to the Rabbit Warren and did some more work on Digs II and II.  The psychological squeeze in the Sausage Machine was passed after some strenuous gardening by Kangy.  Further boulders were then removed and progress continued for another body length.  This passage ascends steeply and now seems less promising than it did on first sight.  More gravel was then removed from the ‘Hundred Foot a Day’ Passage in Octopus Chamber.  Good progress should be possible at this point.

C.P. Falshaw.


This month, I haven’t got the time
To polish up a little rhyme.
I didn’t think there’d be a place
Where I could find an empty space
But just to fill this corner gash
I’m writing down this verbal hash
To stop a blank appearing in
September’s Belfry Bulletin.

Stereo Photography

…………………Continued from last month’s Belfry Bulletin.

As has already been mentioned, the eyes are normally two and a half inches apart, and for normal scenes the separation between the two exposures should also be two and a half inches.  Few cave subjects, however, come close to within this category, and as a general rule a separation less than normal will give better results.  This separation should preferably be graded until, with very close up subjects at say one foot, a separation of only half an inch is sufficient.  Too great a separation will lend unreality to they finished picture, as well as making it very difficult to view by reason of markedly different viewpoints, particularly when photographing close-ups (which often make the most effective stereos) attention should be given to ensure that objects at the edge of the frame are not missing in one of the two pictures, as this again gives a rather peculiar effect in the finished result.  It is also advisable to ‘toe in’ the camera so that the main subject lies on the axis of the lens in each exposure.  This helps in ensuring that the same objects are included in each exposure.

Viewing the Stereograms.

The Stereo pictures can be viewed in a variety of ways, depending on the nature of the picture.

Pairs of prints are best placed in a proper viewer, which may consist of a pair of lenses such as will probably be familiar to most people, as sets of stereo pictures and viewers, dating from Victorian times are still quite common.  The size of the pictures with this type of viewer cannot normally be more than two and a half inches as otherwise the eyes have to point outward while viewing and this is rather uncomfortable.  Mirror type viewers can be obtained however and with these any size prints can be used.  One advantage of using prints is that the views of the two pictures can be made identical by suitable masking during the printing, and in this way faults in the negative can be corrected.  I have, in fact, met one photographer who took his stereo pictures with two cameras, having different focal lenses and adjusted the size of the image during printing.  This is rather tedious but works at a pinch.

For colour transparencies, stereo viewers using magnifying lenses can be obtained.  Some of these have built-in illumination while others must be held up to the light.  Alternatively, a pair of the simple single transparency viewers are available quite cheaply from a number of manufacturers will serve almost as well.

With a little practice, it is possible to train the eyes to see stereo pairs without any viewer.  This is fairly satisfactory for prints, but with 35mm transparencies, the image is rather too small for the result to be worth while when viewed in this way.

Finally, transparencies can be projected onto a screen using either one of the special stereo projectors (priced at about the £100 mark!)  or a pair of ordinary projectors such as the Aldis or any of the numerous makes now available.  It is advisable that the projector lamps should be powerful, as the polariod filters which must be used absorb at least half the light, and a low power lamp limits the picture size if adequate brightness is to be obtained.

R.M. Wallis.

Stop Press.

We have just received the following from “Pongo” (see also the general news on page 1).

On 12th August, 1957 to Francis and Pongo Wallis, a caver, weight 7 lbs 8 oz (Henry Peter)

To those with tight squeezes to explore in their new explorations, we are prepared to hire him out at an exorbitant fee but please wait a little until he gets in some caving practice.


New member’s addresses and changes of address.

As from 9th August, 1957.

Mr & Mrs John Hampton,
Lulworth Cottage,
Church Lane,
East Keswick,

S.J.D. Tuck (382) 63 Westbury Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.

Miss D.A. Clague (381) 38 Paulton Road, Victoria Park, Bristol 3.

G.B. Guest Days.

September 14-15

September 21-22

September 28-29

October 5-6

October 19-20

October 26-27

November 2-3









November 9-10

November 16-17

November 30

December 7-8

December 14-15

December 21-22

December 28-29










This month the Belfry Bulletin contains ten pages mainly concerned with news of further discoveries and exploration work on Mendip.  The article by Don Coase on the recent work in Cuthbert’s, including the forcing of the final sump, illustrates the hard work which is being put into Cuthbert’s by active cavers of the club and which is resulting in a steady and continuous increase in the known extent of this large and complex system.  Some idea of the present size of the cave may be gauged from the fact – I stand open to correction if I am wrong! – that no member of the club has visited every known part of the cave.

It may well be that Cuthbert’s is now second only to Swildons in total passage length on Mendip; and from Swildons we hear rumours of the exploration of a new section of stream passage beyond the second sump entered, I believe, by blasting from Blue Pencil Passage by Dennis Kemp & Co..

Called in over Whitsun to investigate a subsidence in a field near the “Hunter”, members of the club sunk a shaft three feet square and eight feet deep in less than three hours on Whit-Monday and reached airspace.  From this point, it will not be easy to enter whatever system there may be (if any!) but we may console ourselves with the thought that if it was our club who were called in and that we carried out the initial investigation so promptly.

All the exploration referred to above occurred over the Whitsun week and as “the exploration club”, we have seem to be living up to our name.  There is still bags of work to be done in all the club holes – and since we have holes to suit all tastes, there are opportunities for all members to take part in exploration work.


June Committee Meeting

Preliminary arrangements concerning the new hut, mains water and electricity are still going on.  The water supply has been found to be contaminated (a notice appears about this elsewhere).  Transport for the blackboard is being arranged.  Re-decoration of the Belfry is proceeding.  Twenty feet of new ladder has been made.

New Members.

We welcome David Collins to our ranks.  Address will follow.

Belfry Water

We have received the following letter from Kangy: -

The water has recently (20.6.57) been examined by the City of Bristol analyst.  The conclusions are: -

 “To make this water safe, filter it, boil it, then throw it away and drink beer.”

According to his report, there is an unacceptable quantity of the sort of bug which causes stomach trouble and another unpleasant sort which originates in animal manure.  He enlarged on his report and stated that the water would be all right if used to wash dishes or, say, boil potatoes.  That is, the bugs are destroyed by boiling the water which thus has limited use at present.

An effort is being made to trace the source of the contamination meanwhile the water should be either boiled of fetched from the tap which is directly opposite the first telegraph pole between the Beeches and “Greystones” on the road to the Hunters.


For those who prefer their notices in rhyme, we have…………..

“There’s a pool of dirty water to the South of Lady Well
and a stream that brings the mucky stuff along
with its ‘orrid bugs and germs, and its little wriggly worms
the water comes out curiously strong.
Now its quite all right to boil a few potatoes
Or even washing dishes after stew
But to save you feeling queer, if you’re thirsty – STICK TO BEER
‘cos our drinking water isn’t good for you!…..

Sackcloth and Ashes Department.

Our most abject apologies for having completely forgotten to remind readers of the excellent lantern show given at Redcliffe Hall by Richard Kenny on the subject of his recent work on the Falkland Islands Dependency Survey.  This was a really interesting show and we are very sorry to have been the cause for some members having missed it.

St Cuthbert’s Report

The last month has been an extremely active one, seeing the completion of the engineering work on the Maypole Series pitches; the discovery of a new way into Long Chamber in the Coral Series; the discovery of a small chamber nearby; climbing High Chamber to a height of a hundred feet and last but not least, the passing of the terminal sump.  In all, four trips have been made since the last report, on Whitsunday 20 people being in the cave at the same time on a trip lasting 8 to 10 hours.  Luckily, however, not all being in the same part of the cave.


Whitsunday, 9th June.  A strong party under Tony Rich took down the remaining section of steel ladder, and after assembly, erected the 20’ on the last maypole pitch and chained back to the existing rawlbolt.  The second pitch has a rawlbolt fixed to the top and after removing the overhanging boulders at the head of the pitch (which neatly filled up the two pools below) a chain was hung down the droop which is not quite vertical.

Saturday, 15th June.  Tony Rich, with Chris Falshaw, Norman Petty and two others added some bolts and handholds to the chain on the second pitch which makes the climb easier, but, I gather still strenuous.  The third pitch was ascended using the maypole and a rawlbolt fitted at the top.  This sounds easy -  a half a dozen words on paper – but it is rather different in practice as a 15/16” diameter hole, 3” deep has to be made in the rock and requires about an hour’s work hammering away at a stardrill.  The rawlbolt is then inserted and tightened up and there it is  - a rawlbolt fitted!  A length of chain with a large ring in the end was fitted to the bolt and a nylon rope has been left doubled through the ring.  So for future visits it is only necessary to take a 15’ ladder and having attached it to one end on the nylon, pull the ladder up the pitch.

The rest of the Maypole Series was fairly well explored, without discovering anything of note.  One promising hole just above the third pitch ending after 10’ in a nasty looking loose aven.


Whitsunday, 9th June.  Last Whitsun, Paul Birt was inveigled by Don Coase, into climbing the chimney on the right of High Chamber.  He went up about fifty feet but as neither Norman Petty nor Don Coase would follow – it looked rather dicey from below – he had to stop.  This Whitsun, he came to Mendip to try to get higher, armed with pitons, and a hundred and fifty foot nylon climbing rope.

Supported by Geoff Thompson, Kangy King and Alan Bonner the chimney was climbed for fifty feet to a knife edged Arête – Paul’s previous limit, then, having traversed the Arête (a painful proceeding by all accounts)  a large stalagmite flow reported to be worth seeing was climbed for 40’ until the holds ran out.  A possible way on was to one side but the maypole would be needed to reach it.  The party retired in good order.  Comment was, ‘A very enjoyable climb’ (for those that enjoy such antics! – D.A.C.)


Tuesday, June 11th.  Having spent Whitsun paperhanging, Roy Bennett decided he wanted some relaxation, so, the R.A.F. having nothing for him to do, he went down Cuthbert’s with a colleague from Yatesbury and found another route into long Chamber, Coral Series.  This gives an alternative to the climb up through the very ‘dicey’ boulder pile previously used, but the words ‘loose boulders’ have been heard in connection with this new way, and knowing Bennett, it is probably as loose, if not worse than the original route!  They also discovered a further small chamber – ‘Hidden chamber’ – which contains some worthwhile formations.

Being a glutton for punishment, Roy Bennett took a party from R.A.F. Locking Caving Club for a trip on the next Thursday – the Queen’s official birthday – 5 were in the party in addition to Roy.  This time no further discoveries were made.


On a previous trip, John Buxton, with a misplaced sense of humour, got very wet in the sump probing around and after some dredging with an empty paint tin some of the gravel and mud out of the bottom of the pool, said that he could get his feet up into a small air space a couple of feet beyond the right wall of the sump.  A certain amount of hammering removed some of the obstructing rock, but lack of a suitable crowbar slowed progress.

On Whitsunday, the assault was renewed, two useful crowbars being carried down and Buxton and Coase both had the same idea and brought along a diving dress.  Assisted by a large support party, including three members of the fair sex (shows how much of a tourist cave it’s getting! – D.A.C.).  An hour and a half’s work dredging the bottom of the sump produced a sizeable hole big enough to get through.  The roof was knocked about a bit as well, but although a way was chiselled to within inches of the air surface the other side, the remainder of the rock was not possible to remove without a lot of labour.

The air space beyond was quite sizeable enough to get ones head above water so Buxton and Coase had a polite chat persuading each other that he should go first.  Coase eventually won on the basis that he had been first through Stoke Lane and therefore Buxton could have the honour? of Cuthbert’s sump.

Not having a suitable reply, Buxton took a deep breath and disappeared.  Within thirty seconds he returned, reported that it looked as if there was a way on and what was Coase waiting for?  So back Buxton went followed by Coase and then started what must have been a worrying vigil for the support party, for it was not for a quarter of an hour that the two returned and called for a crowbar, sledge and shovel.  A further three quarters of an hour passed before they finally returned, having lowered the water level three inches and making the sump into a duck as there is now three inches of air space – just enough to go through on ones back with nose and mouth above water.

At the far side of the sump a small passage half full of water goes off at 45o to the right for 8 feet with either a tight squeeze over a stal. bank or an easier duck in the stream.  After this there is room to stand.  Above the stal. bank is a narrow chimney which requires investigation.   Down stream the passage swings to the left, and a short hands and knees crawl is followed by a flat out crawl three feet long under a low arch with the stream spread out over gravel.  Then once again room to stand up.  The passage turns through a right angle to the left and at the bend a narrow but high inlet passage enters five feet above the stream on the right.  This passage enters five feet above the stream on the right.  This also requires investigation, but does not look very promising.  It was above this stretch of stream passage that the pebble floor, cemented together with a sort of tufaceous calcite formation, was damming the stream and causing the sump.  Half an hour’s work in clearing a channel resulted in the lowering of the water level in the sump referred to earlier.  Further work would lower the level a little more, but not to any appreciable extent, as the stream gradient is very slight.  A pickaxe would be the best weapon to employ if anyone is energetic enough to carry out this work.


From the bend, the passage runs reasonably straight four to six feet wide and six feet high with occasional chert bands projecting out of the mud coated walls.  Above this passage is a long narrow rift, twenty feet high at least which still has to be looked at.  At the end of this rift and passage, a fair trickle descends the rift and flows over some rather dirty stal. curtains before dropping into the stream.  At this point the passage widens into almost a small chamber ten feet wide and gravel floor, with the stream meandering in a small channel until it flows into a further sump on the right where the wall slopes smoothly down at an angle of 45o.  The sump itself is about four to five feet wide and a small pool leads into a passage one foot high sloping down at the same angle for at least a depth of four feet.  Not very promising although it may be possible for the gravel floor to be dug out to give room for a diver to investigate further.  The sketch gives a rough outline of this new section of cave, estimated at two hundred feet.  It now wants some keen types who don’t mind getting wet to look at the places still to be investigated although none of them look very hopeful.

In all a very successful month’s caving in Cuthbert’s or rather a week’s, as from Whitsunday to the following Saturday 4 trips were run with a total of 34 people entering the cave.  If this popularity persists, consideration will have to be given to installing traffic lights between the entrance and the bottom of the entrance pitch and at either end of the wire rift.

D.A. Coase.

Mendip Mining

…….Part II of a series of three articles…………….

by Mervyn Hannam.


Towards the end of the Roman occupation, mining activity on Mendip declined, and during the seven hundred years immediately following there is no evidence of British or Saxon mining.  Gough suggests that lead was still worked to some extent to provide roofs for churches.  However, very few remains of this period have been revealed.  Possibly the Derbyshire Peak was a more important centre for lead.  (It would be interesting to hear of any Saxon or early English finds known to our friends in this district).

Collinson, in his “History of Somerset” quotes some Domesday book records of the sizes and wealth of MANORS, of what later became important mining centres, but these Norman records give no hint of a lead mining industry.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, mining and mineral rights were granted to the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Not the present Bishop – Ed.) and to the Prior of Witham to enable them to work lead on Mendip.  From this time onwards, numerous records of the lead industry are known.

The mining areas, during the period thirteen hundred to seventeen hundred, were governed by four “Lords Royal” – the Lord of Chewton Mendip, The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Lord of Harptree and a fourth Lord, who was always the current owner of “Hydon” or Charterhouse-on-Mendip.  The Lords were guided in their ruling by a code of ten laws.  Two of the most interesting are quoted: -

  1. “When a workman hath landed ore he may carry it to cleansing and blowing to what minerdrie he do please for ye speedy making of same so that he do truly pay the tenth thereof to the Lord of the soyle.”
  2. “If any man do pick or steal ye lead to ye value of 13½d. the Lord may arrest his lead with all his works and keepe them as forfeit and shall take ye person and bring where his house and tools belonging to his occupation be and put him in his house and sett fire about him and banish him from that occupation for ever.”

Lead mining reached a maximum productivity during the period 1600 – 1670 but another branch of mining was established by then.

Brass was introduced into Britain by the Germans during Elizabeth’s reign, and in 1560 zinc was being mined on Worle Hill.  The zinc mining industry soon became established in the dologmitic conglomerate of western Mendip and in later years took precedence over lead mining.

Methods or raising and smelting ore are of interest.  Shafts or “gruffs” were dug everywhere and, although not usually vertical, they could attain a depth of one hundred and eighty feet.  Single ropes and wooden ladders were used for descent, and for the sides or bottom of the shafts, timbered “leers” followed the ore veins.  Ventilation was sometime obtained by running a subsidiary shaft into the main shaft some ten feet below the surface.  This caused a flow of air through the working.  People were often digging in such close proximity that they broke into one another’s workings, causing complex legal arguments about ownership.

On being raised, the ore was taken to one of the four mineries for cleaning (budling) and smelting in a rotatable hearth furnace.  These furnaces were turned to catch the wind from any quarter, and bellows were used to increase the draught due to the wind.  After smelting, the miner had to give one tenth of his lead to the Lord of the Manor in which it was raised.  This toll was known as “lead lot.”

The seventeenth century produced a lot of the old slag in the Belfry Mineries area.  It was also the time during which most of the pits and hollows were made.  The present forestry land north of Stock Hill was exhaustively worked for lead about 1690.

The minery pools, flues and black slag came later and will be mentioned in the concluding article.

Book Review

The Caves of Mendip” by Nick Barrington.  (Dalesman)  6/-

reviewed by Bryan Ellis.

For a long time now, Mendip cavers have had to rely on the very scanty and unreliable information given in “Britain Underground” to find the location of caves in their own area, what tackle is required &c.  Because of the untrustworthy information and large number of caves not given in B.U., Nick Barrington’s book is particularly welcome.  This book was compiled in late 1955 for publication in the February of the following year but it was held up by the printing dispute and we have had to wait.  But it was worth waiting for.  About 140 caves are listed and the information given for each is and similar headings to those in B.U.  But the information itself is reliable and more comprehensive.  We find a grading of the cave; the Grid reference and a description of how to find the entrance; when the cave was discovered and by whom; altitude; length and depth of the cave; a description of the cave itself including any equipment required; and finally a list of literature, references, and a note on where a survey can be found if one is available.

From this you will see that the information given for ach cave is comprehensive.  Apart from the usual six gradings of severity form “easy” to “super severe” we also find the term “show” which is self explanatory, and the term “dig” for those caves still being dug or have been abandoned before any worthwhile system was entered.  Vee Swallet has this grading.  To the above list of information given for each cave is added a list of the caving clubs active on Mendip and also six maps showing the cave entrances in Priddy, Cheddar, Stoke Lane, Burrington, Wookey and Charterhouse areas.  Add finally a list of accommodation available in the area and you have an idea of the contents of the book – a very good six shillings worth and a “must” for every Mendip caver.


A practice rescue trip was carried out in Eastwater recently, the rescue team being made up of members of the B.E.C., M.N.R.C., U.B.S.S. and the Wessex.  The B.E.C. stretcher was used to haul the unfortunate “victim” out of the cave.

Snow & Ice in Scotland

by Eric Houghton.

A fortnight’s winter climbing in Scotland provided the material for this short account of the experiences of a Mountaineering Association Snowcraft course, of which the writer was a member.  It should provide some nice cool reading for climbers if we get a heat wave in July.

Five M.A. members assembled at Fort William on 23rd February.  Each had some previous experience of Alpine climbing.  The M.A. had been lucky to get Hamish McInnes, recently returned from the Himalaya, as tutor.  ‘Mac’ has packed an immense amount of climbing into his life so far, as well as many other interesting experiences, including gold prospecting.

The first week was spent at Steall, the hut of the J.M.C.S., in Glen Nevis.  It is three hours walk from Fort William and pretty bleak and damp when you get there.  Cooking for six on one primus tends to get a bit ‘frictional’, but it makes up for this by boasting a magnificent wood stove, and being near many good practice gullies on the S and S.S. aspect of Ben Nevis and Aonach Beag.  Excellent practice was gained in step cutting and belaying, and in addition, in a show of misguided enthusiasm, the writer undertook to cut a tunnel through a nine foot thick ice cornice.  Three hours later - - -

The second week was spent in the height of (climbing) luxury at Black Rock Cottage in Glen Coe and has everything except hot and cold running women.  To add further to the bliss, a pub is but twenty minutes away as the thirsty climber flies.

Sron na Creise, at the back of the hut, provided fine gully climbs which appear to have been completely neglected in the past.  One ice pitch in particular gave interest for two hours while a vertical distance of six feet was ascended.  However, it is the BUACHAILLE ETIVE which is the main magnet in Glencoe for summer and winter climbers.  W.C. Murray’s books are full of it.  It must be the finest mountain in Britain, and has certain features in common with the Adang Kamin in the Dolomites.  Undoubtedly harder winter routes do not exist in Europe.

The reason for the high technical standards of snow and ice work in Scotland is of course the terrific rainfall, combined with the character of the gullies themselves.  180 inches of rain has been recorded on Nevis as compared with an average of about 28 inches in the Alps.  The gullies are often at over 70 degrees and do not tend to fill up with debris as in the Alps.  Weather conditions can be a great hazard, especially the westerly gales.  At 150mph wind on Nevis makes crawling even impossible and it should be remembered the wind at 4,400 feet ‘weighs’ a lot more than at 14,000 feet.

Intending winter climbers in Scotland would be well advised to the correct equipment.  Tricouni nailed boots are definitely recommended and crampons are very useful.  An ice-axe is of course essential, and a piton hammer comes in handy for bashing it in up to the hilt in hard snow.  (Mine looks very dog-eared!).

An extra short axe or ice hammer is well worth having, especially for negotiating overhanging ice and for tunnelling.  They say in the Alps that the older the mountaineer, the shorter his ice-axe.  It is possible to make an excellent tool from a piece of chrome-steel tubing and the head and spike of an ex-W.D. ice axe.  The adze could be replaced by a hammer head.

When belaying in snow, the ice axe must be above the belay stance and it is advisable to fix the rope to it with a clove hitch.  Ice pitons are useful, but tend to come out, as Hermann Buhl says, “Like a zipper being undone.”


All contributions for the Belfry Bulletin may be given to any member of the Editorial Board or sent direct to the club Sec.

Secretary.             R.J. Bagshaw, 56 Ponsford Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.
Editor.                   S.J. Collins, 1 Kensington Place, Clifton, Bristol 8.



Caving reports.

Quite a few people must be wondering by now when, or even if, the next caving report is coming out, and what – apart from general slackness – is holding up the stuff which has been submitted for future reports.

The original scheme was for such reports to be published whenever there seemed to be a need to record work which the club had done, and it was estimated that about two such reports per year would be about average.  A fixed price of half a crown was also agreed upon.

However, after the report on St. Cuthbert’s, the small size of the next reports has resulted in a new scheme of charging a price according to the length of the job, so that the next two will be a bit cheaper.  Number 3, on the construction of lightweight caving ladders, is being prepared now and Number 4 will probably be cut before the end of the year.  Prices and dates will be published in the B.B. later.


July Committee Meeting

Owing to holidays, attendance was low and not much new business was discussed.  Apart from the progress on plans for the new hut and the electricity, the report from the analyst was discussed and a further report on the state of the drinking water was awaited.  Progress is continuing on the redecoration of the women’s room.


The club G.B. day on the 29th June was taken advantage of by a party of 7 who had a pleasant cool 4 hours underground, away from the heat of the surface.  Roy Bennett was in charge.  The next date allocated for the B.E.C. to visit G.B. is the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Cuthbert’s had a active month again, but to date no spectacular discoveries.  Saturday, June 29th Coase managed to get Tom Radcliffe down for his first caving trip since he has been in Bristol.  A visit to the Maypole series proved the reasonable access to this section of the cave.  The so-called Upper Traverse Chamber Pitch needs in fact a 15’ ladder.  The chain on the second pitch proved to be not so difficult as expected but all the same rather hard on the hands.  A further 15’ ladder is need on the third Maypole Pitch pulled up from below on the Nylon line that is left there.  (A correction to the last month’s account.  It was incorrectly stated that the 20’ steel ladder was erected on the “last” Maypole Pitch.  This should of course read “first”).  On this same trip, a rawlbolt was fitted at the top of the big gour and a chain fixed to replace the “knobbly dog” previously used.

On Sunday, 30th June, Norman Petty lead a party of six Sandhurst and two other B.E.C. members on a “tourist” trip.  It was learnt that the Rabbit Warren extension was included and one Sandhurst type was persuaded to climb into the high level passage which didn’t go.  The only snag was that he couldn’t bet back down and the rest of the party had to build them selves into a pyramid to rescue him!  It is also reported that one member of this party through carelessness, broke off a number of fine stalagmites at the awkward ten foot climb.  A great pity, will leaders of trips make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.  Also, muddy hand prints have been planted on a number of stal. banks.  The entrance to Harem Passage from the Railway Tunnel is one spot where with reasonable care, it is not necessary to touch the stal.

On the 5th July, Chris Falshaw and T.S. Mills investigated a tributary passage between Pillar chamber and the Upper Mud Hall.  Two hours work with a lump hammer and chisel were needed to remove the offending stal.  The passage then lead into Pillar Chamber after thirteen feet.

On the 7th July, Chris Falshaw and Steve took two Derbyshire climbing types on a semi-tourist trip.  A short passage above the Plantation Junction was cleared of gravel, but nothing of interest was found.  Further digging is required in this place.

On the 15th July, Kangy King, George Honey and Chris Falshaw took six members of the Old Westonians round, into the furthest recesses of the Rabbit Warren.  Here various small passages were penetrated for only a few feet.  Work was started on the removal of a boulder choke on the upstream end of Continuation Chamber.  The choke consists of round boulders, stal. and mud.  The process of clearing from below is somewhat hazardous.

Permission has now been obtained to dig Scramble Swallet, or Ramspit, and thus a large crowd assembled at the swallet on the 6th July to watch Bob Price and apprentice Gaff Fowler loose off deadly explosives in an attempt to remove several boulders, conveniently placed for them by Tony Rich.  The entertainment was successful and club members were soon returning tn the Belfry removing earth and grass from their hair and replacing ears, nose and fingers etc.

On the 13th and 14th, Kangy, George Honey and Chris Falshaw removed the debris from the blasting operation and continued digging at the end of the present cave.  Good progress is being made in this hole.

 (The caving news was supplied by Don Coase and Chris Falshaw – Editor).

Caving Blackboard.

It has been recently been brought to the notice of the Hon. Caving secretary that certain people (no names, no pack drill) are not filling in the details of their caving trips on the blackboard provided for this purpose in the Belfry.  This board is for your safety and if you do have trouble down some hole it can mean you are found much sooner.  It may appear a bit pointless when half a dozen people see you start off for Swildons, but perhaps they might go off somewhere else for the day and then go straight home.  If M.R.O. have to start searching for you there are a large number of holes on Mendip and a glance at the board could save a lot of work and maybe your family a lot of needless anxiety.

Drinking Water

The second report from the Analyst has now been received.  The drinking water pool is contaminated by surface contamination but the spring at Fair Lady Well is pure – probably as good of not better than tap water.  The contamination occurs quite high up the steam and so if you want to draw water for drinking, the nearer you obtain it from Lady Well the safer you will be.

Poet’s Corner

……..A sonnet on the state of the Belfry lighting arrangements…..

When Hunter’s lodge was lit by Calor gas
Whose fragile mantles burnt with brilliance low
When cavers scarce could see to drink their Bass
Or sat in Silvie’s in the oil lamp’s glow,
The Belfry – like some beacon in the night -
Shone out upon the startled countryside
With lamps, electric, gleaming wondrous bright
And flinging out their radiance far and wide.
Now Mendip with Electric lighting shines
The B.E.C., with ever cunning brain,
Are working still on ultra-modern lines
By using candles.  They are first again!
When Shepton have an atom powered car
The Belfry will now have glow worms in a jar.


A New Roman Road near Bristol

by Keith Gardner.

With the discovery of the Roman town at Gatcombe, Long Ashton and the known numbers of Roman villas and minor farmsteads in the Bristol neighbourhood within the Bristol – Clevedon – Portishead triangle ever increasing, it becomes obvious that there must have been at least one main road connecting the district with the main network.

An extensive occupational settlement is know to have existed at Sea Mills and this may possibly be identifies as ABONE referred to in the Antonine Itinerary.  A study of aerial photographs backed up by field work revealed that one of the suspected roads ran north from Gatcombe towards Failand Farm, probably turning on the hill above the farm and proceeding via Abbot’s Leigh to the Avon bank opposite Sea Mills.

Excavation at Abbot’s Leigh (ST/537738) confirmed its presence and also revealed a defended site with two levels of occupation connected with rough stone foundations.  The lowest level contained native Iron Age pottery mixed with a little early Roman material together with a quantity of iron slag, bones, charcoal, a piece of coal and a pennanular brooch pin.  This level was sealed by a rough floor, itself containing pottery, upon which was found pottery of the (early) third century.  A lead pottery repair rivet and a lump of lead ore are being subjected to spectrographic analysis and it is hoped that the source of the coal may be identified by the N.B.C.

Now how does this road fit in to the general system and does it connect with Mendip?  To appreciate the situation it had better be explained that the district was for a time the Claudian frontier.  The Charterhouse or Priddy lead mines were under imperial control within a couple of years of the Claudian invasion and Gloucester, possibly Sea Mills, Taunton and certainly Wivelscombe were advance frontier posts.  These frontier posts and the Mendip mines were connected by East-West roads to the great Fosse Way which served as an arterial supply column for the frontier.

When the Welsh frontier was pushed forward and the II Legion AUGUSTA moved its H.Q. from Glevum (Gloucester) to Isca Silurium (Caerlon) it seemed that a road parallel to the Fosse Way was constructed to feed the new frontier, running through Gloucester and Sea Mills.  A ferry crossing the Avon would connect this with the newly discovered road to Gatcombe.

A study of the 1” O.S. map shows a road and track alignment starting at Lulsgate Bottom (ST/514657) and going to Regilbury Court (ST/520630).  Felton Hill may have been the junction between the Gatcombe road coming S.S.W. and one from Wraxall over Backwell Hill.  This latter has yet to be proved but signs are promising.  From Regilbury Court the road may have gone past the top of Harptree Hill where a straight alignment past Hunter’s Lodge to Rookham Hill (The old Bristol Road) would have served the St. Cuthbert’s settlement.

Field work along these lines on Mendip would be a useful contribution that the B.E.C. could well undertake.

Swildons Four

The following letter has recently been received from Dennis Kemp of behalf of the Westminster Speleological Group…..

“Some members of our Group, with friends from other clubs, are actively engaged in the exploration of our dig at the bottom of Blue Pencil Passage, since the breakthrough three weeks ago.

Some of the working parties have been inconvenienced by the great masses of spent carbide in the breakfast chamber at our base camp.

It was found early in the exploration that carbide fumes tended to make working parties sick, for the circulation is very poor; and for over a year now, carbide has been banned on our trips and miner’s electric headsets are demanded.

Please do not think it ingratious of us if we ask the members of your club, through you, to refrain from re-charging carbide lamps anywhere in the Paradise System, until the present exhaustive phase of active exploration is finished.

Should anyone wish to visit the new extension to the main Swildon’s streamway, there will be ample opportunity of joining one of the many working parties that are going down.  The co-ordinator is Len Dawes, 113 Brooklands Avenue, Sidcup, Kent.  Volunteers must use electrics for lighting and be prepared for some very tight squeezes.  It is anticipated that working parties will be going down practically every weekend until mid-September.”

I am sure that caving types will help Dennis by not leaving carbide around and some may be interested in joining working parties.  We hope that Dennis may be able to send in an account of the new extension soon.

Stereoscopic Photography

by R.M. Wallis.

Previous articles in the Belfry Bulletin dealt with both monochrome and colour photography in caves.  Stereo work in only an extension of these but it is useless to take it up until you are really proficient at ordinary cave photography.  Not only are there usual problems of cave photography to be overcome, but the additional ones posed by the new medium have also to be coped with.  Apart from anything else, failure is twice as expensive.

We see in three dimensions because our two eyes see the scene before us from slightly two different angles.  Our brain fuses these two images together and from them produces the effect of depth.  In order to re-create the scene as we saw it, it is, in theory, only necessary to present to each eye a picture of the scene as that eye would have seen it.    Our eyes are normally 2½” apart and view them with the correct eye; the sceneshould appear in its full 3-D glory.  Naturally, things do not work out quite as simply as this, but the practice is not particularly difficult.

Special stereoscopic cameras can be obtained, but they are, unfortunately, rather expensive.  They have the advantage that they take both the pictures at the same time and ideally, when using one of them, anyone who can take ordinary snapshot can take good stereo pictures.  Since both pictures are taken at the same time, moving subjects can be included.  The two lenses in these cameras are, of course, at a fixed distance apart, and although for most purposes this is not a disadvantage, it is a real snag in cave photography.  Cave subjects have the advantage that they are stationary and there is no reason why the two pictures should not be taken one after the other with as long as may be convenient between exposures.  This naturally eliminates the necessity for using a special camera and, in fact, any camera which can be used successfully underground, can be used equally successfully for taking cave stereos.  It is only necessary to make the first exposure, to move the camera sideways through a suitable distance and then make the second exposure.

It must be obvious that insofar as colour cave pictures are superior to black and white ones, so colour stereos are equally superior.  The combination of three dimensions and colour is just about the most complete re-creation of the original scene that we can achieve.  All that is lacking is the cold and wet and these we can usually do without.  A 35mm camera is thus probably the most suitable, not only on account of the lower cost of colour film in this size, but also owing to the wider choice of makes of colour film which are available for this size of camera.  My personal choice has always bee Kodachrome Type A, which has invariably given satisfying results when using either Flashbulbs or Flashpowder as the illuminant, but naturally any other personal preference can be used equally well.

In order to move the camera between the two exposures it is advisable to manufacture s small gadget although these can be purchased ready made if necessary.  The commonest type of these consists of two plates, one fixed to the tripod and the other to the camera and connected together by a parallelogram linkage so that when the top plate is swung from one side tom the other, the camera is moved the desired distance.  The disadvantage of this type is that it is difficult to arrange for variable separation.  My own type consists of two plates which will slide one within the other and which can therefore be moved any distance between the smallest imaginable to about six inches.  This range is amply sufficient for all cave work.  These devices can be made out of almost all readily available materials – metal (preferably a rust resistant type) plastics or wood – and no doubt a suitable design will occur to the photographer.  It is possible to dispense with this apparatus and to move the tripod bodily to one side, but this is definitely not to be recommended as it is then extremely difficult to ensure that the field of view is identical for the two exposures.  Another method which has been suggested is to hold the camera first to one eye and then the other or alternatively, keeping it to the same eye band shifting the weight from one foot to the other between exposures.  These methods are fairly satisfactory out of doors, but are unlikely to succeed in a cave.

The technique of lighting the subject is essentially no different from that used when only a single picture is being taken and the same type of illuminant can be used.  Flashbulbs are, however, to be preferred to flashpowder as there is then no necessity to wait while the fog created by the first flash disperses.  As any cave photographer may well be aware, this can take a very considerable length of time and although the camera may be left in place while this happens, the use of flashpowder should normally be restricted to those places where it is known that the smoke will disperse fairly rapidly.  On one occasion at least, I have had to abandon taking the second exposure when the fog was as thick as ever half an hour after the first flash.  Admittedly this was a small chamber in a blind alley, but it is always advisable to leave very ample time between flashes as a trace of smoke can appreciably affect the second exposure, not only by softening the outlines of the more distant objects, but also by altering the colour balance.  In one of my stereo pairs, a trace of smoke which was not apparent at the time, has caused the second exposure to be very much bluer than the first, though it must be admitted that this do not appear to detract from the effectiveness of the stereogram.  For this reason, the use of flashbulbs is to be preferred; beware however, of the type of flashgun which is attached to the camera.  Moving the position of the source of light between exposures is most undesirable as it alters the position of the shadows and can spoil otherwise an excellent picture.

It may appear at first sight that almost any scene would make an effective stereo picture, but this is not, in fact, the case.  Although the eyes are extremely efficient at location one body on front of, or behind another, they cannot locate accurately the position of an isolated object.  It is, therefore, necessary to include in the picture a series of objects ranging from  the fairly close foreground to the distance, so that the eyes can travel from one to the next, locating each in turn.  In this connection, it is also important that the entire picture should be in focus; the technique of differential focus should never be used in stereo photography.  Although we are unable to view a complete scene all at once, and therefore all of it except the part at which we are actually looking appears to be out of focus, the eyes can travel rapidly over the scene surveying all of it.  To give a natural effect, they must be able to do this with the photographs which must therefore be sharp all over.  It follows that if we wish to emphasise the importance of a particular object in the scene, this must be done by placing it suitably in the frame and if possible, by arranging subsidiary objects so as to make the eyes lead up to the main object.

To be completed in next month’s Belfry Bulletin.

Editor’s Note: 

For those who wish to refer to the previous articles which have appeared in the Belfry Bulletin on photography in caves, they are: -

“Starting Cave Photography” by D.A. Coase, published in Belfry Bulletin No. 39 for September 1950.

“Colour Photography in Caves” by R.M. Wallis, published in Belfry Bulletin No .69 for May 1953.

Mendip Mining.

The series of articles on this subject by Mervyn Hannam will be completed next month.


All contributions for the B.B. should be sent or given to any member of the Editorial Board, or the Club Secretary.

Secretary.             R.J. Bagshaw, 56 Ponsford Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.
Editor.                   S.J. Collins, 1 Kensington Place, Clifton, Bristol 8.


Editor’s Note

Last month we said in these notes that we hoped to be able to introduce a new improvement to the B.B.  This consists of a “Picture Page” which we have in this month’s magazine.

Now that we have printed the pictures, it seems a bit rash to call the result an improvement.  The duplication was a terrible task and although we managed to borrow the use of a modern machine for the job, some of you will have poor copies.  We must apologise for this.  The stencil wrecked itself finally and so there couldn’t be any more run off.

It looks as if we shall have to leave the duplication to the experts at Roneo’s or Gestetner’s in future and this will add to the cost, so that regular pictures are not yet possible owing to the limited amount of lolly available for the B.B.


May Committee Meeting

Once again, the progress of negotiations for the new hut, mains water and electricity and other improvements to the Belfry site were discussed.

Bob Bagshaw’s and Alfie’s jobs on Pen Park Hole project are to be carried out by Marriot and G. Fowler.

The club agreed to donate one guinea to the M.R.O.  No new members were elected this month.

Caving News.

The meeting of the cave Research Group at Wells occurred on the 18/19 May as advertised in B.B. 110.  An excellent paper was read – the subject being ice caves in the Pyrenees, illustrated with some very fine coloured slides.  On the Sunday, the guests were taken down Cuthbert’s.  Unfortunately, prior notice of this trip could not be given, as it was fixed up at a late stage.  The guests were used to transport some more steel ladder down the cave for the Maypole series and also for the rift in the Pillar Chamber.

The G.B. trip fixed up for May 11/12 did not take place, as no names were received.  The keys were however, obtained from U.B.S.S. and brought up to Mendip in case!


The latest additions to the Club Library include: -

Cave Science                                       Vol 4, No. 27.
C.R.G. Occasional Publications             No. 1
N.S.S. News                                        Vol 15, No.1 January 1957.
N.S.S. Occasional Papers                     No. 3 1956.
Cave & Craig Club Newsletter for January and February 1957.

Why not come round to Redcliffe Hall and see these and other books?  Books at Redcliffe are available every Thursday and the Club Librarian calls on the first Thursday of each month.

The librarian’s address is: -

J. Ifold, “Leigh House”, Nempnett, Chew Stoke, Nr Bristol.

And his phone number is Blagdon 432.

New Member’s Addresses.

No. 377.  D. Cooke-Yarborough.  “Craig Ielea”, Fellside Rd, Wicham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
No. 378.  John Barnes, 35 Park Ave, S. Shields, Co Durham.
No. 379.  D.G. Thomas, 55 New Rd, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire.
No. 380.  W.A. Lewis.  “Oaklands”, Priory St, Carmarthen.


If YOU would write some little ditty
- a crafty joke or poem witty
t’would save me cudgelling my brain
to fill up bits like this again.
There must be many clever bods
To help me with these odds and ends!


Letters to the Editor

To the Editor, B.B.

Dear Sir,

Recently I had a very enjoyable weekend hill walking in the screen Brecon Beacons, and here is some gen on travel arrangements should any club member wish to go to this district either for caving or walking.

Temple meads (Saturday Morning) 5.30am train fare 7/1 single.  Change at Newport and arrive at Abergavenny at 8.10m.  From Abergavenny, catch the Brecon bus at 8.40 which arrives at Brecon at 9.50am.  Fare 3/3 single.

We stayed overnight at the Storey Arms Café, Libanus, Brecon booking in advance (5 men maximum).  Supper, bed and breakfast 10/- and excellent fare.

This is next door to the Youth Hostel of the same name.  Going back to Bristol on Sunday, there is a bus service back to Abergavenny and a train leaving Abergavenny at 7.30pm which arrives at Temple Meads at 9.08.


G. Mossman.

A Club Tie

It appears that several firms will make ties to individual customer’s designs and it has been suggested that we have an official club tie made.  The cost would be of the order of 10/- about the same price as a club or college tie.  Suggestions to date for designs include bats, or Bats, stalactites and vibram prints, on a dull red or grey ground.  Have you got any ideas?  If so, do a sketch and send it in.

Book Review

Caves and Cave Diving” -  Reviewed by Bryan Ellis.

First of all we will start with a few facts.  The author is Guy de Lavaur who as well being president of the Speleo-club of Paris, is also General Secretary of the French National Committee of Speleology.  His caving experience is by no means small - he started caving under Robert de Joly in 1929 and since that period has led 150 first descents of caves and has made 37 solo dives.  The book was first published in France under the title “Toute la Spelaeologie”, and this edition has been translated by the well-known local archaeologist and cave diver Edmund J. Mason.  Finally under the heading of facts, I must add that the book is published by Robert Hale Ltd. @ 16/-.

The book is divided into three sections, potholes; underground rivers, sumps and vauclusian springs; the evolution of speleology.   From the title one would gather that the book is of the text variety rather than the story book, and this is probably a fair assumption to make.  The first two sections consist almost entirely of the author’s experiences while caving: experiences chosen to show the variety of conditions which can be met while caving or cave diving.  For this reason, the book is a good one to give to the ‘uninitiated’ to read if they want to know what we get up to when underground (or at least some of the things) but if this is done, their attention must be drawn to the translator’s note, where a comparison is given of British and French caving techniques and conditions.  I have said that this section deals almost entirely with the author’s experiences; there is one chapter to deal with the exploration of caves, one on the exploration of potholes and the third deals very briefly with the caver’s equipment.  In my opinion this section is of more use as a means of completing the picture for the non-caver than as a source of information for the experienced.

Unfortunately, the second section loses much of its interest for the British reader because it deals almost exclusively with the exploration of vauclusian springs, none of which are found in the British Isles.  I expect that the majority of you are wondering, as I did, what these springs are as you have never heard of them before, so I am quoting the following definition from the glossary given in the book.  It is: - “A pitch or steeply inclined passage, leading to the surface and full of water.  Usually the water covers a large area on the surface, forming a surface basin or lake.”  In this section, the position is reversed from that in the first, there are two chapters on equipment and one on the author’s experiences.  Personally, I do not know very much about cave diving but I am sure that, for everyone who does have a little knowledge of the subject my previous remarks on his discussion of caving equipment will apply again here.  The book either loses or gains (I’m not sure which!) by reason of it dealing with diving gear using compressed air.  This is rarely use in this country, as it is not often that our divers need to go deeper than the safe maximum for oxygen sets.

The theme underlying the whole book appears to be that it is an introduction to speleology for those who know a little, or preferably nothing about the sport, rather than a textbook for the experienced.  I have mentioned earlier that this applied to the first two sections of the book and it does also to the third, which deals with the development and then the uses of caving.

The book is of a totally different style from any previously published of which of which I am aware and for that reason no comparison can be given.  I will not say that the book is dull or uninteresting even for the fully fledged caver, as there are topics dealt with, such as underground camping and some physiological studies, which are not often met with in this country and therefore make an interesting comparison of French and British caving techniques.  En Passant, the author mentions that studies have proved that urination is increased during a caving expedition.  To summarise, the book is, in my opinion, interesting but not exceptionally so; educational but mainly for one who knows little about speleology; readable but not one of those that once picked up cannot be put down.

Editor’s note on the above:  Further book reviews have been received from Bryan, and will be appearing in the B.B. shortly.

Photographs on the Opposite Page


The upper photograph shows a member of the club about to descend the main pitch in Pen Park Hole – a Bristol dig in which the club have taken part.  A 75’ ladder was used on the trip shown.

The lower picture was taken from the far side of the bedding plane in Fairy Cave, and shows a caver coming through.


Technical Note.

Neither print has reproduced as well as had been hoped.  The preponderance of black made duplicating very difficult.  In spite of this, we hope to have another go in future, and photographic types will be able to form an idea from the pictures opposite of the sort of thing to avoid!  We would like prints for inclusion in the future and if anyone wishes to compare theses with the originals, he should get in touch with Alfie.  In case anyone is interested, the top picture on Pan F on HPS with a PF 25 bulb at f16 and the lower picture on Pan F with a large heap of No. 1 flash powder, again at f16.  Cameras were a Zeiss box Tengar and an Edixa respectively.

Mendip Mining

…….Part I of a series of three articles…………….

by Mervyn Hannam.


Large areas of gruffy ground containing old mine shafts, trenches and derelict smelting buildings, are a feature of Mendip and these articles are intended to give a resume of the history and development of these landmarks.

Lead mining on Mendip was almost certainly commenced by the early Iron Age people, perhaps two hundred years B.C.  Evidence of this was the discovery of lead net sinkers at Mere and at the later Glastonbury Lake village.  This early smelting probably consisted of roasting lumps of Galena (Lead Sulphide) in an open fire, and then allowing the molten lead to run over the stone fire base into rough clay moulds.

The earliest large scale mining of which there is substantial evidence occurred soon after the Roman Invasion under Claudius in AD43.  Large pigs of lead have been found from time to time at Charterhouse; Wookey Hole; Bristol and other places, all bearing Roman inscriptions and clearly mined on Mendip.

Excavations carried by the Rev. Skinner and indirectly by the Mendip Mining Company in the last century revealed Charterhouse as the hub of Roman mining activities.  The town field and the Raines Batch fields contained a number of square and circular mounds around which were found pottery, coins, smelting refuse and the remains of furnaces.  A small amphitheatre was also found, the remains of which are still conspicuous today.

A fairly large Romano-British community must have lived mined and smelted in this area from AD49 to the end of the Roman occupation in AD410.  Mines were probably open trenches following the ore veins, but mining methods were an advance on Iron Age techniques, as seen from Mr. Fowler’s recent article in the Belfry Bulletin.  The amphitheatre was used for sports like bear-bating, cock-fighting and wrestling.  Food provision might have been a problem in this community and the recent excavation of a Romano-British farm in the Chew Valley by Mr. Ratz and Mr. Greenfield has caused a theory that this valley may have supplied the miners with farm produce.

Some Roman mining was undoubtedly carried on in other parts of Mendip.  Mr. E.J. Manson’s excavation of a Roman dwelling behind the Belfry was a proof of this (see B.B. No. 70).

Several postulates have been made about routes used in transporting Mendip lead.  Hoare, who surveyed a Roman road from Old Sarum to Uphill, considered that the ingots travelled to the continent by boat from Uphill.  An alternative, and more likely route, was the overland route to the South Coast and then by sea to Gaul, possibly from Axmouth.  Uphill may have been a point for shipments to South Wales settlements and, since some pigs were found in Bristol, the port of sea mills (Abone) may also been used for lead cargoes.

No records exist of the Roman mining metals other than lead on Mendip, although Iron furnaces were unearthed at Cameroon and at Chew Park Farm.  The intense mining operations of the Middle Ages must have obliterated many of the earlier traces.


Contributions to the Belfry Bulletin may be sent to the Editor or any member of the editorial board, or direct to the club secretary.


Editor:  S.J. Collins.  1 Kensington Place, Clifton, Bristol 8.