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Editor’s Note

Since the publication of last month’s Belfry Bulletin, we have received a lot of articles, offers of assistance and help in obtaining materials and favourable comments from club members.  We would like to thank all concerned both for their help and for the encouragement that this has given us.

As a result of this, we have been able to increase the size of the B.B. and to provide a back cover.

We how have a goodly stock of articles for future use, but although we must keep a few back as reserve, we will try to print each article as soon as possible.  We think that authors would prefer this and that it may lead to authors writing more often.  The limitation to the size of the B.B. at the moment is governed by the supply of paper and gifts of this will be uncommonly useful.


March Committee Meeting

The 1957 committee held their second meeting at the Belfry on Sunday, March 3rd.

Business dealt with included the new hut (Town and Country Planning permission has now been granted) electricity, water, and the provisioning of trees from the Forestry Commission.

A formal resolution was proposed by R.A. Setterington to amend the names required for signature on the club Post Office account.  The new list consists of: - R.J. Bagshaw, A. Collins, D. Coase and N. Petty.  This resolution was seconded by R. King and carried.


The Caving secretary reports the discovery of a new series in Cuthbert’s.  This is called the Maypole Series, and is entered from Upper Traverse Chamber by means of a maypole.  The series is an upstream one and contains three pitches.  The first Maypole Pitch is 20’, the second Maypole Pitch is 15’ and the third Maypole Pitch is also 15’.  These pitches now bring the total of pitches in Cuthbert’s up to 18.  There is some very nice stal. of various colours in the series which is well worth seeing.  The series has been penetrated for 300’ to date and the prospects of further penetration are good.  It is hoped to persuade  the committee to provide fixed steel ladders for this series.


There is not much news from the Climbing Section this month, but the following letter has been received from the Climbing Secretary: -

To the Editor, B.B.

Dear Sir,

In the March issue of B.B., I see that you have added a comment to my notice on transport to North Wales.  While it is perfectly true that we do tend to overturn shooting brakes, I feel I should make it clear that the cost of this exhilarating experience is comparatively slight, and those who have participated in it agree it is good value for eight shillings a head.

I wonder if I might describe a typical crash?  On our last trip our cruising speed was rising steadily from an existing thirty five to a dicey forty when we skidded, toppled sideways and ended the slide upside down facing the way we had come.  From the rear came a cry of “What did the King say?”  We lay there for a moment quietly enjoying the experience before we crawled out.  We had been packed so tightly that no personal damage was done while individual reactions to the event were quite varied and unprintable!   Once out, we heaved the thing back onto its wheels, stuck on odd bits and finally drove off to Wales with only a few dents and new draughts to remind us of what had happened.

Afterwards, when the reckoning came, the driver was reluctant to fork out his crash fee because he claims he missed all the fun - he was asleep at the time!

Notices & Reminders

New Members.

We welcome the following new members to the club: -

J.J. Jacobs (374)            126 Bridge Lane, Golders Green, London N.W.2.
Peter Graham (375)        6, Lawrence Mansions, Chelsea, London S.W.1.
F.M. Piper (376) 2, Hanbury Road, Clifton, Bristol 8.

Change of Address.

From May 1st, Alan Thomas’s address will be: -

Sandall Park Special Residential School,
Bishop’s Lydeard,
Nr. Taunton,

Scandinavian Trip.

Tom Fletcher is going to Lyngen in Norway this June/July for several weeks, returning via Sweden.  There will be climbing and the lion’s share of the expenses will be paid by Tom.

Anyone interested should write to Tom by Air Mail to: -

T. Fletcher,
East African Malarial Institute,
Nr. Tanga,

From Tom & Rusty

Herewith the latest report from two members in “Furren Parts”.

Firstly, tour of the States is off.  The reason being my lack of enthusiasm about serving a two year stretch in the Yankee army.  Three of my friends who left Avro for the States are now in uniform! and on enquiry to the U.S. Consulate informed me that in my case call up was very likely!  Imagine the ‘Michael’ that would be extracted if I got posted to Limey Land and walked into the Hunter’s clad in Yankee khaki!  Not for me.

It was a terrible disappointment as you can well imagine, literally the opportunity of a lifetime wasted.  However, as a consolation Rusty and I trotted down to Toronto and booked our passage home.  We sail on the ‘Tresnia’ from Montreal on July 26th so we should be down at the club some time in August.  If all goes well of course.

I hope the National Geographic mags have started arriving.  The thought of being swindled on this side of the Atlantic is more than English blood can stand!  (Tom has taken out a subscription as a present to the club – Ed.)

The roads over here are pretty nearly impossible.  The Toronto area is not so bad, but out where we are living the snow is really deep.  I know what it feels like to have to walk four miles in over two feet of snow.  I got the car stuck last week and had to call out the tractor from the local garage.  God, what a country!  I used to love the snow in England but since being over here I hope never see another snowflake as long as I live.

                                                            See you soon.
                                                                        Tom and Rusty.

I’m sure that Tom and Rusty will have some wonderful yarns to tell us when we see them……….Editor.

Caves Of Malaya

by Brian Prewer.

Towards the end of July last year, I found myself, rather unexpectedly, flying over the Syrian Desert on my way to Malaya – the land of rubber plantations, tin mines, coconut palms and dense jungle.  One might add to this list ‘Land of the Caves’ for Malaya is a caver’s paradise.  To the north of Kuala Lumpur exceptionally large caves abound, while between Ipoh and the Siamese border – a distance of over 250 miles – limestone outcrops stretch continuously.

It was to a range of limestone hills, on the border with Siam that I paid a visit during February.  This trip was more or less a search for any caves that might be worth a visit in the near future.  A journey of 130 miles by car through rubber plantations and jungle, brought me to a small village called Kaki Bukit which is surrounded by limestone hills over 2,000 feet high.

Most of the caves in this area are unexplored except for one or two which have been explored by a group of Europeans who call themselves the ‘Selanger Speleological association’.  A short search along the base of one hill revealed openings of various sizes all showing promise of fairly large passages beyond.  One such opening – a large resurgence – was over twenty five feet high at the entrance and had an extremely large stream flowing from it.  Lack of equipment on this occasion prevented any exploration.

A further search brought to light a sheer rock face with several small openings at various heights.  The angle of the bedding was about 45 degreees.  After a long climb up a thickly wooded hill, I found numerous openings most of which swallowed small streams.

About 50 miles south of Kaku Bukit lies the small town of Jintra.  The town is surrounded by many strange limestone outcrops.  The land surrounding these outcrops is absolutely flat and yet they rise up to a height of well over two hundred and fifty feet.  The sides – either sheer or extremely steep.

Caves in these outcrops are many, most of them being true pot holes as the bedding here is horizontal.  Exploration of these is out of the question without a fair amount of tackle.  With this in mind, my attention will now be focused on the caves in the north and also those near Kuala Lumpur.

On the geology of Malaya, I know little except for some information obtained from a small book on the country.

The formation of limestone in Malaya seems a little unusual.  About two hundred million years ago, Malaya was beneath the sea and during that time the usual process of the formation of limestone took place.  At some later period, great earth movements took place and the limestone was pushed up to form the present mountain chains.  These mountains apparently had a core of granite.  Today, erosion has proceeded very far and the mountains are little more than residual stumps with their cores of granite widely exposed, but on their flanks here and there are preserved relics of the old limestone – discontinuous on account of the crumbling and fracturing that it suffered when the mountains rose.

“Prew” has also sent the following note: -

If any further information comes my way regarding the caves of, or speleology in Malaya, I’ll let you know.  In the next month or so we hope to explore some of the caves mentioned above.  We are obviously limited by tackle, but we will do as much as we can.

Desilverisation of Mendip Lead

by “Gaff” Fowler.

In a field south west of fair Lady Well, the plough has turned up many fragments of Samian Ware, and several lumps of a heavy, pink, crystalline material together with a few pieces of weathered lead and Galena.

X-ray diffraction showed this pink substance to be mainly composed of crystalline litharge.  (Lead Monoxide – PbO.)

Further examination spectroscopically showed that it contained fairly high percentage of other substances – notably Manganese, Aluminium, Iron, Calcium and traces of a variety of other metals (see note 1)

Crystalline Litharge can only be formed by the cooling of a Litharge melt (melting point 879oC) and this temperature is greater than is usual in the smelting of galena.  Silver was conspicuous by its complete absence (see note 2.).  These two points, plus the fact that the material contained no sulphate or sulphide (see note 3.)  indicated that the material was not a normal slag from the smelting of galena.  In any case, it would have been a very inefficient process to leave a third of the lead behind the stage.

CUPELLATION. – The early method of desilverisation lead (see note 5.) was to allow the molten metal – which contained all the silver from the ore – to cool slowly.  The first crystals to appear were pure lead and these were removed, usually with a perforated iron ladle.  This process was repeated until about seven eighths of the lead had been removed.  This alloy – rich in silver – was then melted on a flat “cupel” or hearth, usually made of limestone clay or a Barytes/clay mixture (see note 6.) in a blast of air.  As the temperature obtained was greater than 900oC, the litharge formed, flowed away, and took with it some of the Calcium, Manganese, Aluminium and other metals present in the hearth, as impurities.  On cooling, it crystallised in pink hexagon crystals.  The remaining litharge was absorbed by the porous cupel, leaving a globule of metallic silver about 99.9% pure.

The analysis of the material found shows that it is probably the residue from a desilverisation process and considering that it was found on a roman site, near to a known roman lead works, it is probable that it is of roman origin.

Lead from Galena found there also (see note 2,) would contain about 0.0006%.  Thus the sample found was a lump of DESILVERISED LEAD.

G. Fowler
15.1 57.

Note 1.

Analysis: - Specific gravity          6.4 – 6.9
                 Chemical Analysis    mainly PbO
                 Spectrographic Analysis:
                        Fe……..5 – 10%
                        Mn..…..2 – 5%
                        Ca….....2 – 5%
 Cu, Ni, Si……..0.1%
       Sb, Ti……..0.01%

The following elements were not detected within the limits of the analysis indicated:

AS, Zn, U         less than 0.1%
Cr, W, Bi, Sn, Cc           less than 0.01%
Ag, Tl, V, Mo    less than 0.001%

Note 2.

The silver content of a lump of galena found on the site was 0.0005%

Note 3.

The smelting of Galena is carried out by oxidation at a low temperature, when the mineral is partially oxidised to sulphate and oxide: -

                        PbS + 2O2 – PbSO
                        2PbS + 3O2 – PbO4 + 2SO2

A little lime is added and the temperature is raised, when the remaining Galena reacts with the partially oxidised products to give lead:

                        PbSO4 + PbS – 2Pb + 2SO2
                        2PbO + PbS – 3Pb + SO2

The slag from this process contains about 10% Pb present as oxide, sulphate and sulphide.  In modern process the lead is recovered from the slag in a blast furnace.

Note 4.

A “Pig” of lead found near Greenore bore the inscription ‘EX ARG.VERB.’ which could be translated as either ‘From the silver mines’ or ‘Desilverised lead’.

Note 5.

Cupellation was mentioned by PLINY.  The process was ‘Rediscovered’ in 1833 by Patterson.

Note 6.

Samples of barites containing Fe, Al, &c as impurities were also found on the site.

Editor’s note on the above.

I know that this is all rather heavy going for the ordinary, or non-chemical member of which I am definitely one myself!  I am told that this work by Gaff is definitely an original contribution to the story of Mendip lead and that more will be heard about it in the learned circles which Gaff frequents.

A series of three articles on lead mining on Mendip will shortly be published in the Belfry Bulletin.  These are being prepared by another of out tame chemists – Merv. Hannam, but will be of a less technical nature than the article above.


As most of our Bristol members will know, Mike Jones and Judy Osborn will be getting married on the 30th of March.  By the time that this issue comes out they will be married, but there will not be time to include a note on the wedding.  The club have been given them a wedding present of some cutlery and we have received the following letter from Judy: -

Dear B.E.C. Members,

            On behalf of my husband and myself I should like to thank you all for the present you gave us on the occasion of our wedding.  Also for all your good wishes for our future happiness.

            Yours sincerely
                        Judith M. Jones

Two more candidates for the matrimonial stakes are Alan Sandall and Carol Venn, who are getting married on the 3rd of April.  We should like to offer them our bets wishes for their future happiness.


The Hut Warden would like to thank Ian Dear for his gift of four new mattresses for the Belfry.  They will come in very useful over Easter.


It haz bene pointed owt too me that i kan’t spel thee naim ov thee mountanes between France and Spain inn last month’s B.B.

I amm sorry fore this and I wil try to improve my speling inn thee futyour.



All contributions for the B.B. may be given or sent to any members of the Editorial Board.  These are Spike Rees, Alan Sandall, Bob Price and Alfie.  Material for the B.B. may also be included in letters to the Secretary.

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