Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site

List of Members 1948. No.7

R.E.J. Gough Camp Farm, Elberton, Olveston, Bristol.
E.J. Mason 11. Kendon Drive, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.
G.W. Ridyard 14. Harvey Road, Croxley Green, Herts..
Miss P.Richards The Cottage, Wellsway, Keynsham, Somerset
W.T.Udall 10. Windsor Terrace, Bristol.8.
R. Hazell 1. Tralee Walk, Bristol.4.
M. Bayfield-Davies c/o G.P.O., Dartmouth, Devon.
G. Orren 68. Hazelbury Road, Knowle, Bristol
M. Lansdown c/o 376, Wells Road, Bristol.4.
Miss M. May The Chantry, Old Church Road, Clevedon, Somerset
Miss.D. Vickery Seaton Lodge, Station Road, Staple hill, Bristol.
T. Hodge 8, The Avenue, Clifton, Bristol
R.A.Shelton 18. Walsh Avenue, Hengrove, Bristol.4.
A.R. Preston 43. West Town Lane, Brislington, Bristol.4.
J. Swift 3. Wellesley Street, Lawrence Rill, Bristol.
F. Sharland 4. Vera Street, Taunton, Somerset
R.H. Newman 77. Beaufort Road, St. George, Bristol.5.

Some Notes on 'Mendip Mining'

by P.A.E. Stewart.

Mining has been carried on in Mendip from time immemorial, it began in Pre-Roman times and was organised after Caesar's invasion. The principal stations on Mendip were situated at Charterhouse, Priddy and the port of Uphill, and their lead, being smelted on the spot, was sent on the Roman road over Mendip top to the Severn.

Between the Middle Ages, and the Roman period, there is no base for saying definitely to what extent the industry was carried on, but in Richard Lionheart's reign, he granted mining privileges to the Bishop of Bath.

Throughout the following years, we find mention of mines at "Hidun" or Haydon (near Nordrach-on-Mendip), Rowberrow, and Burrington(1489). About the early 16th century the working declined, but we begin to hear of the mines at Chewton Mendip, they later revived and reached their maximum development in the 17th century. At this time there were mines in operation all over Mendip. They were however, divided into various areas of jurisdiction or ''Liberties” These were:-

West Liberty, where the lead that was mined at Ubley, Blagdon, Burrington and Cheddar was taken to the lead works at Charterhouse.

Harptree Liberty, the lead from the Lamb Leer area, Lord's Lot, Haydon, Castle of Comfort, and Wurt Pit was worked at Frances Plantation near Smitham Hill.

Chewton Liberty the mines at Red Quar, Tor Hole, Emborough, and "Gocedyres" or Cuckoo Cleeves sent their ore to the Waldegrave Works near Waldegrave Pool.

Wells Liberty the lead from the mines in an area Wells-Rodney Stoke- Westbury Beacon-Priddy Nine Barrows- Fair Well, (in Priddy mineries)- Green Ore- Masbury, were sent to St. Cuthbert's Lead Works.(The old site of the Belfry).

These 'Liberties' belonged to various people, who were called “Lords Royal”; they were respectively the Lords of East Harptree, the Gurneys, The Lords of Chewton Manor, and the Bishop of Wells, Charterhouse, however is rather in doubt, it seems to have belonged in turn to:-Witham Friary, who had a monastery there, the May family, and finally to Lord Gore.

It may be opportune here to mention the visit of 'Lord' Chocke. “Lord” Chocke was actually Richard Chocke of Stanton Drew, he was appointed a J.P. and bought Ashton Court in 1454. In 1469 he judged a mining dispute at Axbridge and he died in 1486. 'Lord' Chocke was supposed to have drawn up the Mendip mining laws, but these ware actually in existence long before his time. These laws were finally codified. They were vary stern in ways, For instance, if a miner stole, he was put in his house with all his mining tools and burnt. This is the old custom of "Burning from the Hill''. They also gave the miner very considerable rights, but, however, quibbles always arose and were dealt with in the mineral courts.

The lead mines were at their peak in the 17th century, when Chewton, Bowsland,(Tor hole), Priddy, Harptree, and the West Minories were all producing. Later on in the years following, the price of lead fell considerably, and due to other causes, the mineries closed one by one and by 1813, Priddy Mineries had closed. However, odd mines were still producing on Mendip. On 6th May, 1830, an adit was dug on Dolbury Rill and nearby Mr. Webster,(a retired officer) spent his fortune in driving the level at Sandford.

The main future of the lead works was in the middle 19th century when the Cornishmen brought improved smelting methods to Mendip. These men put up their works in various places near the old load works and resmelted the slag heaps, Nichols Enner undertook to work the St. Cuthberts heaps, Mr. E.H. Barwell worked the Waldegrave holdings and the Rev. E.T. Treffry the Charterhouse works. These men used the new reverberatery furnaces, round buddles and the draugnt tubes or horizontal flues. The flues were used to load the smoke or “flight” from the furnaces for a long distance before coming from a chimney stack to the open air. The reason for this is that the smoke contains a high proportion of volatile lead, and it condenses on the walls of the flue; this was periodically scraped and re-smelted. At St. Cuthberts in 1864 the flue was 800 yards lung, the soot collected in the first 550 yards yielded 60 pc lead and the remaining 250 yards to the chimney was 50 to 55 pc lead.

The final death knell of the Priddy Minery was the decisicn of the court in the Enner vs Hodgkinson water pollution case; Waldegrave works finished in 1885, in 1884 the Charterhouse works finished, the Harptree Mineries died out in 1875. Spasmodic working without using the water was carried at St. Cuthberts until 1908 when the works wore dismantled and sold. During the first World War, the Charterhouse Mineries were again at work, with 6 men, but at the close of the war the work finished.

A way in which losses were defrayed was the extraction of silver from the lead, the old heman cupellation process which was considered unprofitable if silver contained was less than 8 oz. per ton being of little use.- The new Pattinson process was perfected and a small plant was erected at Charterhouse - the ruins are on the east side of the valley almost opposite the Roman Camp in Velvet Bottom.

So it was that the Mendip Mineries, starting in the mists of antiquity continuing through Roman times and receiving an added impetus from the discovery of gunpowder in the middle ages, finally died one by-one. All that serves to remind us of the ''Old Men" who worked on Mendip top and finally came to rest in God's Acre are the long 'rakes' and stretches of “gruffy” ground in the hills.

From the Hon. See's Postbag,

From Jerry Hull, M.E.L.F.

------------I am feeling in very good spirits today because yesterday I discovered a cave!! It isn't exactly what could be called a cave in , but it is the first one I have ever had on my own.

At the back of this camp------ starts a range of hills known as the Ataka Mountains. In this range there is a gorge, a kind of miniature Cheddar Gorge. It is about a mile long and is at times very grand. In parts it runs between vertical walls some 500 ft. high and is only 40 feet wide. In its upper sections it widens out into a shallow V, huge rocks piled on either side, with here and there a colonnade some 300-400 ft. high showing strata red, blue, green, snow-white and black in colour.-----About halfway up this gorge I found what I had been looking for, a cave.

The main cave follows a fault in the rock face and goes from one entrance to the other in the space of 320 ft. Here and there it comes to the surface for a brief interval. As you can see the main cave is of little interest, but there are a number of side passages which may repay further investigation.-------

From Terry Reed at Antefagasta, .

---------- At a distance of 4 hours ride to the south----- are three or four very large sea caves, which are readily accessable. To the north at the far end of the Bay is a natural arch in the sandstone - known as El Porta. In the desert, over the mountains by the feet of which Antofagasta squats, lie an immense number of old and extensive workings for gold, silver and copper.'---------

From Terry Reed at Colon:-

-------- I have a heck of a lot of dope on S. American Caves, Cave Temples, Temples and ---little fellows---- never quite tamed who retain the habit of shrinking Human heads to the size of an orange.--------Have gen on:- Cave of the Virginon - Mt. Curacoa, Cave of the Millodon, Straits of Magellan, Cave of Guayabal & Caves of Mt. Vent in Mexico.

I should appreciate any snapshots of Caving to show to my friends anso please remember ME if any spare prints are floating about.---------

(Note. The Hon. Sec will be pleased to forward any spare caving prints that any one may have. These will help to remind our most roving member that Mendip and its netherworld still exists, although he is divorced from it. Ed.).

Faith and Friction

A joint effort by J.V. Morris and G.M. Whitaker.

Being Yet Another Episode in the Adventures of the Menace.

In contrast to the usual caving effort, I thought it might be of interest to offer an article on how not to rock Climb.

The climbing was decided upon as practice for a forthcoming graunch on Gable, Pillar, Scafell etc.. The site chosen for this suicidal venture being Anstey's Cove, whose weathered limestone cliffs make a passable climbing practice ground.

First came the question of the rope; finding the clothes line not long enough, the dinghy's anchor rope was immediately seized, cleaned and dried, and apart from a few strands of seaweed and its inability to hold more than a hundred pounds, it proved quite passable. Since then, this article has been returned to its former use, a spivvish length of nylon replacing it.

Arriving at the Cove, we decided upon the "Central Gully" which lies directly opposite the Tea Hut. As gullies go it was quite massive, about 550 ft. high. The first hundred feet proved comparatively easy, composed of scree and short pitches. From there we completed three routes.

The first was a left hand wall, slab traverse ending in a chimney finish. During this climb a good photo was taken of George trying to inflate himself with a bottle of very fizzy beer, presumably in an effort to float to the top.

The second climb was a direct ascent of the gulley, with the same chimney finish.

Then came the bind of the whole proceedings. On the right hand wall we had noticed a vertical crack, leading to a vile sloping traverse above a large overhang. Upon this George was determined to commit suicide. The crack went quite well, the belay at the top, being to say the least of it, sketchy. From here George, proceeded to lead across the traverse, relying on the fact that he hadn't shaved that day. The more I locked at it, the less I liked it, and when after much suspense he disappeared round the corner and called "come on, I've gut a fine beley", I didn't believe a word of it, but relying on “Faith and Friction” I pressed on regardless,

To my great surprise I traversed safely across and found George lashed to quite a reasonable belay. From there the climb proceeded to the top, up what in normal times would have been a really difficult crack, but which after the horrors of the “Church Roof Traverse” we romped up in great style, with the exception of George dislodging a rock on to my head. The seagulls for miles around took a distinct exception to my vocabulary,

Latter we proceeded to the Cave Gully, the first pitch of which was a, perpendicular cave of jammed boulders. From here a scree shute led to the top of the gulley, or a hundred foot climb, up the right hand wall, was much more acceptable to the "Menace" spirit. I then proceeded to climb it, whilst George stood by paying out the rope, issuing advice and sarcastic comments. When most of the rope had gone, and I had failed to find either a belay or a stance, I found myself underneath a realty crafty overhang.

Neither George’s advice or encouragement were any use to me here, and I contemplated joining him rather more hurriedly than I had intended. However George saved the day by hurriedly scrambling up a vertical ivy covered slab, and finding the best belay of the day, at a point vertically above me. Feeling much more encouraged by the support from above, I continued to climb upwards. However, the overhang proved beyond my powers, and I did a graceful back-dive into space. Fortunately, (No cracks from the Editor please!!) the rope held, and he lowered me back down.

The rest of the day was spent in practicing roping down. This proved quite exciting, especially on one occasion when the rope acting on quick release tactics, persuaded the belay to accompany it to the bottom, where it nearly flattened George. This called for refreshments at the Tea Hut, where we received quite an ovation from all and sundry, who, unknown to us, had viewed our antics from afar.

I have heard

That our Hon. Sec and Assist. Hon. Sec. were doing some climbing on the Cornish cliffs recently when one of them tried to prove that his head, was the best part of his anatomy to fall on. A hand hold came away and THS inverted him self and dived headlong to terra Firma. Total injuries wore a sprained wrist, a gashed leg and a hunk out of his temple. Hard Luck, Mrs. S. Better luck next time.

That one of the 'Quads' mentioned in the last BB has now progressed sufficiently and possesses sufficient intelligence to operate a slide projector. This he did in great style at a recent lecture given by the Hon. Sec..

The Structure and Location of Cave-Bearing Rocks in South America

by Terry Reed.

The main geological feature- of the Americas is the great mountain range, which, known under various titles-.Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Sierra Madre and the Andes-- stretches from Alaska to the rocky and still volcanic island of Tierra del Fuego,

This range was formed partly of igneous, and partly of metamorphic rocks, but by earth movement and consequent uplifting and denudation, the sea farmed the necessary marshes and shoals to produce packets of sedimentary strata.

In the Andes many caves (mostly at high altitude) are to be found. In the Chilean sector elevated marine beaches and layers of shells are also to be noted. Their elevation and distance from the present seashore bear witness to the penetration of the sea at an era which I consider was lying late in period between Permian and Jurassic. (Equivalent to the European Jurassic period which was the era of deposition for our New Red Sandstone.).

As the various beds or strata were not laid down in the same era nor in the same order in the various continents, it must not be taken for granted that rocks in South America named after the 'standard' system will exhibit identical characteristics nor contain like fossils to their European namesakes.

The costal belt west of the Andes between 20 and 30 degrees South Latitude is barren of considerable caves. The only things of interest here are the burials of Incan times. Incan limit of southern conquest is marked by thieir camp sites near P San Antonio on the Rio Mario, in the vicinity of Valparaiso.

An exception is the mountainous country west of 's Atacama nitrate desert, where areas of various erodeable rocks bearing superficial water rifts and deep caves along valley floors are known to exist.

The volcanic East Coast may hardly be considered, for, whilst I am aware that considerable caverns do exist in , yet there are few of them, and those are at some distance inland.

The last reliable source of information on the above was Darwin, who in the middle of the last century found important remains of extinct mammals in them.

Central Bolivia, Mid and North Peru, and South-west Ecuador bear a fine group of caves, most of the largo specimens of which have been converted into rock-temples, but these and the smaller ones having rock-carvings and inscriptions galore.

Nearly all these caves contain one or more burials of periods dating from very ancient times up to the seventeenth century. With few exceptions the corpses have been mummified by a process of rapid dehydration by the hot, dry soil, which is mainly of rock-dust base.

Small animals intended for "Post-Mortem consumption" by the dead are usually even better preserved than the human remains.

Finds of weapons, bone ornaments, and stone or pottery artefacts are associated with the burials and silver, sometimes golden, amulets are common.

Tin, silver and gold, mines cover much of South-America, and some of these are so old as to be of great historic interest.