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Hutton Update

Nick Harding & Nick Richards.

In Britain’s land beyond the waves
are stony hills and stony caves;
the wind blows ever over hills
and hollow caves with wailing fills.

The Lay of Autrou and Itroun


Rough map of the dig sites

With something like slow progress at Hutton Dig 2, well not so much slow progress as stalled, we decided to investigate the next pit i.e. Dig 3. But this proved shallow and somewhat uninspiring, (which will mean it will be the one that goes somewhere!). Dig 2 had come to a stop while we waited on several opinions – fresh sets of eyes and all that – on our 10-metre tube, now called ‘Shatner’s Bassoon’. (It is well decorated with botryoidal stal on north wall, has an ochrous rubble floor and is on a bearing of 280 degrees. It is 4m of 0.6m high to constriction and is too tight beyond). Chris Richards and Keith ‘Action Jackson’ Jackson both agreed it was a good tube but also agreed with us that the dig would be horribly difficult, even after banging the constriction to make the far end more accessible.


Shatner’s Bassoon entrance – looking west.

As we needed to investigate the rest of the pit, the tube was closed down. We needed to back fill and as the tube is at a depth of 5 metres or so and we would be digging above that, it would have to be covered (at east we all know it’s there). After a visit by Chris Richards to inspect Shatner’s Bassoon, (the fellow even helped to haul a few buckets out of Dig 3!) it was subsequently closed up.

Returning to the dig a short time later, we struck east following the upper walls and bedrock of Dig 2 but it was not long before we realised that surface was not far away. Much to our disappointment, nothing therein lay beyond and was in essence perhaps the old entrance to the pit appearing as it were to be a trench allowing barrows to be brought close to the source of ochre.

We then turned our attentions to another group of pits some ‘80 yards’ to the south, i.e. further up the hill. A change is indeed as good as a rest! Besides, it’s all a process of elimination. With 3 being a damp squib it was time to move on.

Dig 4

About 80 yards south of the earlier digs there is clustered together, a ‘number’ of large pits – including two long trench-like structures. One pit has bedrock exposed at the surface creating a large sweeping arch. What drew our attention was the size of the spoil heap that spilled into several of the depressions as well as down slope indicating later work on at least one of the trench like pits. This one we chose to dig in.

For much of the dig it was simply a case of removing boulders and within an hour or so had made a great dent in the fill. A second session found us with walls and a bedrock floor – much to our growing disappointment. Towards the end of the dig we found a trench in the southern part of the pit that was starting to deepen. Encouraged by this we collapsed a little more of the infill wall that had built up and discovered a tiny void beyond.


The very ochrous material and walls had given way to naked rock. The low flat arch (technically inaccurate but you know what we mean!) proved to be of no consequence. It was not long after that we discovered that the pit bottomed out so it was refilled.

With all four digs closed down we moved our attentions to a new pit or Dig 5 – after about half an hour we realised that this was nothing more than a ‘scrape’, although famous last words we might very well return there. There was no spoil heap, which was similar in many respects to Dig 3. This was closed down and we turned our attentions to Dig 6 in a large depression a few yards south of 5. As soon as we broke the soil we were greeted with boulder infill allowing us to make ‘ooo’ noises every time we espied a gap. The west wall has been discovered and several examples of stal, a major hint of cave development.  

Having become thoroughly cheesed off with this line of inquiry we decided to head back 80 yards south to the major pit area but not before Dig 7 which was a minor feature next door to dig 6. Despite finding a few lumps of stal, the pit was only a metre deep at best. This was swiftly shut down vowing that we should only dig in the pits surrounded by large quantities of spoil. 

Hutton Wood Mine

Dig 8. In a double line of pits trending 280 N

We decided to open up the pit with bedrock exposed and not long after this proved to be something of a cracker. Removing the boulder fill we found two walls on a 90-degree angle made by the Old Men – a fine display of the arts of dry stonewalling.

Left: Richards in the original opening

What this proved was that the pit we had opened was not something trivial but worthwhile. Digging down the bedrock, now nicely exposed, and after removing large quantities of back fill we found ourselves in a small chamber with a draught issuing from the floor. On the way the first clay pipe was found.

With more material heading surface-wards we found just to the left a man made wall. Clearing more fill out of this chamber we discovered another wall directly opposite – both constructed by the Old Men. This was hinting at something serious. We realised that we were in fact at the base of a short shaft.

Hauling then became a big awkward and despite prestigious use of the tin sheets a la Loxton we decided to back fill the entrance and punch a hole from surface. This was duly done. Nick R then found a second clay pipe in the surface spoil then when the surface had been broached another clay pipe in a recess in one of the constructed walls. The clay pipes have an IW stamp on the side and it appears (although not confirmed) that these date to around middle of the 18th C.

After smashing up a boulder the size of Crete that had come down from the surface we emptied the shaft of infill. Earlier we had discovered a natural hollow that at this stage had turned into a sizeable and draughting recess. Yet more material was emptied until a breakthrough was made into a small boulder filled chamber beyond. Excitement was high. To our left in this chamber (approximately eastwards) was an opening through which small boulders had spilled. This was an underground entrance to the next pit. Creating a low wall of deads we sniffed around this new chamber looking for the way on. The draught was still in evidence but as the system was opened to the elements we decided it was not wise to believe it. An Ochreous stain halfway up the wall marks where original ochre deposit was-removed by miners.

Moving the boulder infill around we discovered the way on, westwards; beneath a perilous looking friable ceiling. Levering that off to make it safe Nick R discovered yet another clay pipe – as before only the tip missing from the end. Clearing our path Nick R then slipped through into a smallish passage that after about five metres came to a disappointing dead end.  The floor of this passage had boulders in great profusion with a wall of deads stacked on the south wall. There are small grottoes in the walls but nothing that could be classed as impressive.

Sadly we realised that that was that for this direction. We shifted boulders from the eastern choke and discovered that it’s another chamber stacked with boulders – one or two on an impressive size. At surface this corresponds with a major pit feature.

We attacked the major pit that lies adjacent but found it to be a vast dumping space for boulders and this was refilled and abandoned.

In need of a change we headed east and opened up another pit (Dig 9) on the other side of the footpath but this proved several sessions ill spent. It was nothing more than a trench filled with boulders. Initially it had looking interesting due to an exposed outcrop of rock.


It seems our walled entrance shaft was probably a main way into the system. We’re using, as a general rule of thumb, the idea the bigger the spoil heap the more interesting the hole. Much time was wasted in scrapes and feeble holes – we’ve learnt our lessons!  It is clear that the cave development in these various pits is relatively small scale and not as well developed as it is back towards Bleadon Cavern. Hence…

And on…

As of mid / late June we shifted emphasis to a location where Chris Richards opened up several shafts in the early 70’s. Already a promising draughting opening has revealed itself down bedding dipping at 55 degrees (WNW). Updates in a future BB. This area shows greater cave development.

 (Very)Rough map of the dig area. New dig is concentrating back in the vicinity of Chris Richards adventures in the early 70’s