BEC digs

Search Our Site

This is the first number of our Second Volume of the BB.  I think that we have fulfilled our purpose in bringing out the B.E.C. Mag., and I hope in 1948 to have a much greater number of contributions from Members.

So, to all Members of the B.E.C, Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year's Caving.


Minutes of 1947 Annual General Meeting

Minutes of 1947 Annual General Meeting held at 74.Redcatch Road, Bristol 4 on Saturday, November 29th.

Meeting opened at 6:35 p.m. there being present:-

T.H. Stanbury, Mr.& Mrs. Tompsett, A. Needs, G. Fenn, M. Hannam, W. Hucker, G.T. Lucy, J.A. Dwyer, J.V. Morris, D.A. Coase, A. Johnson, J.C. Weekes, J.Pidyard, Miss M. Thomas, P. Wallace, J.D. Pain, A.M. Innes, S.C.W. Herman, P.A.E. Stewart, Miss P. Richards, F.A. Edwards.

R.A. Setterington was representing B.E.C. at the C.R.G. Annual General Meeting and arrived at this (BEC) one at its (CRG) close.

It was proposed by J.C. Weekes that D.A.Coase be elected Chairman for the meeting. This was seconded by J.A. Dwyer and carried.

The 1947 Committee having resigned, the following were elected to represent the club in 1948:-

T.H. Stanbury,   (Hon. Sec.& Hon. Treas.)
D.H. Hasell,       (Hon. Editor, B.B.)
D.A.Coase,       (Hut Warden & Hon. Equip. Officer)
A.M. Innes,       (Hon. Librarian)
J.C. Weekes.

Hon Sec, asked if he might have an assistant Sec. appointed for such routine work as making up BBs etc.; this was agreed to and J.C. Weekes, was appointed to the job.

Hon Secretary’s Report

Hon. Sec reported that:- Owing to the colossal number of small trips taking place, no accurate records could be kept as in previous years, but 42 large scale trips have been organised, and in these, 536 persons went underground. Besides these, there were two and sometimes three smaller trips every weekend.

The year has brought the important discovery of Lower Stoke Lane, of Brownes Hole, entered a fortnight ago, and the initial penetration of Withybrook Swallet. A good week's sport was had in Derbyshire, and several weekends in , together with one in Cornwall, were greatly enjoyed by all concerned.

The Club Library, thanks to the generosity of various persons, has been greatly extended and now boasts of 195 volumes of various kinds. No opportunities have been missed to purchase books suitable for inclusion.

(These are the main and most interesting items from the Hon. Sec's Report. Space will not allow his complete report to be printed, or a complete itemised Financial Report. These may be inspected at Redcatch Road. Ed.).

Arising from Hon. Sec's. Report:-  D.A.Coase suggested that a loose leaf log book be used after January 1st next. This was agreed to by all.

Hon. Treasurer’s Report

During 1947 the Club income was;- 79/7/8
Whilst expenditure was:-                 69/16/6½,

Arising from Hon. Treas. Report:- D.A.Coase proposed that the, 1/- sleeping fee for the Belfry, should cover fuel for the fire as well as for lighting and cooking. This was seconded by S.C.W. Herman and carried.

Hut harden and Hon. Equipment Officer's Report

Hut harden and Hon. Equipment Officer's Report: The major item in this report is the Belfry, which has certainly proved its worth. The erection of the Belfry last winter was done under conditions of considerable difficulty in the midst of blizzards etc., but on February 1st it was officially opened for sleeping.  The Hut is now weather tight, although one gale threatened to remove it entirely.  A large part of the main hut is now lined inside, and the electric lighting has been installed.

The generator is at the moment fitted in the "married quarters", and although a lean-to has been constructed at the back for it, it is proposed to leave it where it is for the winter.  The lean-to being used meanwhile for storing firewood, timber, etc.

Unfortunately we have erected the Belfry rather near the farmhouse with the result that we have received one or two complaints about noise late at night and I would stress the importance to all that ALL unnecessary noise is taboo after 10p.m. and that anyone entering the lane with M/T after this time should be as quiet as possible.

The major source of difficulty has been the emptying of the detailer.  I can’t order anyone to do it, or rather enforce the order, I can only appeal to them.

Another point is cleaning up the Belfry. This is done by the game old regulars, and although they use the place more often than the others it is time that some of the other perishers did their share.

Now for some facts end figures. Since December 1st 1946, the Belfry has slept altogether a total of over 400 members, 50 visitors, and 30 members of B.C.C., a total of well over 500.  The Hon. Treas. has already given you the figures for the Belfry a/c, but I would remind you that in just a year the Belfry has paid for itself and shows a profit of 4/6/-.  To date the Belfry has cost 37/15/-.

One trouble with the Hut is that at times it is too small. At August Bank Holiday, we had 17 people sleeping in the Belfry and several more had to go to main’s Barn at Priddy. Although the hut will sleep 12 in comparative comfort, the room available for living in is rather cramped with more than 6 or 8.

Equipment.  The tackle has periodically been tested, and the two 35 ft. ladders we took over from the B.C.C. have been scrapped.  The rungs have been salvaged and one ladder has been made up with new ropes.  The other one has been made up but has not yet been completed.  Two ropes, a 40 and a 60 ft., have been scrapped as well.  The 40 ft. dural. ladder is reported to have frayed on one wire, but is still down Stoke Lane together with a 20ft. ladder, a 60 ft. rope and some tools.  Anyone feeling energetic can retrieve these and return them to the Belfry.

Digging implements have been in great demand this year, and the small shovels made by Les Peters proved very effective.  A few more large spades, a pick-axe, and a bucket should be useful however.

The Belfry is now fairly well stocked with equipment although with regard to sleeping gear, a few more blankets, and mattresses would be useful.  Also another Primus, half-a-dozen knives, and especially a water container, would prove their worth.


Arising from above:-  J.C. Weekes questioned the desirability of (a) running about nude in the vicinity of the Belfry, (b) Drunkenness, (c) Questionable behaviour.  After lengthy discussion it was declared, that there should be a general tightening up of behaviour generally.  R. Wallace proposed that the matter be reviewed at the end of three months by the Committee.  This was seconded by Mrs. Tompsett and carried.

J.C. Weekes proposed that a Swear Box be instituted, the fine imposed to be 1d. per word, "household language” excepted, The box to come into operation on January 1st, and the proceeds, if any, to go to Wells' Hospital.  After much hilarious discussion as to what was meant by "Household Language', the motion was seconded by G. Fenn and carried.

R.A. Setterington proposed that the following be entered in the minutes:- “That no member of B.E.C. Committee can serve on the governing body of any other Cave Club”!

An amendment by J.M. Tompsott that:- “No B.E.C. Committee member may be on the Committee of, or hold any official position in any other Caving Club at the same time, without the permission of the Committee of the B.E.C.” was seconded by J.C. Weekes and carried.

Omission from Rule Sheet. Hon. Sec. proposed, in view of the agreement at the 1946 A.G.M. not to change the Rule sheet for 3 years, that the rules omitted be left out permanently, and that the Annual Subs become due on the anniversary of the member's date of joining. This was seconded by S.C.W. Herman, and carried unanimously.

The principle of the B.E.C. having a Banking account was discussed and agreed to by the meeting, the details to be worked out by the Committee, This was proposed by J.C. Weekes, seconded by Mrs. Tompsett, and carried unanimously.

Hon. Sec. Presented to Mr. D.A. Coase, the membership card for 1940 won by him in the BB X-word competition.

J.V. Morris told the meeting that the Devon Speleo Society have given an open invitation to the Club to use their HQ etc whenever in the area.  A proviso being, that an adequate notice be given of such trips.  Hon. Sec. asked Mr. Morris to convey the thanks of B.E.C. to D.S.S. and to tell them that of course we are delighted to offer similar facilities to D.S.S. whenever they should be on Mendip.

A resume of the C.R.G. A.G.M. was then given by R. Setterington, after which the meeting broke up.

Although the shortage of fats, etc. made the usual "after A.G.M." feed impossible, cake etc, was consumed in large quantities.

The thanks of the club are due to the work done by the lady members and especially to Hon.  Secs.’s wife who had the arranging of the room and also the clearing up to see to.

At our Belfry on the Hill

The following outburst was probably caused by the remarks at the A.G.M. concerning Belfry Behaviour. (Possibly there are other causes).

Rather obviously to be sung to the tune of "Much Binding in the Marsh".

At our Belfry on the Hill,
The Purity campaign has really started.
At our Belfry on the hill,
From swearlng and bad manners we've departed,
We're fixing up a Swear Box on the table by the wall,
And Don must pay a shilling if he lets his fig-leaf fall,
In case the Bristol Brownies should decide to pay a call
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
Politeness is the order of the day there.
At our Belfry on the Hill,
In fact It's really quite a strain to stay there.
Our dear old maiden aunties couldn't blush at what is said,
And fairy tales and fables are the only stories read,
At night we say our prayers and then we toddle off to bed,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
We used to talk of motor-bikes and caving,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
But now we're concentrating on behaving,
You can bring your little sister and your favourite blonde up too,
They wouldn't mind our language, but they mightn't like our stew,
But if they start complaining, well, they know what they can do,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
We're sure you'll like our tablecloth and flowers.
At our Belfry on the Hill
We sit and knit to pass away the hours.
Quite early Sunday mornings we go off to church in twos,
But first we clean our teeth and comb our hair and shine our shoes,
And if we're offered pints of beer, we, graciously refuse,
At our Belfry on the Hill.


Eastern Mendip - The Discovery of Withybrook Cave.

By P.M. Browne

Withybrook Swallet, in the hamlet of Withybrook, is a walled in depression upon the North side of the main road between Stoke Lane and Oakhill, about half a mile from Stoke. The stream which is usually flowing in to the swallet is conveyed under the road in two concrete pipes.

Discovery and Exploration.

The system was opened by Messrs. P.M. &.L.M. Browne with Mr. Sam Treasure acting as Engineer.  A sloping shaf, some 8ft. in depth, was excavated through sand, gravel and boulders, until on September 10th 1947, the first open passage was struck.  Beyond, the two explorers could see their goal, made inaccessible merely by one massive rock, wedged across the way.

Many hours were spent in a vain attempt to force a way through, but finally it was decided to clear the obstruction by blasting.

On September 10th two plugs of explosive were used on the obstinate boulder, which fell with a crash into the chamber beyond - Withybrook Cave was open!  Great flakes of shattered limestone had to be cleared from the jagged opening before the cavern could be entered, but at last the discoverers crept through, and on into the unknown.

Description of the Cave.

Beyond the bottom of the entrance shaft, a sloping rift chamber about 14ft. long, 5ft. wide and 8ft. high with a very unstable, roof, goes off to the East.  Suddenly a stream course appears and the whole system begins to follow the dip of the strata, running North, at an angle of about 45 degrees for about 40ft.  Here the way becomes choked with mud and boulders.  Above the sink, a promising, but at present inaccessible, passage leads away.  Another interesting passage, running West for 20ft., terminates in to small rift chambers.  The second of these runs due South.

Geology and Water.

Geologically speaking this small system is very interesting, for inside it is possible to study the curious system of intersecting rifts and bedding planes, of which the whole district seems to consists.

Although inaccessible to man this ' fissure system' must hold many hundreds of gallons of water, (in wet seasons) at a high pressure.  The stream, which enters the swallet, I believe to unite with the waters of Stoke Lane Slocker and to reappear at St. Dunstan's Well some distance below.

P.M.B. 1947.

Caving in Palestine

Yes, believe it or not, in spite of the troubles in the Holy Land, The heat, and the apparent impossibility of finding a suitable 'orid 'ole, a BEC member stationed with the Army near Haifa has been successful in discovering a cave.  So Greetings to Terry White, and may he soon be wallowing in the cooling waters of Mendip!!  Below are extracts from his letter giving a description of his tour through the Goat shelters of Palestine.

'We are stationed in a camp just outside of Haifa, and life at the moment is not too bad.  At the back of the Camp there is a small range of hills.  I have been over them many times, but up till November I have found nothing startling in the way of caves.  There are numerous small holes dotted here and there, but none of these call for a prolonged stay, for at some time or other they have been inhabited by goats, and that speaks for itself.

One cave did turn out to be a little interesting though.  The entrance of this one must have been too small for the goats to get in, for we found no traces of them whatever.  The first thirty yards we did crawling on our stomachs.  The roof then rose until we were able to stand upright.  Taking a left and then a right turn, we walked until we were brought up by a very narrow passage.  Through the passage we came to a small cavern, its floor littered with well gnawed bones, evidence that animals had once lived there.  The thought that the animal, or animals, might still be lurking in the rear of the cave, made us sweat a little more. I forgot to mention that the cave was very hot, the hottest cave I have ever been in.

In the left hand corner of the cavern was another small passage, bearing around to the left.  Continuing on through we came upon another cavern the same size as the last one, and much to our relief it was devoid of any living creatures, although there were plenty of bones to show they had been, none human, thank goodness.

Whilst in here we noticed a tight squeeze, through which we emerged to find ourselves by the entrance again. I was disappointed by the finish, but we were lucky to find a cave at all, especially in these regions. The formations in the cave surprised me, although very poor by our standards.  I did not expect to see any with such a dry climate.  I could not form an opinion as to the type of rock it was, but it looked to me to be of a volcanic nature".

The elephant or so it seems.

An elephant escaped from the Bristol Zoo last week unnoticed by the Keeper.  A woman in Clifton, who had never seen an elephant before, discovered the animal in her garden.  She rang up the police and said:- "Hello, There is a strange animal in my garden, and its pulling up all my flowers with its tail".  Is that so, Madam? Then what is it doing with them?" "You wouldn't believe me if I told you", she answered.

Adventures of the Menace. Episode 2.

Pridhamsleigh Cave. South Devon.

We started out for the cave at the ungodly hour of 0930 hours, in pouring rain.  I had been told that it was a very muddy cave, but when I saw the large clean entrance I began to doubt it, not for long, however, for it soon dwindled down to a filthy 'ole something like the upper ox-bow in Stoke Lane, and we quickly became plastered from head to foot.  On making some choice remarks about the cave in general, Squeek said "Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet, wait till you see the Deep Well".  The Deep Well was what we intended to cross, Imagine a high rift with 30ft. of water in the bottom. 21ft. long and just too wide to chimney, there you have the Deep Well.

Squeek said "Well, what do you think of it?" I Said, "Personally I don't, but you can only die once". No, I didn't fall in (pity Ed.) but by becoming a contortionist, I got safely across. From there we pressed on regardless, until we came to the so-called end, a sump, with deep water.  I was just making up my mind to dive it when Frank pointed out a hole up in the roof.  So up I went, and managed to get through to the other side of the sump.  I carried on chimneying till I found myself in a pot above another sump, with the passage clearly continuing about two feet under the water, which was about 20ft. deep.

Unfortunately as I was climbing down to get a closer look I slipped and fell head first into the water.  I thought I would freeze to death and even my language didn't warm the water up.  The bind was that I could not climb back and had to swim back through the sump. All the others could do when I surfaced was laugh.  From there we took a high level route which we found back to the Deep Well, re-crossed it and carried on to the lake. It was not bad as lakes go, and quite impressive, it is 60ft. deep in the middle.  Here accident No.2 happened.  We decided to take some photos, and trying to light the, flash powder I must have touched it directly with the candle. All I knew was that there was a loud bang and I was blind for the next half hour.

After that I staggered out behind the rest, and arrived at the surface after six hours underground.

We then strolled down through the village and were met by cries "SPIVS", from the local inhabitants, so we beat a hasty retreat to the hut.


Further List of Publications available in the BEC Library

Earlier list appeared in BB 3 & 6


Pennine Underground                            N. Thornber.
Cave Science No 2                                BSA


List of Ancient Monuments.                   H.M.S.O.


The Astronomical Horizon                      Sir J. Jeans.


Log of the Fortune                                 T Lindley
Life and explorations of Dr Livingstone
A scamper through mercie                     T.S. Hudson
The Great gold Lands of South Africa      S. Haver
S.W. Shetland
Beautiful Britain

Local Interest

History of Clifton Suspension Bridge
A Short history of Malmsbury                 N. Piddick.


Legends and Stories of Ireland
River Legends                                       R. Fargesson
Summer Time in the Country                  R. Willmott
Manual of Botany                                  P. Brown
Legs and Wings                                    T. Wood
The Common Objects-of the Sea Shore
The Fisheries of the World
Popular Scientific Recreations.
Pictorial Chronicle of the Mighty Deep


The Food of the Gods                            H.G. Wells

Editorial Notes

In this our second number, we are starting an inventory of the equipment available to members, as we believe that very few of the Club members know how much property the B.E.C, possesses.  As a start, we give a list of books in the Club library.

The furniture presented by Mr. B. A. Crew for use at "The Belfry" contained items which were of no direct use to us.  They were, however, sold for a goodly sum, which helped the funds round a tight corner.  If any other member has any similar White Elephants, we should be pleased to accept them for the same purpose.  Have a look in the attic, fellows!

It has been noted by some of our members, that certain persons - who seem to have learnt to write only recently - have defaced the walls of certain caves on Mendip with their names and the letters B.E.C.  It is well-known that the B.E.C. has access to all caves, and we would point out that such advertisements are completely unnecessary.,


The S.W.C.C. have a very attractive open meet over Easter.  Visits to Dan-yr-Ogof, Ogof Ffynnon Ddu and many other South Wales caves are planned.  Any member wishing to take part in this should notify the Hon. Secretary at once.

Official Announcements

Cave Research Group

The B.E.C. has now been formally elected a member of the C.R.G, and as information from this body is received it will be passed on to members.  News Letters 1 and 2 are now available.

Mendip Rescue Organisation

We have received notification that the M.R.O. reorganisation is now complete and we print in this Bulletin a copy of the new procedure in the event of accident. Copies of the M.R.O. Constitution are available at Headquarters.

Annual Subscriptions

We would remind members that subscriptions must be paid before 31st March to ensure continuity of service.

Procedure in the event of an accident

We call to the attention of members, the following extract from the MRO Constitution, which is of the greatest importance should occasion arise for its use.

  1. A member of party will go to the nearest callbox and ring Wells 97, (police).  Give number of callbox and name of cave in which accident
  2. The Police will ring Wardens in rotation.  To the first Warden in touch they will give the name of the cave and number of callbox.
  3. The warden will phone the callbox and ascertain the exact locality of accident, what injuries are known, and how many in party. He will call up wardens and Squad leaders as necessary.
  4. At the scene of the accident, the Senior Warden will take charge. In the event of the Senior Warden not being a doctor, he will collaborate with the doctor called out and follow his instructions in so far as to the treatment and removal of the patient.
  5. The Wells or Bristol ambulance to be called only on the instructions of the doctor. The MRO will not be responsible for expenses incurred.

Once again, I would stress the importance of these arrangements in the case of accidents, and ask all members to make sure they are familiar with them.

The Club Library

All books in the library are available to members free of charge for two weeks. They may be kept for a longer period, on arrangement with the Hon. Librarian. If the borrower does not return them on the due date, he becomes liable for a fine of 1d for the first week, plus 2d for the second, plus 3d for the third, etc. any member who cannot call at Redcatch Road for books, may borrow by post, provided he return the books by registered post. He would, of course, be subject to the usual fines on non-return of books.

A list of book at present in the library is appended as a supplement to this issue. As additions are made we will report them.

“The Belfry” Progress Report

The last two months of inclement weather has, surprisingly, seen some work put in on “the Belfry” by the Hon. Secretary and the Hut Warden, who risked life and limb to plough through innumerable snowdrifts. On one occasion, a shovel had to be used to dig the Hon. Secretary’s car (Ford – Ed) out of a drift to enable the party to return to Bristol.

The work has mainly been felting the walls which are now complete. The nameplate made by Tony Johnson and Johnnie Morris has been put in place, and looks very resplendent. Lining boards for the interior have been delivered, and a start made on the lining.

On Saturday, 1st February, the Hut Warden spent the whole weekend at “The Belfry”, and thus officially opened it for occupation.

At presnt, we have at “The Belfry”, 4 mattresses, 5 pillows, 5 sleeping bags and 9 blankets. For sleeping there are 6 bunks and a camp bed. (one bunk is already reserved for the Hut Warden).

Anyone wishing to use the Belfry is advised to contact the Hon. Secretary, or the Hut Warden, at 74 Redcatch Road, so that arrangements can be made regarding the key.

D.A. Coase
Hut Warden (17.3.1947)


We wish to thank the following members for the articles listed below, which will be found very useful to those using the Belfry.

A Johnsen                     Cups, plates, knives, forks.
T.H. Stanbury                pocket compass.
J. Bridges                      hurricane lantern.
R.A. Setterington           2 blankets,
Mrs, I.M. Stanbury         blanket.
Miss M. Akers               stirrup pump, lantern.
R. Woodbridge               4 shelter bunks
B.A. Crew                     quantity of furniture and bedding.

Thanks to

With reference to the remarks about his fags in B.B.1, Johnnie Pain - was very pleased to receive a cigarette from R. Brain.  He says, considering the distance it had to travel, that it was as good a smoke as he has ever had, and that the cadging of it needed no effort on his part.


We take great pleasure in announcing the engagement of two of our Club members. Miss M. (Dizzie) Akers to Mr. J.M. (Postle) Tompsett. Good luck to you both!   (God help you. )

Bog Hole

The excavation at Bog Hole, started in August, l944, by the Bristol University Society, has excited considerable interest among our members, as it is situated so conveniently near The Belfry.  As the University seemed to have abandoned the site, we approached them with a view to taking it over as a B.E.C. project.  We have now been informed that they have no objection to our taking over, and accordingly we shall start digging at the first opportunity,  D.A. Coase will be in charge of the work.

Swancombe Hollow

This site, although it was inspected early last year and permission obtained from the U.B.S.S. a little later, has not been started yet.  As I think it will be increasingly difficult to get help on this dig during the weekends, I propose to start working on weekday evenings.  The plan is not yet a concrete one, but the work will probably be done on Tuesday evenings.  Any members who would like to help can get the Gan from the Hon. Secretary.

D.H HasselI.

Belfry Bulletin

Back numbers of "Belfry Bulletin" are obtainable from the Hon. Secretary at a cost of 3d. per copy.

List of Publications Available from the BEC Library


Mendip Caves                                                   H.E.Balch
Netherworld of Mendip                                       H.E.Balch and E.A.Baker
Wookey Hole, the Cave and Cavedwellers           H.E.Balch
(available on special request from D.A.Coase)
Wookey Hole, Official Guide
Caving                                                              E.A.Baker
Dan-yr-Ogof, Offical Guide
Kent Caverns Guide
The Falls and Caves of Ingleton                          J.L.Hamer
The art of the Cavedweller                                  Bladwin Brown
Ten Years under the Earth                                 Norbert Casteret
Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, Vol 5 nos 2 and 5
The British Caver, Vols. 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16
Caves and Caving, Vol. 1  Nos. 1,3,4, and 6 (No.2 is available on special request from D.A.Coase)
BSA programme of the Speleological Conference, 1939.
Carlsbad Cavern, () Picture folder.

Climbing and Mountaineering

Climbing in                                              J.E.Q.Barford
Mountaineering Holiday                                     F.S.Smythe
Mountain Prospects                                          Scott Russell
Adventures on a Mountain
Climbing Mount Everest                                     Ingls Finch
Ascent of Nanda Devi                                        H.W.Tilman
Snow on the Equator                                         H.W.Tilman
of the Moon                                      P.M.Synge


Geographical Magazine,                                    June to Oct, 1941. inclusive.
National Geographical Magazine ()               Vol 63, No, 6.
                                                                       Vol. 75, No, 3. 
                                                                       Vol. 79, No 4
Voyage round the World                                    Anson
In Quest of the Sun                                           A.Gerbault
Cruise of the Cachalot                                      
Great African Mysteries                                     L.G.Green
In Dwarfland and Cannibal Country                      A.E..Lloyd
Travels on the Amazon                                      Wallace
Euphrates and the Tigris
Arctic Ocean to Yellow Sea                               Price
Wanderings in China.(in Two Volumes)               Cummings
as we saw it                                            Pickerseth
New Zealand                                                     Max Hers
Somoa                                                             G. Turner
Headhunters                                                     A.C.Haddon
Gold dust and Ashes                                         L. Idress
Lassester’s Last Ride                                        L. Idress (semi fiction)
Scotts Last Expedition (in two volumes)


Geology Excursions handbook Bristol and Mendip Area    Reynolds
A short guide to the geology of Torquay

Annual General Meeting

This was held at 74 Redcatch Rd. on Saturday the 14th December 1946 at 7:30 

D.H. Hasell was elected chairman of the meeting and then the Treasurer read the Report and Accounts for 1946. Major points of these were as follows:

Secretarty’s Report 1946

The club has run 65 official trips this year, on which there was an attendance of 520, 275 Members and 145 Visitors.  Club membership stands at 81, the highest ever. Of this number, 18 are in the Forces and 33 are new members.

We are supporting the formation of the Cave Association of Wales and hope to become a member club.

Our affiliation to The British Speleological Association has not renewed, as in the opinion of the Committee, the objects of the association have been lost, and the money is better spent improving amenities of the BEC.

Members have been present at nearly every local operation of The Cave Diving Group, and the Club is now to take part in the work of The Mendip Rescue Organisation.  Details of this scheme will be circulated later.

The Club has now purchased a large hut for Mendip Headquarters. The Library, thanks to the kindness of members has been considerably increased.

(signed) T.H. Stanbury Hon. Sec,

Financial Report 1946

Cash in Hand Jan 1st


General Expenditure to Dec. 14th


Income to Dec. 14th


Hut expenditure to Dec. 14th






The Club, however, still owes Mrs.I,M. Stanbury £8.0.0d for part purchase of the Hut. A further £l.9.8d has been received since the Accounts have been made up.

The expenditure has all come at the end of the year when funds were low, but the opportunity of purchasing the Hut was too good to miss, with the result that the cash balance is at present, negligible.

There has been a lot of slackness in leaders failing to collect the Tackle fee, amounting to a loss of several pounds, and I look to leaders to remedy this in the future.

(Signed)  T.H. Stanbury. Hon. Treasurer.


The next business was the election of the committee. T.H. Stanbury was unanimously re-elected Hon. Sec. and Treasurer. Nominations for the other four places, and the votes for each were as follows:

D.H. Hasell        15 votes
E. Jenkins         4 votes
D.A. Coase       15 votes
A. Innes.           9 votes
A. Withers         3 votes
G. Lucy             8 votes
P. Stewart         11 votes

The Committee for 1947 will, therefore, be:

T.H. Stanbury    Hon. Sec and Treasurer
D.H. Hasell
P. Stewart
D.A. Coase
A. Innes.

Constitution Amendments

Amendments to constitution and rules were then discussed, and a revised copy will be sent to each member as soon as they are printed. Major points raised and passed were:

I.          There to be four classes of membership.

(a)  Life Members.
(b)  Full Members
(c)  Junior Members (those under 18 years of age)
(d) Associate Members.
Subscriptions for (b) 10/- per annum, (c) and (d) 5/- per annum.

II           The Equipment fee to be reduced to 3d. per trip.

It was also agreed that the new rules shall stand without alteration for the next three years, unless a two thirds majority of members request any alteration or amendment.

D.A. Coase was appointed Hut Warden and Hon. Equipment officer, and a charge of 3d. per person using the Hut, and for those staying overnight a 1/- per member per night, or 2/- per visitor per night were agreed to. Members of other cave clubs would be welcome at the Hut (hereafter known as 'The Belfry') with the proviso that BEC members have priority for accommodation.

Mrs. I.M Stanbury, in recognition of her services to the club, was unanimously elected an Honorary Life Member.

Donations toward the cost of the 'Belfry' would be welcome, and £2.2.6d. has been received to date.

The meeting officially closed at 9.45 p.m.

Then a concerted rush was made for the 'buffet', which was presided over by Mrs. I.M. Stanbury, ably assisted by Mrs J. Fountain and Mrs. S. Hasell, and soon everyone was stuffing mightily.  The 'proceeds' from the buffet resulted in a further 15/- for the Club funds.  our thanks to 'The Caterers'.

Sidelinks from the A.G.M.

Johnnie Pain handing round a FULL packet of players. Four fags were returned. The Biter Bit !!!

The committee having 'detailed' his duties, the Hut Warden immediately attempted to resign, but was forcibly prevented from doing

The Belfry.

Is situated at The Beeches, Eastwater, which is at the entrance to the old St. Cuthbert's Lead Mine, about half a mile from the Hunter's Lodge Inn on the right hand side of the road to Priddy.

The accommodation comprises a wooden hut in three sections, each about 12’x 8’, and a small stone hut as a tackle store. A great deal of work had to be done to make it really habitable, and anyone who can help during weekends would be more than welcome, please note the fire is in going order to thaw out frozen digits. Contributions of cutlery, crockery, cooking gear, blankets, etc., will be gladly accepted.

Overheard in G.B.

Experienced caver - 'Mad things, these Helictites, aren't they?'

Novice.         - 'wouldn't you be if you had been down there as long as they have?'

Programme for January. February and March

January 19th.     Full Eastwater.  Meet at the Belfry, 10 a.m
February 16th.   Axbridge Ochre Mine, Loxton Cave, Denny's Hole.
March 9th.         Lamb Leer

All other week-ends will be devoted to work on 'The Belfry'


Belfry Bulletin

The Belfry Bulletin will be published at irregular intervals for the present. Any Suggestions or criticisms for improving it, or contributions for inclusion will be welcome.  Come on you budding authors!! Please send replies to - The Hon. Editor.  'Belfry Bulletin' c/o 74 Redcatch Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.


The Bristol Exploration Club wish to thank G. Platten for the gift of a primus stove and A.M. Innes for the gift of a long climbing rope.

Round and About Bristol

For club members who are not able to get as far away from Bristol as Priddy and Burrington, there are some interesting points nearby. There are some gruff-holes terminating in small chambers near Henbury Golf Course and Blaise Castle Estate. There is an underground passage leading from the garages on Horfield Common the (now demolished) Quantocks school on Kellaway Avenue, the garage end is now cemented over, but the other end opens into the school basement.

There is a small cave entrance in the middle quarry on the west side of Avon Gorge which continues for about 15 ft and ends in choke.  A nice set of slabs presents a decent rock climb in the same quarry.  Also between quarry II and quarry III is a good ridge walk - in one place about 4 feet wide with approximately 200'- drops both sides !

On Dundry Common the strata of the rock is horizontal and there an interesting system of small caves.  In places they have been shored up either with props or stone walls.  There are 4 at least of varying size and probably quite a few more.  If anything is known regarding these caves - information would be gratefully received. On a recent visit the names of R. Crew B.E.C. and O. Oxley and B. Warren Y.C.L. were noticed.

Nearby situated near Barrow Hill is Dial Quarry with an interesting cave running approximately west to East with about 120 ft.

Information Please

Would anyone knowing anything regarding a cave situated in Burlescombe Quarry (Burlescombe, Devon) please write to P.A.E. Stewart, c/o H. Stanbury, 74, Redcatch road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.

A party from Blundells school, Tiverton made a partial exploration but were brought up by a vertical drop of a depth exceeding the length of rope carried by the exploration.


This is the First Report of the new discovery in Stoke. Lane Swallet. This will, I think, Be one of the most important on Mendip for some considerable time. The report of the "Trap Divers" will follow soon.

Stoke Lane Swallet


Browne's Passage

An exploration party from Bruton, led by myself, made an important cave discovery in Stoke Lane Swallet, one of the least known caverns on Mendip.  The members of the party were - P.M.BROWNE, D.SAGE, and J.H.UMEACH.  During the three hours of our exploration we had the luck to be the discoverers of a new and very interesting series of low tunnels and encrusted grottos, totalling about 250 feet in length.  This new system ,now known as Browne's Passage, doubles back upon the known cave and thereby introduces several very interesting hydrological problems, which I trust will be solved in the near future.

Immediately after the discovery I arranged an expedition with the Club for the following Saturday.  Accordingly the second party to enter, the extension, consisting of D.A.COASE, R.A.SETTERINGTON, and I, arrived at the little village of Stoke Lane at about 3.00pm on June 7th.

During the proceeding four days a considerable amount of rain had fallen on the surrounding land and so, on arriving at the cave mouth, we found the volume of water entering it to be far greater than it had been on the previous trip. In normal weather the entrance of the swallet is dry, or nearly so, but that day the water was thundering over the boulders and pouring into the narrow opening, and on into the darkness beyond. All being in readiness for the adventure I abandoned all thoughts of personal comfort for the following four hours and crawled into the uninviting gate to the strange world under the hills. Within a few seconds I was forming an admirable substitute for a leaky drain-pipe, with the icy water pouring up the legs of my boiler-suit and emerging by means of vents and other outlets somewhere above the knees!

A suggen step enabled us to stand in a narrow keyhole shaped passage, in which the stream foamed and boiled around our feet. Suddenly the passage widened and lowered forcing us to crawl along an arch shaped tunnel of a type very characteristic of this cavern. On the floor the stream flowed through a series of muddy, leech infested pools. At about 30 ft. from the entrance the roof rose slightly and we found ourselves on the brink of a large swiftly flowing stream, the main stream of the cavern, coming in from our right. Crawling in the water beneath a low arch we entered a long, narrow rift at the end of which was the first chamber. The murmuring river flowed through the chamber and vanished under a huge boulder at the far end. Looking back along the rift by which we entered this place we saw the lights from the rear of the party beautifully reflected from the surface of the rushing water.

Now began the discomforts of the journey. Climbing over huge blocks of limestone we left the stream and struggled upwards through a small and very muddy aperture to a steeply inclined bank of wet, glutinous mud. Below us, on the left, the stream again appeared from under a low arch. From here we had as it were the choice of two evils. One method was by following the water, the level of which was just above one's neck; and the other by what is known as the Muddy Ox-bow. I enquired whether it was to be mud or water and the unanimous reply was mud please. At the top of the slope we literally slid through the door shaped opening which gave access to a small mud grotto proceeding one of the most uncomfortable portions of the whole cave. Those who have been through the Devil's Elbow in G.B. Cave will be able to visualise a similar tunnel, entered through a choice of two holes bored through a mass of solid mud, the floor covered by a pool of stagnant water!  Dropping into the glue like mixture of mud and water I began to move forward,using my forearms as skids and my feet as barge poles, A sharp bend brought us to a long, narrow, and comparatively dry tunnel, at the far end of which I crossed the stream, which once again came rushing past from a large passage on my left, and turned to watch my companions wallowing through the mud-lined tunnel.

A short tunnel led us to the second chamber, the floor of which was strewn with largo cubical boulders. Creeping through a low arch in the opposite wall, we began one of the most painful crawls that I have ever undertaken. The floor was covered with a thick bed of sharp pebbles, over which we crawled beneath a seemingly endless series of very low creeps. At length we came to a fork in the passage. On the left an ascending tunnel led through the "Grill Chamber" to "Pat's Coffin", and on our right a roundish passage, followed by another short and painful crawl, brought us again to the main stream. From this point we, followed the rushing water for about 50 feet along a high passage, in which we noticed some exceedingly fine formations, until it again became necessary to make use of another ox-bow, the walls of this one, together with the floor and roof, being coated with crystalline formations.

In a few wore yards the main stream vanished into the wall for the last time. (Until the opening of Stoke Lane ll.) On the left we followed a small stream, which soon vanished, through a narrow fissure in the right wall, along a low tunnel at the end of which a short vertical squeeze, followed by a long sandy tunnel, brought us to a high narrow chamber, the floor of which was heaped with a pile of massive rocks cemented together with mud and stalagmite deposit. Straight ahead, a large tunnel stretched away into the gloom, and from it a small stream usually flows, to disappear on reaching the edge of the boulder pile. Some weeks ago this chamber was the scene of the new discovery, now Known as "Browne's Passage".

Climbing over the pile of boulders to the far end of the chamber, we dropped one by one through a narrow, irregularly shaped hole in the floor. Twenty feet of awkward crawling brought us to a small chamber with a pile of very unstable boulders, behind which a low tunnel led us to a high sloping grotto with excellent formations.  Following a low water-worn tunnel, from the roof of which hung a cluster of well formed straw stalactites, we suddenly found ourselves on the brink of a black and mysterious "lake", covering the floor of a low, wide chamber measuring some 15 feet across. From here we crept along a narrow, arch-shaped tunnel for a considerable distance until we were suddenly faced with the "Nutmeg Grater", a very nasty Squeeze. On the return journey we found a by-pass to this section of the tunnel, but unfortunately this offered us no greater degree of comfort than the "Nutmeg Grater" itself!

A fine series of round, water worn arches led us to another long and sometimes low tunnel, at the end of which we crawled out into a chamber called "Cairn Grotto". (The limit of the first Exploration). The grotto was about 25 feet in height, and two possible exits could be seen leading from it. One was an ascending mud tunnel giving access to a sloping mud grotto. The other was a narrow rift, in which the water was about three feet deep. Entering the latter of these two extremely uninviting passages, I dropped into the icy waters beyond a low arch called "Disappointment Duck", under which I was forced to submerge to my neck, the tunnel suddenly turned to the left and I found myself in a small chamber in which the water was about five feet deep. A short distance beyond this the walls closed in and the roof dipped below the surface of a dark and horrible pool. Spluttering and cursing, I made my way back to my two companions in "Cairn Grotto".

On the return journey we explored the remaining section of the known cave, an ascending series of tunnels terminating in a small, low chamber.

Somewhere in the vicinity of the "Nutmeg Grater" one of the party was found to be crawling up the narrow passage with what remained of his trousers hanging round his ankles!

After the journey back to the open air, which took us over an hour, we took great delight in lying in a nearby waterfall, after which we changed into warn dry clothing once more.

On Sunday June 22nd the sump at the end of "Browne's Passage was dived by D.A.Coase, T.H.Stanbury, & F.G.Balcombe. Beyond it was found over 400 ft. of cave. On June 28th and 29th D.A.Coase and other members of the B.E.C. together with myself, again dived through, and beyond, was discovered one of the largest and most beautiful caverns in the West of England. The largest chamber is about 100 feet long, 80ft.high and over 70 ft. wide.


by Llesah.

I have here a question, the Editor said,
From the Belfry one Saturday night,
I've been racking my brains and shaking my head,
But I cant got the answer quite right.

We'd been telling some tales, as we do when we're out,
And this is what puzzles my head.
Why, when “Postle" called a Boy Scout a Boy Sprout,
Did his lady friend fall out of bed?

Beyond the Cairn Chamber,

by The Editor.

First of all I must apologise for this article which must, of necessity be very sketchy. I have seen the large chambers, but as I did not intend to write this myself I kept no record of my impressions and I have left the Pukka article by D.A.Coase in Cornwall.

You will remember Pat Browne's description of the 3ft. Puddle, which is the dreaded "Trap". This is plunged rather more easily than its appearance would indicate, and beyond one enters a tunnel. about 5 ft. wide and high, with water about 2ft.deep. Down the stream we paddle until we reach the Boulder Ruckle, which is the floor of the first large chamber. From here the cave opens out into a total of 9 large chambers, some of then very beautiful.

In one of these chambers is a high scree slope which is littered with bones, some human, some animal. Some of those bones have been tentatively identified by an eminent archaeologist. There is evidence of Ox, Sheep or Goat, and Deer, (Probably Red Deer). The Human bones present are from at least two skeletons, one of an adolescent and one adult.

Leading off this chamber is the "Throne Room". This is the most beautiful Grotto I Have ever seen. It is lined with formations of all colours and dominated by two large stalagmites, one "The King" formation which is joined to the roof, and the other, ''The Queen", which is astonishingly like the statue of Queen Victoria on College Green.  Part of this chamber is a beautiful smaller Grotto, now called "Princess Elizabeth's Grotto", which has a stalagmite floor studded with clear pools filled with "Coral" formation which form a delightful contrast to the noisome water of the stream in which we have wallowed to reach this beauty. In another chamber, connected by high and low level passages to the "Bone Chamber", is an amazing curtain formation whose edge unlike the more normal curtain, is a cylindrical "carved" pillar more than 20 ft. high.

Until the end of July the termination of the new series was a trap, but early in August, Pat Browne, exploring off "Princess Elizabeth's Grotto" discovered a rift which he thought bypassed this obstacle. This was confirmed on Aug.10th.when a small party took a ladder in and carried the exploration a little further. They have almost reached the river again, but they are stopped by another small vertical.

This very short account will give members some idea of the extent of the new system.  Exploration is going forward, and we shall be starting on the work of removing the bones as soon as we have found another entrance (or exit).

The Editor's Notes - The Belfry.

We have no report from the Belfry warden for this issue, but as all active members will know, the hut has proved its worth this Summer. On August Bank Holiday, 25 bods had breakfast there. In connection with this day's work, the A.U.T.A.H.W.* has suggested that in future, should such a crowd turn out, at-meal times all members shall collect plate, knife, fork and cup from the assistant cook at the first shutter on the left, and the head cook will issue rations at the door.

From the Bristol Evening Post we cull the following:-

Exploring bravely underground,
Some members of a Club have found
By squirm an wriggle, squeeze and crawl,
The finest Mendip Caves of all,
And chief among the wondrous sights,
Are stalagmites and stalactites.
Which lackadai-sically grow
An inch each thousand years or so,
While now - of all the blooming cheek -
They're working on a five day week!

* A.U.T.A.H.W. — Acting unpaid assistant Hut harden.


We, have received some contributions for future Bulletins from a, few members and should like more. If your article has not appeared, don’t be discouraged, it will.

The Secretaries graph which is well known to members, has now reached the unprecedented length of 7ft 6ins (unfinished). In the years to come provided that any future secretary does not condemn it to use in the detail, the Editor hopes to see this monument of perseverance used as wall paper for the B.E.C. Mendip Club House.


We have lately received from this Group Publication No.1, Parts 1 & 2.  Part 1, Cave Fauna by E.A.Glennie, Part 2.Cave Fauna Preliminary List by M.Hazelton & E.A.Glennie.

Visit of French Cavers to Mendip.

A party of about 15 Frenchmen have been staying on Mendip as guests of the Wessex Cave Club. We learn from the local press that they have discovered a new Cave Animal “something like a caterpillar". Believed to be new to science.

Back Numbers

Back Numbers, when available can be collected from H.Q. for 3d.each or by post.4d. per copy.

The Mystery,

Perhaps she was trying to drop off??!!

Annual General Meeting 1950.

The Annual General Meeting will be held early in January 1951, and the first step towards this is the nomination of members for the 1951 Committee.

The following list is of the existing committee, all of whom, subject to their willingness, are eligible for re-election, provided that they are nominated at this time.

D,H, Hasell, Chairman

T.H. Stanbury, Hon. Sec. & Treas

R,A, Setterington, Hut Warden

G,T, Lucy, Hon. Tackle Officer

F,W, Young

A.M. Innes

Miss S, Bowden-Lyle

K, Dobbs

one member from London Section

R, Cantle, Leader, Climbing Section

Your are asked to send in nominations for 9 positions on the Committee, these to include one London Section member and one lady member. All such nominations MUST be in Hon. Sec.’s possession by 30th. November, 1950,

(note :- You will see that the existing committee has ten members. This is due to the fact that R. Cantle has been co-opted to represent the climbers.).

Annual Dinner

All persons who are attending the Annual Dinner MUST definitely send to Hon. Sec. before Monday October 16th. enclosing 7/6 per person attending. Failure to do this will mean exclusion from the function for those who omit to send, as this is the last day before the hotel is notified of final numbers.

Stoke Lane Swallet by M.M. Unwin

During a recent visit to Stoke Lane Swallet, I noticed a small blue-green patch on the limestone rock surface as approaching the locality known as “Boulder Ruckle”.

Upon further examination I was able to determine that this was due to a species belonging to the alga group, a simple organism known as Chroococcus Turgidus. This can be found abundantly in this country in moist places, and can be seen at the entrance to Wookey Hole.

But the main interest in this text is that the alga were living under extreme austerity conditions, with no light available to carry out photosynthesis, by which most alga obtain their energy, the alga still maintained their blue-green colour, which rather suggests that other forms of nutrition other than photosynthesis does occur. This led me to suspect that the alga obtained their nutrition from the organic matter in the water present.

To determine this I conveyed into the “Changing Room”, (the other side of Trap 1) suitable quantities of double distilled water in glass containers with an outer covering of synthetic plastic. Some of the alga was removed and placed within small glass test-tubes containing the distilled water. This was repeated three times respectively. I left two of the glass tubes behind containing alga, the remaining one I enclosed also in the synthetic plastic covering so as to keep the contents in the dark, also to avoid breakage on the return journey. After two days, I opened the latter tube to find that the alga had in fact almost lost its colour.

On the fourth day of the commencement of the experiment I returned to the cave to where I had left the other two tubes. I removed one and returned with same and placed it within the sunlight, where, within six hours the alga had regained its colour, as had done the first specimen.

It appears from the foregoing experiment that the alga in question can utilise light from photosynthesis as well as the organic matter carried by the water. Control tubes containing the river water were set up in the experiment, and further work on this subject is in progress.

MM Unwin

List of Members 1950 No.7

C. McKee,                                 70 Imperial Road, Nottingham,

Ken. Oxby,                                c/o 19, Baker Street, Nottingham.

Miss Maureen Pillinger,              36 , Gathorne Road, Southville, Bristol.3

Mrs Gwen Ifold,              Leigh House. Nempnett, Chew Stoke, Nr. Bristol,

Mrs Marie Young,                      The Barton, Stanton Drew, Nr. Bristol.

Clive Seward,                             25, Beaconsfield Road, Knowle Bristol.4.

Miss Margaret Offer,                   c/o the Farmhouse, Great Wigsell, Hawkhurst, ,

Dave Young,                              42, Hogarth Road, London. S.W.5,

J.G. Turner,                               39, St. Marks Ave,, Salisbury, Wilts,

Miss Sheila Ainsworth,               3; Byfield Place, Combe Down, Bath Somt,,

Miss Tessie Storr,                      460 Alfreton Road, Nottingham,

Miss Eunice Overend,                49, Alexandra Road, Frome, Somt.,

Bob Crabtree,                            13, Winterley Ave,, Wallasey Cheshire,

Miss June Beer,                         1, Elm Tree Drive, Bishopsworth, Bristol.

Miss Jean Bevan,                       31, Gilda Cresc,, Knowle, Bristol.4.

Miss Beryl Wild,                        49, Speedwell Road, St, George, Bristol.5,

Letter about bones in Stoke Lane & Roman site near Belfry

The following letter and the reply are those promised you in the last BB :-

St.Faith’s Cott,,


Nr Axminster,



The Editor, Belfry Bulletin

Dear Sir,

What has happened to the archaeological finds, including I believe, parts of three skulls and other bonus, that were brought out of Stoke Lane Cave about two years ago? Have they been examined, identified labelled and preserved in the correct manner, and if so where are they now and what are the findings? I ‘would like to know and so would others.

If nobody in the Club is further interested in the remains, both inside and outside the cave I suggest that the Club offers them to an institution more interested in Archaeology than we

are and also offers to conduct any ardent archaeologists to the site within the cave which should be well worth “digging”.

A lot of these remarks also apply to the Roman site in the field behind the Belfry,

Yours etc.,

J.M. Tompsett,

Here is Ted Masons Reply :-

11, Kendon Drive,



2nd. Sept. 1950,

To The Editor, Belfry Bulletin,

With reference to Mr Tompsett‘s letter of the 17th. Instant, the surface bones at Stoke Lane Swallet were removed under my direction by the joint’ efforts of the BEC and the Mendip Research Group in September 1949, just under a year ago. The bones were handed to me on site and the Mendip Research Group subsequently handed over those which they themselves had recovered on another occasion.

As archaeological adviser to the BEC the control of these remains and excavation is a matter, of course, for me to advise upon.

1.       THE SITE, Excavation of the site is contrary to my advice until certain conditions are complied with:-

a)       Excavation rights,

b)       Access

Of these (b) is the most difficult since the site should be within easy reach of daylight, particularly where friable bones are concerned, apart from the extreme difficulty of transporting equipment via the sump. All earth would have to be finally sieved and examined in the open. Until a new and more direct entrance to the bone chamber is formed, this would be impracticable. In fact the surface bones were only recovered when it was learned that there was a possibility of damage by trampling. The difficulty of obtaining a second entrance is of a non-archaeological nature, and the difficulties are well known to the BEC, who have been pursuing this aspect. Any ruthless digging in the cave under present conditions is to be depreciated,

If these conditions could be complied with there is no reason why a proper excavation should not be carried out as originally arranged as a joint excavation by the BEC and the Mendip Research Group. However the inadvisability of attempting to excavate without a secondary entrance was also borne out by a written statement of Professor Tratman when he visited the site.

2.  THE BONES. The final identification would not normally be done until after the commencement of the excavation since the date of relics of this nature is almost wholly dependant upon information found during the course of the excavation. However, in view of the difficulties of opening the site, the bones will be submitted for anatomical examination, as soon as I am satisfied that their restoration and preservation is such that they are in a suitable condition to travel. Bone reconstruction and preservation is a long and tedious job. It will be appreciated that bones which have lain in wet conditions possibly for several hundred years do not dry easily and applied heat tends to warp. In fact, the care necessary to specimens after recovery from a site can be as tedious and exacting as the scientific excavation of a site. Any club engaged on archaeological work must be prepared to be patient.

However, the first batch of bones may be able to be despatched in the course of the next few weeks. It is hoped that Dr. Zouner of the Institute of Archaeology will furnish the anatomical report, although for Mr. Tomsett’s information a preliminary report of the bones was kindly made in situ by Prof. Tratman, a copy of which is in my possession.

With regard to labelling, preservation etc., this is being done in accordance with my normal methods although if Mr Tompsett has any suggestions to make, I shall of course be only too pleased to consider them.

Any offers to conduct ardent archaeologists to the site, should, of course, be referred to me since it is not the custom for archaeologists and excavators to undertake work on a site, in which another colleague is concerned, There is a kind of “professional etiquette” even among excavators. However, again, if there are any suggestions, I shall be only too pleased to give then unbiased consideration.

With regard to the final housing of the finds, this is a point which is normally considered prior to removal and it was agreed by the B EC that they would be deposited in the Museum at Shepton Mallet. There remains the question of the scientific publication in which the final report would appear. It is hoped that this will be the Proceedings o f the MNRC with a note in the Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological Society (space permitting) and of course - the Belfry Bulletin.

2.  THE BELFRY. As on all sites a certain amount of preliminary work has had to be carried out which may be enumerated as follows.

1.       Excavation rights

2.       Organisation of the excavation.

3.       Equipment

4.       Action

1.                   The owner has been approached, but requires to see the area staked out.

2.                   The general outline for an excavation committee has been suggested by me to the BEC. These should comprise the appointment within the Club of:-

a.       Correspondence Secretary.

b.       Excavation foreman.

c.       Photographer.

d.       Surveyor.

e.       Draughtsman.

f.         Technician (marking and joining of pottery etc.)

g.       Digging assistants

3.                   Equipment. Tools, A roll call has been made for tools and I understand that these have now been accumulated:-
Stakes A number of stakes were required. These have now obtained.
Plan. Ordnance sheet. This is now in the possession of the BEC.
Surveying Level. Some difficulty has been encountered in obtaining a level for .the site and remains unsolved.

4.                   Action. Air photographs have revealed certain features enabling us to narrow the field in which to begin work and these features have been marked by the BEC on the ordinance sheet. Although the absence of a level is disconcerting, there is no reason why a sondage should not be made this year, weather permitting, but the main onslaught will have to be left until the summer. Within the next few weeks, it is hoped that a trial trench will be cut. However we must assume that the help of members will be maintained, since excavation is a slow and painstaking process and helpers must appreciate that it is easy to destroy several hundred years evidence in as many seconds. Swallet digging is fast work compared with archaeological excavation. Also we must be assured of a good nucleus of helpers who arc not likely to waver after the trial dig if it justifies continuance on a larger scale. Otherwise in such circumstances the site is best left alone. Like most things one must take the good with the bad, although I think there is every prospect of it proving an interesting site.

The enquiry from Mr Tompsett is certainly welcome since it indicates some enthusiasm in the club concerning archaeological matters, and I look forward to having his help and others like him on the site.

Yours faithfully,

Edmund J. Mason


Leaders are still required for trips during December, January & Feb.. What about the London Section? Send in offer and suggestions as soon as possible.


T.H. Stanbury        Hon. Sec.                            74. Redcatch Road Bristol.4, 77590.
W.J. Shorthose      Hon, Sec. London Section     26. Gateside Road, upper Tooting, S.W.17, R. Cantle        Climbing Sec     46 Cherrington Rd, Henleaze, Bristol 9


The BEC's series of caving reports cover a wealth of knowledge and experience.Most of these were written many years ago but still contain very pertinent information covering many aspects of the clubs activities.


Been down St Cuthberts? Buy the report and get a free survey!

Less well-known than many of Mendip's other major cave systems, St. Cuthbert's Swallet offers much to those whose interest extends beyond mere sporting activity. Not only does it contain fine pitches and streamways but it has numerous large chambers, some beautifully decorated, intricate phreatic mazes and up to seven distinct levels. It is without doubt Mendip's most complex cave system and, not generally realised, it contains perhaps the finest and greatest variety of formations in the area. Among its displays are found magnificent calcite groups such as the 'Curtains', 'Cascade', Gour Hall with its 20ft high gour, 'The Beehive', Canyon Series and the 'Balcony' formations in September Chamber, all of which are without peer in the country. There are also superb mini-formations including floating calcite crystals, over twenty nests of cave pearls, and delicate fern-like crystals less than four millimetres long; a variety that few other caves can boast.

Access is strictly controlled by the Bristol Exploration Club. Conservation was the prime reason for wishing to control access to the cave. To achieve this aim it was decided by the BEC at their 1955 Annual General Meeting to introduce a leader system. St. Cuthbert's Swallet was one of the first caves in the country to be so protected. This action has often been the centre of controversy. However, the fact remains that, after thirty years, the cave is essentially still in pristine condition and proven justification for the leader system.

The St Cuthberts report was written and compiled by D.J. “Wig”  Irwin with additional material by Dr. D.C. Ford, P.J. Romford, C.M. Smart and Dr. J.M. Wilson. Running to 82 pages and containing a vast array of photos and a wealth of information this doesn’t just deserve to be on every cavers bookshelf, you should get one for all your friends too (well maybe).

Copies can be purchased from the Belfry or Bat Products for a very reasonable sum.

Also Available as a PDF download from the downloads section from the publications menu

The monthly newsletter will remove ‘internal’ members items from the regular Belfry Bulletin and hopefully be able to update our members more frequently on news, BEC events, local caving related events, any internal stuff members may like to know, dig updates, gossip, etc. etc. It will also contain a rolling calendar which will list both BEC and member events and any other cavers related events on Mendip and the wider community where appropriate.

The newsletter is totally internal to BEC membership and will not be distributed outside of the club, unlike the BB which is exchanged with other clubs and  eventually published publicly on the website.

{loadmodule GoogleCalendar}

{module [570]}

The Belfry Bulletin is the journal of the Bristol Exploration Club.

The current editor, always welcomes articles and pictures as this journal is what the members make it by sending in contributions. As well as his postal address published in the Belfry Bulletin, he can also now receive articles by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The entire archive of back issues is available here entirely due to Andy Mac-Gregor. Over a period of four years Andy has scanned and converted to text via OCR every single issue. When you consider that most of these were printed on a Gestetner duplicator you'll appreciate the scale of this achievement.