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Five Buddles Sink -- A Lost Cave Rediscovered -Part 1

"Dedicated to the Old man*"


In BB 481 the writer outlined plans to excavate the shallow, partly walled depression adjacent to Wheel Pit, Chewton Minery (ST 5481 5138).  The possibility of this site being Thomas Bushell's "lost swallow" (see appendix 1) was put forward as was the theory that the name Wheel Pit originally applied to this intermittent swallet and not that named by Willy Stanton for Complete Caves of Mendip.  The following article sums up the digging progress to date, the breakthrough into the Old Men’s cave/drainage level and documentary research which helps support the latter theory.  It is intended to be updated and published as a separate Caving Report when the dig reaches a conclusion.

A Brief History.

Lead has probably been worked in the Stock Hill area (Chewton Minery) since pre-Roman times but the main period of exploitation was during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Between 1657 and 1674 the renowned mining engineer Thomas Bushell attempted to drain the flooded Row (Rough) Pits and Small Pits - now well hidden in the forest - by means of an adit level driven from the "Concaves of a natural swallow twenty fathom (120ft) deep".  This scheme apparently failed due to the antagonism and vandalism of other miners.

The area was still being worked in 1709 when mining, buddling and smelting were in progress and a map published in 1782 has the name Wheel Pitts prominently marked (see below).

Between 1859 and 1910 the Minery was the scene of buddling, smelting and occasional investigative mining by a confusing series of small companies - notably Edward H. Barwell and the Mendip Hills Mining Co. Cornish miners and techniques were used and most of the visible remains date from this period.  The lead was smelted at the Waldegrave Works just down the track towards the rival St. Cuthbert's Works in the adjacent Priddy Minery.

In 1860 a case came up for trial between the two Mineries concerning water rights and a map probably dating from this event clearly shows the buddIes, labelling them "washing works" and shows the "swallet hole" at their NE end. There are indications that these buddIes were out of use by the mid 1870s.

c.1930-1945 saw the filling in of the shaft in the edge of the (now) forest opposite the sink entrance.

Old batteries and rubbish were tipped into the wheelpit (sink) entrance, probably in the 1950s.

In 1996 the B.E.C. arrived to dig it all out again!

* Old Man - A metalliferous mining term for previous generations of miners and their workings in Derbyshire:- "T' owd Man"

The Dig:

Permission to excavate was obtained from Nigel Pooley, estate manager of Chewton Farms, on 29th July 1996 and with the added blessing of the tenants, Somerset Trust, work commenced the same day with the fencing off of the depression and proposed spoil dumping area.  Digging started on 25th August with a six man team spending three hours clearing spoil, rocks, lead slag, bricks and rubbish to reveal a parallel mortared wall 6 feet SE of that visible at surface.  The following day a large team reached a depth of some 6 feet to uncover two lines of sloping red bricks laid on top of rotten wooden beams.  Four segments of a broken, bevelled iron gear wheel and a possible short segment of iron water wheel rim were recovered along with other unidentifiable objects.  Much of the spoil was transported to Waldegrave Pond for use by Somerset Trust workers in repairing the dam.


MHMC Share certificate signed by Edward H. Barwell. 

Davey Lennard at the Sink in February 1995. All the ponded flood-water; sinking at his feet. Wheel Pit is to the left of the Landrover, Waldergrave Swallet is behind the central group of trees and Snake Pit Hole is to the front to the right of the Landrover.

Photo A. Jarratt

The stone-lined pit was soon revealed to be 6 feet 6 inches wide by 13 feet long and by the end of the month a water washed sink was being excavated at the N.E. (roadside) end through a filling of cans, bottles and the remains of 1950's accumulator batteries - as used at that time by legendary cave digger Hywel Murrell at the nearby Miner's Arms!  The excellent weather and impossibility of actually getting underground ensured a continuous supply of keen dig gets and hordes of visitors.  Detailed logs were kept of the work as was a regular photographic record.

By the 1st September we had uncovered a culvert running from the SW wall halfway across the pit and capped by the beams and bricks found earlier.  This appears to have been roughly constructed on top of many feet of lead tailings filling the SW half of the pit.  Unfortunately as depth was rapidly gained the unstable nature of the N.E. wall became frighteningly apparent and on 6th September £80.00 worth of railway sleepers were purchased and installed as shoring.  More unidentifiable artefacts were exhumed as we progressed downwards and a steady draught began to flow from the hole under the unstable N.E. wall.  On 12th September a flat, consolidated rubble floor was reached below this wall at a depth of 18 feet below the N corner of the pit.  This was the base of a timber-lined and floored tailings pit some 6 feet square occupying half the area of what we now assumed to have once been a wheelpit.  In one corner a 6" square block of wood may have been the sawn off base of an upright support beam and a 26 1/2" long forked iron rod found nearby was possibly used as a handle to raise a sluice gate to flush water from the tailings pit into the cave beyond.  The similarities to the tailings pit found in the entrance of Blackmoor (Upper) Blood Swallet, Charterhouse (Stanton 1976) were noticeable - hardly surprising as they were probably constructed by the same "slaggers", the Mendip (Hills) Mining Co. Ltd. around 1860.  This firm also used Waterwheel Swallet as a tailings disposal site (Stanton 1987).

Digging and shoring continued throughout September and at a depth of 18 feet an apparently collapsed "level" was opened up leading from the tailings pit under the horrific N.E. wall.  By the end of the month construction of a cemented stone shaft had begun within the confines of the wheelpit walls and across the end of the culvert.  Luckily bedrock had been uncovered on both sides of the pit to which the shaft was keyed.  A motley assortment of frogs, toads, newts and lizards were regularly liberated from the bottom.

October and November saw the team gradually building up the shaft walls and removing the shoring. Cement and concrete were mixed at the Belfry and transported to the site in large plastic buckets donated by the Wessex Cave Club.  Many people, either knowingly or otherwise, donated sand and cement to the cause and their generosity is hereby acknowledged.  In the background research was being carried out at Taunton Records Office and elsewhere by the "white collar workers" of the team.

By December the shaft was almost complete, the road hadn't collapsed and all the excavated rock had been re-installed.  The closest of the five buddle pits had been cleared out to reveal a central pit and a cast iron wall block with the word FLOORLINE in attractive raised lettering - this item later causing some embarrassment to a passing tourist who was enthusiastically explaining to his friends that the circular stone pit was a Romano-British hut circle when it was gleefully pointed out to him!

With the onset of wet weather a small stream was found to bubble up from the base of the shaft and flow on into the dangerous boulder choke behind the N.E. wall.  The "level" was built up and cemented for some 15 feet into this choke.

At last we were underground and we celebrated this by pulling out a couple of the Old Men’s iron bars protruding from the choke.  As tons of rock rained down we realised why they had been put there in the first place! Work then concentrated on concreting up loose rock in the roof of the level and digging in the floor where a vertical step down appeared to be the edge of a second tailings pit - as was found in Blackmoor Flood Swallet.

The SW end of the wheelpit was excavated for several feet below culvert level through pure tailings (on which the culvert rested) but no obvious inlet was found so it was back-filled. The culvert was partially reconstructed, slabbed over and covered with some 6 feet of spoil. It remains accessible from the entrance shaft.

Throughout the winter the solid wall on the left hand side of the level was followed in an attempt to get around the choke. Various collapses had by now "crowned" through to the surface leaving a large crater within 10 feet of the road edge and so the writer deemed it advisable to contact the County Council and own up. Luckily they were not at all perturbed and just asked to be kept informed of any likely problems.  Wise diggers, though, drove on the other side of the road and parked well away from the site.  The collapse was later infilled and grassed over following grouting of the choke, a handy supply of material being available from building operations underway in the writer's backyard!  Underground, a buried wooden wall, held in place by a large horizontal timber, was partially removed and replaced with concrete facing as we steadily worked our way around the left side of the choke.  A smoke bomb was fired at the choke and Snake Pit Hole was checked for a possible connection.  There was none and the smoke had been rapidly sucked into the choke, never to be seen again.

During January hundreds more bucket loads of tailings were hauled up to the surface and the continuously collapsing choke was probed further - not without a couple of narrow shaves when the digger became partially entombed in rock and earth!


Over £80 worth of timber was installed so stop the collapse of the NE wall. 

Photo: Paul Stillman 

The winter weather and Meghalaya expedition then curtailed our activities and in early May a 5 inch deep stream was observed flowing from the culvert into the shaft!  There was no significant backing up.

On 4th April a hinged steel tube lid (ex R.A.F.) was installed on the shaft top and much work was done on concreting and tidying up the entrance area throughout the month. A possible collapsed mineshaft just behind the fence on the opposite side of the road was prodded with an iron bar but was not thought to be particularly inspiring.

Sporadic digging and shoring trips occurred over the next month or so and on 7th June a party of visitors was escorted around the site following a brief talk by the writer at the B.C.R.A. regional meeting.  One of those present was dowser John Wilcock who, after a perambulation with his bent welding rods, declared that a breakthrough should be imminent. (See appendix 2).

The Breakthrough:

Two days later he was proved correct when, after a couple of hours work at the choke the writer was able to gingerly creep through, below lots of "hanging death", into some 50 feet of dry stream passage ending in a choke and adjacent, partly mud-filled, crawl.  The remains of two of the Old Men’s shot holes (8" x 5/8" and 12" x 1 1/2") pointing back towards the wheelpit showed that the passage had been enlarged to walking size - probably from a second entrance.  Thankfully the ceiling was relatively solid throughout as the cave passes directly under the road at a shallow depth.  Old timbers littered the floor and in places protruded from the dolomitic conglomerate walls.  Occasional wooden wedges in the roof were presumably placed there about 130 years ago to hold up loose sections.  They now have the consistency of a wet Cadbury's Flake and should be left severely alone!

Later that day the writer returned with Tony Boycott and Quackers Duck and digging commenced in the crawl through thick, soft, grey and no doubt highly toxic tailings mud. Conditions started as squalid then deteriorated as the B.E.C.'s "reverse Midas Touch" curse struck again (everything we dig turns to shit).

On 11th June Trevor Hughes, the writer, Jeremy Dixon-Wright and Pete Hellier continued work here, the blancmange-like spoil being dumped in the main passage.  The sticky mud and confined nature of the dig ensured that this was exhausting work but eventually Jeremy forced himself around a comer for 15 feet or so to report that the passage went downwards and more digging was necessary. Quackers photographed the shotholes and timbers and the breakthrough choke was stabilised with "Ker- Plunk" scaffold shoring!

A solo dig by the writer on 13th reached some 6 feet depth at the end to a small open passage which needed more clearing to enter fully, two teams almost accomplishing this on 15th when the passage was found to contain a pool or sump on the right hand side. More work was done here on 17th by Vince Simmonds and Jeremy while the writer used the Grunterphone transmitter for a radio location fix of the terminal choke by Brian Prewer who was in the edge of Stock Hill Forest above.  The final location point was 4 feet NW of the possible collapsed mineshaft across the road from the entrance thus supporting our theory of a second entrance and adding weight to the possibility that this shaft could be Thomas Bushell's twentieth trial shaft - sunk to discover the swallet from which his adit would be driven (Gough 1930).  Gunpowder having supposedly been first used on Mendip around 1683 (Gough 1930) the shothole at the base of this shaft is obviously of a later date when widening of the original shaft, if that is what it is, would have been deemed necessary.

The writer, Trev Hughes and Pete Hellier dug and hauled spoil again the following day, having little success in the lower passage where the pool apparently sumped and three other possible ways on were thoroughly choked with tons of incredibly gooey lead tailings and old timbers.  At the base of the choked shaft Pete spotted a "pig's tail" like iron hook sticking out of the mud.  Careful excavation revealed it to be one of the haulage hooks of a 16" x 14" x 10" deep wooden skip or sledge lying upside-down on a flat wooden board.  It was in superb condition and after a decision was taken that an in-situ photograph was unnecessary it was very carefully exhumed and removed to the surface for cleaning in Waldegrave Pond.  It was apparently dragged on two wooden runners and judging from its condition has seen little heavy usage. Its actual purpose is not yet known but it may have been used to clear tailings from the low natural passage, remove broken rock from the main passage enlarging operations or, indeed, as a digging skip for dragging spoil from the sumped area - exactly what is now happening with the use of a similar size polythene object!

Vince and Jeremy continued working the lower passage but the wet conditions of June and early July ensured that the place was temporarily left alone.  The writer concentrated on the main choke above.  A series of short digging sessions - each lasting until major collapse threatened when the place was left to "dig itself.  The solid RH wall partly arched over to the left as half of a phreatic tube meeting loose boulders and clay.  The choke directly above was gradually brought down and the surface collapse in the edge of the forest also dug out for some 4 feet depth without revealing solid rock or miner’s ginging (stone shaft lining). Throughout July, August and September work continued at the choke - both below ground and on the surface.  Bags of mud were painfully dragged out of the cave only to be carried across the road and stacked ready for dumping back down the shaft as infill.  Several large boulders were "popped" to enable them to be removed and a selection of old Bovril jars, broken Codd bottles, Brasso tins and other rubbish was despatched to the surface.  Much of the broken rock was temporarily stacked underground and should not be confused with miner’s walling.

Following heavy rain the stream began flowing at the base of the entrance shaft on 2nd September, creating a 15ft long pool before the breakthrough point.  The stream was next seen some 20ft from the end choke where it then poured into the lower (choked) passage without backing up to the high level.

From 5th September work progressed on the surface excavations of the shaft.  Many gallons of water were poured in to loosen up the fill and digging eventually resulted in revealing the solid rock walls of a typical Cornish 7ft diameter shaft (Stanton & Clarke 1984).  RSJs were wedged across some 6ft down and a section of concrete pipe installed on these.  Concreting and back-filling were rapidly done and the team became International with the assistance of cavers from U.S.A, Australia, Vietnam, Mexico and Germany. On 17th September Quackers and Rich finished off the shaft top and emplaced an official looking steel inspection cover.  A week later serious digging in the shaft began with the spoil being distributed around the forest in the manner of a Colditz escape project!  The roadside wall was rebuilt with rocks from the dig - many of these having probably been part of this all in the past.

Over the next two months the shaft was gradually emptied of it's infill of rock, clay and rubbish. Avid diggers kept a lookout for "stone" ginger beer bottles and other "collector's items." An, unfortunately broken (but later repaired) gallon jar from a Wolverhampton "botanical" brewery bore the imprinted date 1928 proving that the filling of the shaft has occurred since then.  This has been confirmed after research by Robin Gray on the dates of many of the glass bottles found suggests that infilling took place between the early 30s and mid 40s.  Other rubbish taken out and distributed around the wheelie-bins of Priddy included old tyres, milk churns, hundreds of assorted bottles and various bits of rusted metalwork.  Following the removal of many tons of spoil and the demolition of the occasional bigger lump, the shaft reached a depth of over 20ft and by the beginning of November the open passage below could be seen through a hole in the floor.  Official permission to dig was requested from the Forestry Commission (apparently now Forest Enterprise) at the request of the local Forester.

On 19th November, a voice connection was established to the cave passage below and five days later a strongly draughting hole was opened at the shaft bottom, giving a view of the digging tools in the active streamway below.  A rigid steel ladder, removed from White Pit, is being installed in the shaft and a surface/underground survey will soon be undertaken for the next BB.

On 1st December, the mineshaft was physically connected to the Five BuddIes Sink stream passage. This was strongly flowing with no sign of backing up.

Work continues here to completely clear the shaft in the hope that there is a continuation beyond. If not then we will still be able to dig the lower natural passage.  There is no evidence yet of Bushell's adit but the mined passages discovered so far are of historical interest and leave us with many questions to be answered. The writer would be grateful for any additional information on this site, criticism and suggestions.

Adrian Hole and Guy Cummings working below the SW wall in August 1996.  The original exposed stonework is above Guys back and the starting lever of the dig can be seen by grass level on the left.

Photo: A, Jarratt

Andy Tyler inspects a broken bevelled gear while Martin Grass (left) holds what may be a segment of waterwheel rim.  These items we found just above the level of the brick lined culvert – just visible in the centre of the photo.

Photo: A. Jarratt.

Looking down the exposed wheelpit, September 1996, showing the culvert terminating halfway down. The draughting way on under the unstable NE wall can be seen on the RH side

Photo: A. Jarratt.

Timber showing in place to hold up the NE wall.  In flood the stream overflows from the RH side and also bubbles up from the pit bottom. A workman polishes the overseer’s sandals!

Photo: A. Digger

Some of the artefacts recovered from the site including bevelled gear wheels, water pipe and flow adjusted (centre) nails, pieces of iron gratings, bricks and forked lifting handle.

Photo:  A. Jarratt

The completed entrance shaft showing the tailings pit floor.  The culvert is on the RH side (where the plank is resting).  The entrance to the level and cave is on the LH side at the bottom.

Photo: A. Jarratt

Harry Savory’s photo labelled:

“Wheel Pit Swallet Priddy Mines Aug (1912)”

The Name.

Five Buddles Sink was named as such by Willie Stanton in the early seventies.  He also recorded the large swallet just to the north as Wheel Pit on the advice of an older MNRC caver, Clement Richardson (Barrington & Stanton 1977 and Witcombe 1992).  On the Day and Masters Map of 1782 the annotation "Wheel Pitts" is shown on the other side of the road but this may be due to the mapmaker’s use of available space.  It may also have, by this time, developed from a descriptive to an area name.  The main evidence for the application of the name to our project site comes from the diaries of Harry Savory (Savory J. 1989). On the 25th August 1912 he " .... photographed Wheel Pit and Priddy mines swallets, the latter was encroaching on the road badly.  The third swallet in this group, 'the little swallet under pines', was choked by another small fall of earth with little water running away.  "The latter is the present Waldegrave Swallet."

"On 27th (August 1912) they cycled to Wheelpit Swallet,..."

"30 August 1916." "Down on the road, the Wheelpit Swallet was dry, the big one running a little but was dry a week ago."

"3 August 1921." "Then on to the minery round the ponds to the Wheel Pit and Road Swallets."

Thanks to Martin Torbett the original glass lantern slides have been tracked down in Wells Museum and copy negatives have also been made during conservation work by Chris Howes. The photograph taken on 25/8/12 shows a site "encroaching on the road badly" - Priddy Mines Swallet, the current Wheel Pit.  It is the "big one" of the three "in this group" and could also be described as the "Road Swallet."  It is therefore proposed that the site now called Five BuddIes Sink is the original Wheel Pit or Wheelpit as indicated by the mortared stone pit and associated artefacts recently excavated.  The slide actually labelled as Wheel Pit Swallet, Priddy Mines shows a healthy stream pouring over rocks but does not reveal enough of the swallet to make it identifiable as Five BuddIes.

The information on pp 90-91 of Rich Witcombe's "Who Was Aveline Anyway?" is incorrect in that apart from the name being applied to the wrong site the waterwheel pit was, in fact, associated with Chewton, not St. Cuthbert's (actually Priddy) Minery.

I suggest also that the wheelpit contained a broad bladed waterwheel used to operate a set of bellows in an adjacent slag house (smelter) around the mid 1700’s.  It was later adapted by the M(H)MC as a tailings pit for their line of buddIes.  This will only be proved by archaeological investigations.

The "Road Swallet" (now Wheel Pit) has a tunnel at the bottom with a tramway rail roof. This would appear to have been constructed during the repair of the roadside collapse - post 1912 - using material available locally.

The Team: Diggers, Researchers, Photographers, Advisors, etc

"Quackers" Duck, Rich Blake, Tony Jarratt, Jake Johnson, Adrian Hole, Guy Munnings, Jon Attwood, Mark Curry, Nick Mitchell, Martin Grass, Kate Lawrence, Andy Tyler, Estelle Sandford, Trevor Hughes, Mike Willett, Paul Brock, Robin Gray, Ben Ogbourne, Jeremy Dixon-Wright, Chas Wethered, Pete Hellier, Ivan Sandford, Dominic Sealy, Emily Davis-Mobley, Brian Prewer, Martin, Ed and Jim Torbett, Davey Leonard, Vince Simmonds, Pete Bolt, Jeremy and Nick Gilson, Stuart McManus, Karl Friedrich, Simon Brooks, Roz Bateman, Phil Collet, Andy Pringle, Paul Craggs, Andy Nunn, Alex Gee, Bob Smith, Roger Haskett, James Calloway, Steve Milner, Dr. Vu Van Phai, Nick Hawkes, John Williams, Jake Baynes, Jim Smart, Dave Breeze, Roger Dors, Mike and Rachel Thompson, Chris Howes, Dave Walker and Wells Museum Staff, Dave Irwin, John and Jenny Cornwell, Ray Mansfield, Roger Stenner, Maurice Hewins, Jeff Price, Dave Morrison and Dave Speed of the Wessex Cave Club (Building Materials Dept.), Nigel Pooley, John Boyd and Somerset Trust officers, Sally Allison, Frank Jones, John Wilcock, Roger Stenner, Willie Stanton, Dave Irwin, Anne Oldham and Dave "anyone for spoof?" Bennett - provider of continuous advice and bailer twine.


On Thomas Bushell and attempts to unwater Row Pitts, Mendip. Mercurius Publicus, 22,340-341 (May 1662). Anon.

Briftol May 26.

We exceedingly rejoyce to hear the long lookt for news that his Majefty hath given the Royal Affent to the Bill confirming Agreements between Tho. Bufhel Efquire and the Miners of Row-pits in the County of Somerfet for recovering thofe drowned and deferted works. It feems that Act paft among other Acts of Parliament the 19 of this inftant May, by virtue of which fupreme Authority all men have a firme foundation to proceed on, fo as we doubt not by God's bleffing to make it manifeft to the world, that thefe Mendippe Works will be what the People themfelves ufually ftiled them, the Englifh Indies for Lead Ore; and we defrre that the honour of this great work may redound to God's glory, and the Lord Chancellor Bacon's Philofophicall Theory in Minerall difcoveries, which (tis confeft) did light the frrft candle to thefe and all other Mines of like nature.  Thofe who faid Mr. Bufhel was poor in purfe, doe now begin to perceive why he refufed all Partnerfhip in that affair, being confident from the practick of his own experience to repair by this the ruine of his fortunes fufteined in thefe laft broken times, and prove a fufficient fupply to perfect his enterprize of difcoveries in foraign Parts; which we can confIdently fay, although this Work of Row pits was generally reputed to have been the overthrow of forty rich Families that went before him in the same enterprife, and were efteemed able Artifts in Mineralls.  This we doubt not Mr. Bushel will accomplifh, fInce we never knew him to undertake any defigne, but what was accounted defperate in the judgement of others, and yet at the end reache his own defrres by the fame means he now proceeds in this, which none will deny when they remember the erecting thofe Groves and Grottoes at Enftone in Oxfordfhire, all in one year, to entertain the late King and Queen the next, and that as perfectly as if they had been planted 20 years before: His cutting through five Mountains in Cardiganfhire at the loweft Level, to recover rich Minerals out of the deferted Works, which induced his late Majesty, as a reward for that action to grant him a Mint to coyn the filver he had already got, and fhould get hereafter:  His carrying aire through the Mountains by pipes and bellows without the vast charge of frnking Shafts; His faving wood by melthe lead Ore with turffe and fea (coal charko?); His c10athing the Kings Army at Oxford with the fame Minerals procede and bringing the faid Mint to ferve his Majefties prefent occafIons in that Royall Garrifon, when his other Mint in the Tower of London was denied him, with divers other fervices, all which we have feen attefted under his late Majeftie's hand and feal. Thefe particulars are well known to the Miners and others who have read Mr. Bushels Rememberance to his now Majefty; fo as his own experience in Minerall affairs forraign and domeftick ought to be cherift by all good Subjects, as it hath already been by his Majefty and both Houfes of Parliament, efpecially fince the Honor and Staple Trade of this Nation doth fo much confift in profecuting the recovery of thefe Works, as well for a Precedent to the future, as for the prefent publick good.


Hypothetical Drainage Routes in the Priddy Area by John Wilcock.

Based on fifteen years of dowsing observations the appended map shows parts of the following drainage systems:

  1. Windsor Hill / Little Crapnell / Thrupe Lane / Slab House (two routes via Wells Hill Bottom Farm, and via Haydon) to St. Andrew's Well, Wells.
  2. Hillgrove Swallet (possibly also Windsor Hill / Little Crapnell / Thrupe Lane / Slab House via Wells Hill Bottom Farm) and Rookery Farm Swallet via Cuckoo Cleeves and Stockhill Fault to the Waldegrave area.
  3. Waldegrave area via St. Cuthbert's to Wookey Hole, and via Priddy Fault to Rodney Stoke.
  4. Swildon's Hole, Eastwater Cavern and St. Cuthbert's feeders to Wookey Hole.
  5. Sherborne spring catchment.
  6. Tor Hole Swallet, Wigmore Swallet / Attborough Swallet, and Greendown Farm via All Eights Mine to the region of Bowery Comer Swallet then near Lodmore Hole to Velvet Bottom and Cheddar.

John believes that the dowsing phenomenon is due to some as yet unexplained physical field (perhaps electromagnetic or electric in nature) which is detected by the human body, affecting the central nervous system and causing twitches in the arm muscles, which in turn are mechanically amplified by whatever rods are in use.  (He uses bent wire from dry-cleaning hangers, certainly a cheap method).  The thick black lines on the diagram are the mapped dowsing reactions.  The width of these reactions may be related to depth, to the strength of the field, or to the actual width of bedding planes, for example.  He believes that faults, flowing water in caves, and large dry caves (but not small dry caves) are all detected.

AH        Alfie's Hole
AEM     All Eights Mine
AS        Attborough Swallet
BRS     Barrow Rake Swallet
BL        Bishop's Lot
BCS     Bowery Comer Swallet
CFS      Castle Farm Swallets
CS        Cross Swallet
CC        Cuckoo Cleeves
DC        Dallimore's Cave
EC        Eastwater Cavern
EAC     Eighteen Acres Cave
FF        Fairman's Folly
FBS      Five BuddIes Sink
FP        Flower Pot
FP        Frog Pot
HR        Hallowe'en Rift
HS        Hillgrove Swallet
HLH      His Lordship's Hole
HOS     Hollowfield Swallet
HH        Hunter's Hole
HYH     Hymac Hole
LD        Limekiln Dig
LH        Lodmore Hole
NBS     Nine Barrows Swallet
NS        Northill Swallet
OR       Orchid Rift
OCM     Ores Close Mine
PS        Plantation Swallet
PB        Priddy Borehole
PGS     Priddy Green Sink
RF        Rookery Farm Swallet
St.CS   St Cuthbert's Swallet
SAH     Sandpit Hole
SLPH    Sludge Pit Hole
SPH     Snake Pit Hole
SHMC   Stock Hill Mine Cave
SH        Swildons Hole
TH        Tankard Hole
THS      Tor Hole Swallet
TTC      Twin Tittie's Cave
US        Unnamed Sinks
WGS    Waldegrave Swallet
WGS    Welsh's Green Swallet
WP       White Pit
WS       Wigmore Swallet
WOH    Wookey Hole



The methods of the Mendip Mining Company included the re-working of the old black slag, of which great heaps remained, and which, it is said, had already been smelted twice over, and the treating of metalliferous earth, especially from the Town Field. In the latter process this earth was thrown into large circular pits, lined with masonry, and varying from about twenty to about thirty feet in diameter, many of which are still to be seen. In each of these, which were supplied with water which in some cases was brought a long distance by means of a wooden aqueduct, there was a sort of vertical paddle-wheel turned by a horse walking round and round on the grass at the edge of the pit.  The earth and water being thus thoroughly stirred up, the heavier and more metalliferous particles sank, while the lighter and less valuable portions were swept away with the overflow, which disappeared down a swallet-hole, coming out again at the lower end of Cheddar Gorge.  This "mindry-water," as it was called, although not holding enough lead to be thought worth recovering, contained quite sufficient to poison the fish in the streams below, which it did all the time that the works were in operation.

When one of these slime-pits was full of solid matter, the wheel was stopped and the water shut off. The contents of the pit, after having been left for a time to get rid of some of the moisture, were dug out and carted to the blast-furnaces, whose fan was worked by the driving wheel of an old locomotive engine.  The resulting lead was run into moulds and cast into pigs, while the smoke from the furnaces, heavy with lead vapour, was conducted through stone galleries, on whose roof and sides it condensed in a solid and stone-like and very heavy deposit, which was chipped off from time to time and re-smelted.

F.A. Knight - The Heart of Mendip. 1915.  (The above refers to the operations at Charterhouse by the same company, who used similar methods at Chewton Minery).

APPENDIX 4A (by Robin Gray)

Further thoughts on the Five Buddies Mineshaft

Diggers at the filled in mineshaft excavations, across the road from the original Five BuddIes shaft have unearthed numerous artefacts.  These are important as they can be used to pinpoint when the top of the shaft was filled.  Making life difficult for all concerned were a large number of rusty and tangled barrel hoops.  It has been suggested by some that the barrels were dumped into the shaft in order to fill it and thus make it safe, the wood having long since rotted down. However this can be disputed since there is no evidence of rotten wood associated with the hoops.  Much other rusted iron has also come to the surface. This gives little clue as to age, since iron reaches a stage in decomposition which remains fairly static for many years.  Dump diggers will confirm that old iron artefacts from tips of the 1870's are very much like those from dumps of the 1930's!  It is difficult without much effort to say what most of this iron was. However, a few metal items have come to light which are worth a mention.

The lower half of a Spelter baby wearing a nappy was unearthed.  These baby boxes date from Edwardian times and it is probable that it was thrown away because the top portion had been broken.  A well preserved turf cutter was brought up on Wednesday 29th October and Pete Hellier who found it is conserving it.  This traditional peat cutting tool has been in use long before Victorian times and like the baby cannot be used to date the filling of the shaft since they would only be dumped when no longer of use.  Not so the bottles.  The oldest bottle so far unearthed is a stone "botanical" beer bottle found by J'Rat and dated 1928.  Another old type was the lower half of a Codd bottle.  Codds patent globe stopper bottles were introduced in the 1870's.  The fizz in the mineral water held a glass marble against a rubber ring in the neck of the bottle thus sealing it. These bottles were in use until the 1920's, however, and in some remoter parts of the UK until the 1940's!  Unfortunately then these two finds are also of little help in the dating.  Just take a look around the tool shed.   Many of the jars and tins used to hold oils, nails and screws are 20 or more years old. Thus our 1928 stone "botanical" beer bottle merely proves that it didn't go in before that date.

Of more interest are the many other glass items unearthed. These glass bottles and jars can be viewed as zone finds which will date the filling of the shaft to a period of 10 years. Among the bottles unearthed were numerous meat extracts such as OXO and Bovril.  These jars were sealed with a metal "crimp top" between 1905 and the 1930's when the closure was replaced by an external screw thread moulded into the glass.  Both closures are in evidence together suggesting that the containers date from the changeover period.  Stone jam jars as used by Robertson's for Golden Shred were phased out in the mid 30's to be replaced by half pound and pound glass jars.  Both types are in evidence but with glass jars the more common. Also present are numerous round top (corked) "inks'.  These little bottles also held Carr's Gum and it is astonishing just how much gum seems to have been used during the 1930's and 40's!  The sauce bottles and Camp Coffee have both cork and external thread closures.  Again this changeover took place about 1935.  Little bottles of lemonade powder "Eiffel Tower" brand also show both top types with screw thread bottles pre-dominating. Again change over date mid 30's.  By far the most common find, were potted meats and pastes by such well known firms as "Shiphams".  These "treats" were very much a speciality of the late 30's 40's and early 50's as older members will, I am sure, remember from Sunday School treats. They lost their popularity in the 1950's.  Among these paste jars is one of note, namely a potted meat by Bordin of Paris.  It would seem unlikely that this jar would have been around during the War years as it most likely dates from the 1930's and French imports were supposedly non existent during the Occupation.  If these finds point to a time immediately prior to the outbreak of War it would then seem reasonable to suggest that the upper portion of the hole was filled sometime after 1986 but before 1950. Styles changed markedly in the 1950's with the introduction of plastic tops, aluminium caps and more durable closures which one would expect to find.  A ten year period of between 1935 and 1945 would seem a fair estimate.  At present the bottles and iron have given way to rocks which may well point to earlier attempts to fill in the shaft. Settlement would have caused the shaft to open again by the 1930's thus accounting for the lateness of the top filling.

References: Robert Opie Museum, Gloucester.

The Art of the Label: Robert Opie.

Collecting Old Bottles: Fletcher.

R.E. Gray


Photo: R Gray

APPENDIX 4B - By Tony Jarratt

The three "stone" bottles in my possession are labelled:-

•           Prior and Co. Midsomer Norton. Mineral Waters and Cordials. Absolutely Pure. (Stamped Price, Bristol)

•           Sherwood & Morris Botanical Brewers, Cartright Street, Wolverhampton, 1928. (Stamped Price, Bristol)

•           Allen's Superior Ginger Beer Works, Evercreech. (Stamped Powell, Bristol. An enamelled Car Badge bearing the following:- Supplied by L.A. Lower. Phone 153, Portway Garage, Wells. Lubricate this car with Texaco Golden Motor Oil.

Scores of assorted glass bottles have been left outside the tackle shed at the Belfry for junk devotees to "Pick their Own".


ALLISON C. (ed) 1996 Upper Flood, Exploration to 1996, Mendip Caving Group Occ. Pub. 4. (Tailings pit in entrance, digging notes and photos).

ANON. 1662 (May) Mercurius Publicus 22,340-341. (On Thomas Bushell and attempts to unwater Row Pitts, Mendip. Reprinted here as Appendix 1).

ANON. 1860 Mining Law - Right of Water. Wells Journal 30th June 1860 (The Ennor v. Barwell case).

BARRINGTON N. & STANTON W. I. 1977 Mendip, the Complete Caves and a View of the Hills. Cheddar Valley Press. (Wheel Pit, Waldegrave Swallet and general mining information).

BURT R; WAITE P. & BURNLEY R 1984 Devon and Somerset Mines. University of Exeter. 126, 132-133. (Ownership and re-working details of Chew ton Minery and Waldegrave Works, 1860-1881).

CALVERT J. (date unknown) The Gold Rocks of Britain and Ireland. Goldpanners' Assn. (facsimile reprint). 95-98. (On T.Bushell and the unlikely possibility of his having mined for gold on Mendip).

GOUGH J.W. 1930 (reprintedI967). The Mines of Mendip. 2nd edn. David & Charles, Newton Abbot. (The main reference work on Mendip lead mining and resmelting history. See particularly; Bushell's adit pp 157-166 and Barwell's workings pp 181-205).

GOUGH J.W. 1932. The Superlative Pro dig all, a Life of Thomas Bushell. Bristol.

GOUGH J.W. (ed) 1931. Mendip Mining Laws and Forest Bounds. Somerset Record Society Bristol. vol 45. 68, 75-77, 88-91.(Row Pitts, Small Pitts and Bushell's adit. A reprinting of the original 17th century Minery Court cases).

IRWIN D.J.; STENNER R.D. & TILLY G.D. 1968. The Discovery and Exploration of St. Cuthbert's Swallet. B.E.e. Caving Report 13, Part A 5-8. (General information on the Mineries and Ennor v. Barwell case).

JARRATT  A.R. 1995. In Search of Thomas Bushell's Lost Swallow - a Proposed Dig at Five BuddIes Sink, Chewton Minery. Bristol Exploration Club, Belfry Bulletin 48, 481,49-50 (and also 21-25 -- The Snake Pit Hole Dig - 1969-1995).

JARRATT  A.R. 1996-date MSS Log Vol VII. (Complete diary of the dig).

JARRATT. A.R. et al. 1996-date MSS Log:- Kept at Hunter's Lodge Inn. (Complete diary of the dig).

KENNY. H. 1985. Caving Log 1942-1950. Wessex Cave Club occ. pub. Series 1,3. ("We fIrst visited the Priddy Lead Mines. The Last Swallet was in action and also the neighbouring BuddIe Swallet" . November 24th 1946).

KNIGHT F.A 1915. The Heart of Mendip. Dent. London. 509-510. (Describing the buddling methods of the Mendip Mining Company at the Charterhouse works - see appendix 3).

MOOR C.G. 1928. Tin Mining. Pitman, London. 62-63. (A good description of contemporary Cornish buddling).

MORGANS T. 1901. Notes on the Lead Industry of the Mendip Hills. Trans. Fed. Inst. Min. Vol. XX 478-494. (Re-working of slag, Chewton Warren, etc:- particularly on p. 491; "At one or two points, the company have exposed the underlying Conglomerate and begun testing it for lead-ore by means of shafts. Some lumps of galena have been found.  The ground is hard and requires powder").

PAGE W. 1911 The Victoria History of Somerset, Constable & Co. London. Vol. 2, 375-376. (Bushell's adit).

PALMER M. & NEAVERSON P. 1989. The Comparative Archaeology of Tin and Lead Dressing in Britain During the Nineteenth Century. Peak District Mines Historical Society Ltd. Bulletin 10, 6, 316-353.

PEPPIATT P. 1997 Descent magazine 137 p12.  (Mendip news report and photograph of entrance).

SAVORY J. (ed) 1989 A Man Deep in Mendip. Alan Sutton, Gloucester. 52, 54 108,126.  (References to visits and photographs of Wheel Pit, Five BuddIes Sink and Waldegrave Swallet but under different names;- Priddy Mines Swallet, Wheelpit Swallet, Road Swallet and "the little swallet under pines",- undertaken by Harry Savory, Herbert Balch and others between 1912 and 1921).

STANTON W.I. 1976 The dig and deposits at Blackmoor Flood Swallet. W.C.C. Jnl.14 No.167, 101-106.

STANTON W.I. 1981 Some Mendip Water Traces. W.C.C. Jnl. 16 No.185, 120-127.  (Including positive, negative and doubtful traces at Five BuddIes, Wheel Pit and Waldegrave Swallets).

STANTON W.I. & CLARKE A.G. 1984. Cornish Miners at Charterhouse on Mendip. Proc. Univ. Bristol. Spel. Soc. 17, 1, 29-54. (Re-working slags at Charterhouse by Mendip Hills Mining Co. and the Ennor v. Barwell case).

STANTON W.I. 1987 Waterwheel Swallet, Charterhouse-on-Mendip. Proc. Univ. Bristol Spel. Soc. 18, 1, 3-19.  (The excavation of the wheel pit, waterwheel and tailings pit in this cave).

WILCOCK J. 1997 The Mendip Caving Scene, 1997. Caves & Caving mag. 77, Autumn 1997, 36-7. (History, dowsing and breakthrough).

WITCOMBE R. 1992 Who Was Aveline Anyway? pp 90-91.

WOODWARD H.B. 1872. The Lead and Zinc Mines of the Mendips. Mining Mag. and Review.  March 1872 196-202.  (Mentions active re-working of slag at Stoke (sic) Hill, etc.).

1782 DAY AND MASTERS (Shows Wheel Pitts in what is now Stock Hill Forest).

19??  (Section of Chewton and Priddy mineries, Mendip, showing “Mouth of Swallet by Opening near Stocks House” and map detailing the water courses of the two Mineries and delineating the washing works, buddle pits and the swallet hole at Five Buddles.  This may have been made for the Ennor v. Barwell case).

Photo: M. Torbett

Digging in progress in the “Cornish Shaft.”

Depth at this point: 20ft.


Photo: M.Torbett

Mention should also be made of the collection of glass lantern slides held at Wells Museum and the following maps: