Belfry Bulletin

Search Our Site


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.