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Hellfire and Brimstone

( Directory of Archaeology and Antiques to the Westminster Spelaeological Group).

This may appear to be a departure from caves and caving, but whilst investigating the cave at West Wycombe, Bucks, which is not particularly interesting, I unearthed an account of the ‘Medmanham Monks’ and followed it up.

Sir Francis Dashwood, Lord le Dispenser, was born in 1700 and at an early age became interested in black magic and Satanism. In 1752 he founded the Hell Fire Club, otherwise known as the ‘Monks of St. Francis’ in the converted ruins of Medmenham Abbey which he had leased from Francis Duffield.

It is said that at Medmenham there was not a vice for which Sir Francis did not make provision. The membership was extensive and Frederick, Prince of Wales was a visitor.

The ‘Monks’ were summed up by one author ‘of all these profligate and satanical fraternities, that coven which had left the most infamous and enduring name is no doubt the sodality known as ‘The Monks of Medmenham’.

In 1762 the Club, which had suffered from publicity and ridicule, ceased to exist and the contents of the chapel were transferred to the mansion of Sir Francis Dashwood at West Wycombe.

The following year Dashwood rebuilt the Church of St. Lawrence which is situated on the summit of the hill overlooking the village.

At the same time, adjacent to the church, was built a mausoleum in which it was intended to bury the members of the Hell Fire Club.

Beneath the hill was excavated a cave running for a length of almost a quarter of a mile. At the end of this passage was dug out a large chamber which is approximately directly beneath the church. Here it is generally believed the Hell Fire Club continued to practise the worship of the devil.

Paul Whitehead, a member of the fraternity, died in August, 1775, and bequeathed his hoard to Sir Francis who deposited it in the mausoleum with great ceremony.

The procession consisted of “….an officer, nine grenadiers, two German flutes, two choristers, two more German flutes, eleven singing men, two French horns, two bassoons, six fifes, and four muffled drums. This was followed by the urn containing the heart which was supported by twelve soldiers. Then came Lord le Despenser as chief mourner, wearing the uniform of the Colonel of the Bucks. Militia, then a Major, a Captain, and seven other officers, two fifes, two drums and twenty soldiers with firelocks reversed. The Dead March was played all the way, with bells tolling, and cannons being discharged every 3½ minutes. An hour was spent in marching round the mausoleum and performing funeral glees. When the ceremony was concluded the soldiers fires three volleys and marched off to a merry tune…..” This was taken from an eyewitness report.

One of the strangest things is that 64 years later, in 1839, the mausoleum was broken into and the heart was stolen and never traced. Lord le Despenser who was Treasurer of the Chambers, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Wardrobe, and Joint Post Master General, died in 1731 and was himself buried in the mausoleum.

Perhaps a closer inspection of the caves, with particular attention to the two chambers, would be well worth while. Since they are symmetrical there could be some reason, possibly symbolic, to account for the design.

(This article will be published in the July issue of the Journal of the Westminster Speleological Group. Price 2/6).

I am grateful to the W.S.G. for permission to print this article.


Cave at West Wycombe Bucks

Cutting from Daily Express

The Cave Man’s Post.

Madrid, Wed. – Twelve explorers went down 3300 feet to ’s deepest cave near Alcoy. It took them two days. ‘We have camped art the far end of a sloping chamber 159 feet long, and hear a strange whirring noise under our feet’ says a message received from them today – by carrier pigeon.

Reports that one Pete Bird is training bats to open a service between Swildions II and August Hole Boulder Chamber have not been confirmed as yet.



On Saturday, 11th. April, Messr. Roy Bennett and Jack Waddon formerly celebrated their 21st. birthdays in the time-honoured custom on Mendip. Thanks to a truly magnificent effort on the part of Dora Bindon, Maisie Hudd and Beryl Ifold, a gathering of Belfyites were able to sit down to a most sumptuous dinner. Afterwards the party repaired to the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, where liquid refreshment was partaken, and entertainment on guitar and banjo provided by Messrs. Oliver Lloyd and Alfie Collins, accompanied by Jones on a discordant harmonica.

The two instigators of this ‘binge’ wish to express hearty thanks to the three girls who succeeded in making such an excellent culinary achievement, with the limited cooking facilities available.


Query Corner

What was it Mervyn Hannam found to do more interesting than caving when he spent a week in Derbyshire recently?????

Was it mud in Sago’s gumboots?????

Has anyone told Pat Brazier that her Bantam will go much faster under tow by Tony J’s Ariel than under its own steam????

How much is Sett paying Keith Gardner not to print photographic evidence that he is still has the bloom of youth on his cheeks?????


It is noted by Jones’ absence that his ‘Homework’ is still retarding his caving activities.


Some People


When at Nempnett tea I sip,
Telling news and village gossip,
Stalwarts enter with great din,
Bearing packs and hats of tin.
They all come on motor bikes,
Except for one – he rides a trike.
That which follows needs some sorting,
Talk of babies and of courting!
Mention of binder’ and of ‘pots’
And ‘choking squeezes’ quite a lot.
One talks of caves, and in he tucks
A farming reference – ‘mucky ducks’.
They talk of ‘Belfry’ and of ‘belles’,
I think they qualify for Wells.
“But”, they say with great propriety,
“We’re a Speleological Society”.

Additions to the Club Library

Wessex Cave Club Journal No. 39.

Transactions of the C.R.G. Vol. 2. No. 2.

C.R.G. Newsletters for Jan. & Feb. 1953.

W.S.G. Bulletin, April 1953.

Birmingham C. & C.C. Newsletter, April 1955.


Letter to the Editor.

The Castle,
Near Wells
1st March 1953.

The Hut Warden,
c/o the Editor,
Belfry Bulletin.


His Grace desires to make it clear that he is most dissatisfied with the accommodation of a future Belfry as indicated in the recently published extract form the ‘Guide to the Belfry for New Members’.

No mention is made of suitable accommodation for His Grace’s personal attendants. It must be clear that we could not travel without our body-servant and chauffeur and so few servants as this would definitely be regarded as ‘pigging it’, if one may use the vulgar term. Normally, of course, his Grace would also be accompanied by his Masseuse, Butler and Chef as well as by myself.

It is also to be hoped that suitable garaging and hangarage will be available as our Mark VIII Bentley (the new turbine model) could not be left exposed to the weather, nor could the helicopter be left in the park.

We trust you will take note of those matters as we are sure you do not wish to lose our patronage.

Incidentally, His Grace always stubs out his cigars before throwing them on the carpet.

I remain, Sir,

Yours truly,

R.M. Wallis

Private Secretary to

His Grace the Duke of Mendip, Fourteenth Baron Priddy.
K.G.B., C.H., P.C., etc.

Another QUERY????

Who told Jack Waddon it was more comfortable under a bench at Conway Falls than at the N. Wales Hut????


R.J. Bagshaw, Hon. Gen. & Hon, Treas. Sec. 56, Ponsford Road, Bristol. 4.

K. Dobbs, Hon. Assist. Gen. Sec. BB circ. & Printing. 55, Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4.

D.A. Coase Caving Sec. Batsford, Lower Failand, Bristol. 8.

P. Ifold, Climbing Sec.,5. Lydney Palce, Stapleton Road, Bristol. 5.

R. Setterington, Hut Warden, 21, Priorswood Road, Taunton, Somt.

J.W. Ifold, Hon. Librarian, Leigh House, Nempnett, Chew Stoke, Nr. Bristol.

M. Jones Sales officer. 12, Milton Crescent, Horfield, Bristo1.7.

T.H. Stanbury, Hon, Editor, B.B. 48, Novers Park Road, Bristol. 4..



Photographic Competition

A photographic competition is to be run by the Club. For further details see next months “BB

If It’s Caving You Do

by  S. Gee, Hon. Sec. Orpheus Caving Club, Northern Group.

In the following article I shall attempt to describe the link between Oxlow Caverns and Mask Hill Mine.  It is based on actual events during the descent, but credit must be given to the British Speleological Association as they first made the actual link up, and without their help I would not have written this.

Let us begin in 1949 with a descent of Oxlow Caverns near Castleton.  We arrived at the entrance in a snowstorm and quickly made arrangements to descend.  The entrance proved to be a mineshaft 50 feet deep.   This we negotiated safely and found a long sloping passage leading to a second shaft of 30 feet.  At the bottom, a short passage led to a small round hole.  This proved to be the East Chamber, and the passage entered roughly halfway up this huge cavern.  A descent of 60 feet brought us to the bottom, where we found a small stream that is said to come from Giant’s Hole.

Returning to the ladder, we climbed for 30 feet and saw a mined passage.  This we followed for several hundred feet, and eventually came to the edge of the West Chamber.  This was an 80 foot ladder and was made most uncomfortable by a small steam that ran down our sleeves and re-emerged like a siphon in our boots.  Just here there happened an incident that shook us all.

So far we had not been using lifelines on the pitches, and had trusted entirely on the soundness of the ladder.  The fifth man down was about 25 feet from the bottom, when, without warning, the ladder broke.  Luckily he was unharmed and we soon fixed a new ladder in place.  But the incident taught us all a lesson, and on the return journey we all used lifelines.

The West Cavern was a really impressive place of large dimensions.  The roof was so far above us that a 100 foot spotlight could not reach it.  At the extreme end of this cavern was a low arch through which we passed and entered a second large chamber.  This is known as the Waterfall Cavern, and from high in the roof crashes a fine waterfall that disappears through a hole in the floor.  It is understood that further shafts can be descended down this hole, but owing to the weight of water these were abandoned.

The source of this waterfall was to remain a mystery to me for a further two years.  Then, by chance, a B.S.A. member mentioned that some years previously, a party of them had descended an old mine shaft near Oxlow, and after a journey of many hours through a series of mined and natural caves, had emerged through the roof of the Waterfall Cavern in Oxlow Caves.  I decided to form a reconnaissance party to hunt for the rumoured ‘Mask Hill Mine’.

After inspecting several shafts without success, we found one that looked more promising.  The descent was organised and the shaft was found to be 100 foot deep.  A party of four assembled at the bottom, in a small mined chamber in the floor of which was a second-mine shaft.  Here we decided to abandon further explorations owing to shortage of tackle.  It was very disappointing, but a strong draught of air from the second shaft convinced us that we were on the right path.

The following week-end we returned with more gear, more information and more members.  Reinforcements from the Oldham Speleological Society arrived early Sunday morning and the descent started without delay.

The party assembled at the bottom of the entrance shaft without incident, and the second shaft was laddered and found to be 50 feet deep.  At the bottom a short mined passage opened out into a large natural chamber, and from here a 30 foot rope climb down the cavern brought us to a steeply sloping passage, which ended once more in a large chamber.

Before us lay a large pothole; a small stream cascaded over the edge and appeared to fall for many feet.  Although we did not know it, this was the ‘Big Pitch’ called ‘Murmuring Churn Pot’ and is 180 feet deep.  A 40 foot ladder was put in position and I was elected to go down.  The small cascade, I found, was not so small, and dampened my spirits more than somewhat.  I reached the end of the ladder and found that it just reached a very wide ledge, which had a steep downward slope.  The stream trickled over this ledge and disappeared below.

With due caution I approached the edge and peered into the gloomy depths.  The ledge I was on formed one end of a large fissure chamber some 100 feet long and 20 feet wide.  A dull rumbling drew my attention to the far corner where I saw a truly marvellous sight.  From far above from the roof cascaded a fine waterfall - in fact, the waterfall that later appeared in Oxlow.  At this point I was interrupted by a call from above, telling me that time was running short and that once more the venture must be abandoned.

A descent was arranged for the following weekend and it was to be an all night session, as this was the only way that we could find sufficient time necessary to complete the exploration.  At 9.30pm. we arrived at the hole and found to our dismay that of the expected 15 members only 5 had arrived.

We decided to try and get more men from a nearby hut where several members of the Derby group were staying.  Unfortunately they had only just finished a descent of the Oxlow system, and were all very tired, too tired, in fact, to be of any assistance to us.

It was decided to carry on as arranged and trust to luck.  We returned to the hole and found, to our great delight, that 3 others had arrived, one of whom was the much needed surface man.  The surface man is a very important member on descents of this kind, and he has a very hard job.  In this case he was to spend a long cold night waiting by the field telephone.

Our party for exploration was now six men and one girl.  The first shaft was descended safely and some of us were at the bottom of the second when we were arrested by a shout and a loud crash.  The full nature of the accident slowly dawned on us.  Someone above, whilst lowering gear, had not tied something securely, and a sack containing several bottles of beer had fallen and had been smashed to splinters.  There followed many muffled remarks regarding persons who did not use safety lines.  We gazed ruefully at the wreckage, but, as the old proverb says: - “It’s no use crying over spilt milk”.

By twelve midnight we were assembled in the first natural cavern and here we had our first meal.  On arrival at the ‘Big Pitch’ we attached a further 100 feet of ladder and once more I was elected to be the first down.  I reached the ledge and gently lowered myself over the edge into ‘Murmuring Churn Pot’.  Conversation with the rest of the party was made very difficult by the noise of the fall.  At approximately 80 feet down my light suddenly went out and I remembered that during the week’s excitement of preparation I had forgotten to have my accumulator charged.  This type of lamp does not slowly die out, but just goes out without warning.  My spare lamp was in my knapsack at the top of the pitch.  I switched the lamp off and clung to the ladder.  This type of lamp, if turned off for a short while, recuperates a little, but only for a very limited time.  After several minutes I switched my lamp on again and was able to see a narrow ledge to my left.  By swinging the ladder I could just make it.  This I did, and from my precarious position I surveyed the depths below and saw that the ladder was hanging 40 feet short of the bottom.  After much shouting, those above realised what was wrong and lowered an extra ladder and my sack which contained my spare lamp.

I fixed on the extra ladder and descended to the bottom to find that the ladder ended on a sort of rock bridge with the stream falling through a hole in the floor.  On the right was another shaft about 30 feet deep.  At this point I began to feel the effects of a recent illness, so I decided to return to the surface.  Two other members arrived at the bottom and I told them of my intentions.  I was joined by a chap who had not done much caving and who was nearly all in.  We made our way through the caverns by means of link belays that had been left on the descent.  This enabled us to use safety lines on all pitches.

After a total of 11 hours below we emerged on the surface in early morning sunlight.  Two hours later the rest of the party emerged tired but triumphant.  They had descended the 30 foot shaft that I had seen, and had reached a long cavern that ran parallel to and above the ‘Waterfall Chamber’ in Oxlow.  A further 70ft. pitch through the waterfall completed the linkup.

We left the de-laddering for another week and all trooped off to the hut for a welcome breakfast and bed, our minds busy with thoughts of an interchange of parties between Oxlow and Maskhill.

S. Gee

Notice to Intending Contributors.

It is imperative that notices of future trips etc. must be in my hands at least six weeks before the month of publication required, e.g. this, the August Copy is being prepared mid June.  Although this seems a long time ahead, I have to arrange copy and cut the stencils.  Then the completed stencils go to Ken Dobbs and Co., who add the heading and print, arrange and staple copies, and sort those who receive their copies by hand from those to whom they are posted.  The ones to be posted are then taken to Stan Herman who folds, addresses, stamps and despatches them.  So Please let me have all ‘Dateline’ gen. as soon as possible after the idea has germinated.


Additions to the Club Library

Wessex Cave Club Journal No. 39. (April).

Transactions of the C.R.G. Vol. 2 No. 2.

C.R.G. Newsletters for Jan. & Feb. 1953.

W.S.G. Bulletin for April 1953.

Birmingham C. & C.C. Newsletter for April 1953.

Cave Science Vol. 3 No. 20.

Underground Empire by Clay Perry.

The Story of Everest by W.R. Murray.


Letters to the Editor

Marlborough Cresc.,
Latchford Without,

The Editor
‘Belfry Bulletin’

Dear Sir,

At some time during his career, every caver must be asked to give a lecture about caves.  Any lecture is greatly improved by a set of good slides.  The majority of cavers probably do not have such a set, or even a set of prints, which are not so satisfactory - and even the most active photographer is likely enough to find that he does not have a photograph of the particular subject he wants.

There are, however, a considerable number of photographers in the club, and taken together, their efforts should represent a very good selection of photographs.

I should like to canvass opinion regarding the institution of a register of cave pictures which could be drawn upon by any member wishing to get together a lecture.  As I see it at the moment, any pictures offered would remain in the keeping of the photographer who would merely send details of them to the register.  This would be available for consultation by any club member who would select those he wanted and borrow them from the various photographers on the understanding that they would be returned as soon as possible, in a good condition.

Slides are definitely preferable to prints as they are much more easily seen by an audience.  Slide making is, however, a much less practiced art than printing, and probably most members do not have slides of their prints, but if the idea takes on then perhaps they would do so – or at least persuade someone to do it for them.

Please air your ideas on the subject – I am sure the Editor will be only too glad to provide the space in the BB and see if anything cane be made of it.

At present I have 30-40 slides, about half of them in colour, and I should be glad to make those available as the start of such a register.

Yours truly,
R.H. Wallis.


I should like to say that Pongo’s idea appeals to me very much.  The club possesses a selection of slides which intending lecturers may use, but these are totally inadequate for any but the simplest lecture.  Such a scheme would place before those unfortunates who lecture slides of some of the best photographs ever taken underground, photographs that would explain some point of interest far more easily than by word of mouth, and would instil, in many cases, a modicum of confidence in the lecturer himself.  Some central point would be needed as a ‘clearing house’ for such a scheme, unless Pongo himself is willing to undertake it.  I would like to offer my services as ‘Clerk’ if this fine scheme becomes reality.

T.H. Stanbury.  Hon. Editor.


There is plenty of space awaiting anyone who cares to answer the above letter.  I must apologise to Pongo for the long delay in printing this letter.                     



A very big ‘Thank You’ to all those whose who sent in ‘Songs’ for inclusion in the BB.  Also to those who have sent in articles of various types.  I should like, though, to see some new names amongst them.  The vast majority of BB material comes from the old-timers, and I am sure that there are amongst the ‘coming generation’ at least a dozen who could write worthwhile articles.  If it were not for the ‘Old Faithfuls’ whose names appear so frequently, the BB would be a very thin and infrequent paper.  Don’t feel that you can’t write –TRY – let me decide if it is good or bad (& I am sure that 99.999999 p.c of articles submitted will eventually be printed).


Letter to the Editor

The Belfry,
      Nr. Wells

16th. July 1953

His Grace, the Duke of Mendip,
c/o The Editor,
Belfry Bulletin.

Your Grace

                        In reply to your letter dated 1st. March 1953 I note your dissatisfaction regarding the future Belfry arrangements.

However, it is my pleasant duty to inform your Grace that the article describing the future Belfry arrangements which I published under the title ‘Guide to the Belfry for New Members’ was, as your learned secretary pointed out in his letter, merely an extract from this noble and erudite work.

On receipt of an exorbitant fee I shall have the pleasure of sending your Grace the entire contents of this admirable brochure, but, pending the arrival of this sum I append further details which I sincerely trust will put your Grace’s mind at rest.

Servants Quarters.

Extensive servants’ quarters may be found in Block 23 for those members desirous of bringing their own servants.  Separate quarters are provided for butlers’ lackeys, serving wenches, peasants, serfs and other old retainers.  Separate kitchens are provided for those wishing to avail themselves of our comprehensive culinary arrangements.

Garaging, Bangarage, Stabling, etc.

The above facilities are provided for the use of members of the upper classes and gentlemen.  Lock-up sheds for garaging and boots are provided for those arriving on foot.

Cellarage, Hangoverage, Stability etc.

The above facilities are also provided for use of the same under the personal supervision of the residents’ medical officer Mr. Hannam.

I trust that your Grace will continue his most valued patronage and in conclusion, since I am addressing your Grace, may I add:-

For what you are about to receive, we trust you will be truly thankful.

I am,

Your obedient servant,
Alfie Coliins.


Congratulations to: -

Ken Dobbs and Miss Connie Edwards, who were married at St. Martin’s Knowle, on June 6th.

And to: -

Menace and Jill Morris on the birth of a daughter (Lorna).

Photographic Competition

As announced in last month’s ‘Stop-press’ the club is to run a photographic competition.

Rules and Conditions of Entry.

  1. Entry is restricted to members only.
  2. The competition is divided into two sections.
    1. Above Ground.
    2. Below Ground.

A special prize is to be awarded for the best entry taken with a camera worth less than five pounds.

In each section two prizes will be awarded.

            1st. prize one year’s Annual subscription.

            2nd. Prize.  Photographic materials to the value of 7/6.

  1. The minimum size for entries ‘Enprint’.  (approx 3½x3½).
  2. The competition is limited to club activities.
  3. A fee of 6d. is charged for each entry.  Each entry must be sent with a separate entry form and fee.
  4. Competition closes at the end of November.

Entry forms are obtainable form Ken Dobbs, 55 Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4., to whom all entries must be sent.


It was resolved at the last Committee meeting that in future if the Club or Club members taking part in a recording the undertaking must first be obtained that the following will be broadcast: - ‘Guides and tackle were provided by the Bristol Exploration Club’.  This is not done to obtain cheap advertisement.  In the past, members have worked hard to make broadcasts by amateurs underground, but on hearing the broadcast it appears that practically anyone can delve into Mendip’s underground with impunity and without help.

Belfry Notice

In an attempt to overcome a certain laziness that has been showing itself lately, it has been decided to start a double scale of charges at the Belfry; for those who visit it to use the establishment as His Lordship would i.e. a Hotel, the charge is 2/- per night.  For those who are prepared to help in keeping the Belfry and site clean etc. the charge is 1/-.  Further details from the Hut Warden.  REMINDER, THE HUT WARDEN’S WORD IS LAW.


To Gordon and Jean Fenn.  Another boy, apprx. Weight 8lbs.

Kay Liz. September 7th. One hour before closing time was born the aforementioned.  6lbs 4 ozs.  To our esteemed Hon. Sec. and the Dark Horse.  (To whit)  Coral.

1954 Committee

With this issue of the BB comes the nomination form for the 1954 Committee.  This form must be returned to K.C. Dobbs, Asst. Hon. Sec. at 65, Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4. by 1st December 1953.

Belfry News

After a long period of delay, the extension to the new Belfry is now a fact.  The structure was put up just before the Bank Holiday.  Many of the old stalwarts were on parade again as usual but there were a few – too few – welcome new faces to be seen.  Typical Belfry weather – drizzle – greeted the builders, but in the evening the sun came out and they were able to make the place waterproof.

The extension is used to enlarge the girl’s room and the kitchen.  Partitions are now in place and the girl’s room has been floored and lined.  Much remains to be done however; a concrete kitchen floor has to be made and all the fittings have to be built, so roll up, there is plenty for all to do.  Although only six feet have been added to the length of the hut, the general opinion is that the size has been vastly increased, so mind you don’t get lost looking for the door when you return from the Hunters.

Tony Johnson

Additions to Club Library.

C.R.G. publication No. 5; A key plan of Gaping Ghyll.

W.C.C. Journal No. 40 June.

R.S.S. Newsletters for April and May.

B.C.C.C. Newsletter No. 5 for May.

W.S.G. Bulletin No. 24for July.

Johnny I


Pete Williams wishes to be remembered to all the mad-men and women he knows.  He is now in Dusseldorf and says there is no climbing or caving there.

‘Leaner surveyors’ can take heart from the fact that recent work has disclosed an error in the survey of G.G. to the junction of Disappointment Pot and Hensler’s Passage.  This is mentioned in C.R.G. Publication No. 5 listed above.

More Additions to Club Library

Underground.   A very good book.  Edited by Norman Thornber.

Newsletters of    W.C.C. No. 41 August

                        S.W.C.C. No. 5 July.

                        R.S.S. No. 6 June.

                        B.C.C.C. No. 6 June.

                        W.S.G. No. 25 June.

Archaeological Jottings

In BB 64 the editor was kind (or foolish) enough to publish an article by me on the dating of archaeological specimens.  Several of the members seem to have got me wrong by suggesting that their addenda to my original article that I was claiming the methods I described were the only methods available.

I was merely claiming for the radio-active determination of dates, a method which was completely independent of any archaeological associations.  It can be carried out by any competent laboratory and does not need any knowledge of archaeology to obtain a reasonable accurate age for the specimen.  The radio-active clock cannot be wrong although it is possible for it to be wound up again once it is started, by the exchange of its initial carbon content with some of more recent origin.  It would appear that archaeologists are more interested in cultures than an absolute date so maybe I was speaking out of turn.

For the benefit of geologists who may be reading this article I should like to bring to their attention that fact that radio-active methods are available for the dating of rock strata.  The element giving the oldest dates being radio-active strontium obtained from igneous rocks in giving an age of 600,000,000 years.

R.A. Setterington

Overheard at Lamb Leer.

Caver.   You need a blood chit before doing this cave.

Visitor.  I suppose that’s so that they know what sort of blood to give you in a transfusion.

A Pongo Book Review


By L’Abbe H. Breuil.  Published by Centre D’etudes et de Documentation Prehistoriques, Montignac, Dordogne, .

I must begin by admitting that my qualifications for reviewing this book are the very flimsiest.  I have a copy and as only five hundred of the English edition have been published they will not be very common.

Henri Breuil has made the study of prehistoric painting his life’s study and there is no doubt that he knows more about it than anyone else.  I only know what I have read and what I have seen in the few decorated caves that I have visited.  This book deals with the best part of a hundred caves most of which I have never even heard of.  Accordingly, even if I had the temerity to say M. Breuil was talking rubbish (which I have no reason to believe to be so) no-one need pay any attention.

The book begins with an historical account of the recognition of the antiquity of cave art and its subsequent study.  Then follows a chapter on the origins of the art, after which are sections on the distribution of decorated caves, their age, the fauna painted and the tools and the techniques.  After this we come onto descriptions of the caves themselves beginning with the ‘six giants’ – Altamira, Font de Gaume, les Comaralles, Lascaux, Trois Freres and Niaux.  The remainder of the work deals with the lesser caves, grouped geologically.  The illustrations are profuse, both photographs and tracings of the drawings.

To deal with the illustrations first.  I have not tried photographing cave paintings, but I can well imagine that in many locations at least it must be very difficult – where the subject is inaccessible - but I am surprised that many of the paintings do not show up more clearly.  Undoubtedly the best photographs in the book are those of M. Windels of Lascaux which are extremely good.  In most cases, of course, I have not seen the originals and so cannot judge, but with Niaux I can.  The drawings in Niaux are extremely clear and stand up very well but the photographs are not very good.  Accordingly, where a photograph is reproduced showing very little detail the description in the text or a tracing gives much more.  I think it must be due to the difficulty of photography rather than the imagination of the author.  Incidentally, the few colour plates are excellently reproduced and show the subject very clearly.

With regard to the text, it is very clear everywhere and I cannot criticise the conclusions reached as I have already pointed out.  I am not however entirely happy about the tendency to attempt to find a drawing in every collection of scrawls that may be found.  Gargas is a case in point.  In a number of places there are nice patches of sticky clay on the walls; over these the artists made masses of loops and twirls with their four fingers or combs.  They are exactly the sort of ‘doodles’ which I should want to make myself under similar circumstances (in fact you could find several in some of the muddy spots in G.B. where I have had to wait at one time or another).  I cannot think that these in Gargas (and things in a similar vein in other caves) are any more.  But they are all carefully labelled as ‘undecyphered’ in a disappointed tone.

With regard to the translation, made by Miss Mary E. Boyle, it is technically very good, only an occasional mis-used phrase or wrong idiom showing up.  Miss Boyle is M. Breuil’s secretary and should, I think, really call herself Mlle. Boyle as I do not think she can be English – the small mistakes in translation could never have been made if she were.  The question of People’s titles in the book is one of the few criticisms which I have.  Almost always they are translated to the English equivalent – Mr. for M. etc. – and it is sometimes very difficult to decide whether the person in question is French, English or some other nationality.  I know from experience that it is sometimes very difficult to decide what to translate and what to leave, but I do think that a mistake has been made in this particular respect.  Conversely, all the measurements have been left in metric units with which I do not complain, but it does seem a little inconsistent.

To sum up, this is a most comprehensive and admirable volume and will surely remain the standard work on the subject for a considerable time, but I do not think it is the sort of volume which need find a place in every caver’s library.  I ordered it in a flush of enthusiasm after spending a holiday looking at some of these caves, and although I do not in the least regret buying it, I would not do so again in the cold light of winter when the prospects of southern sun seems a very long way away, and when £5 odd seems a largish sum of money.

R.M. Wallis

B.E.C. Tour de France 1954.

It has been suggested that next year the B.E.C. should organise a fortnight’s tour of French caving areas of the Dordogne-Lot and the Pyrenees, spending also a few nights (or perhaps I had better say ‘Days’ as Aunt Prudence might read this) in Paris.  Besides the ordinary show-cave visitations, which are well worth the journey alone, it is likely that some real caving can be arranged.  There will be many sites and people to interest the archaeologically-minded nuts, whilst for the geologists we can probably offer them field work with the Dutch Geological Survey in the Pyrenees.

The touring would be carried out by coach, camping for several nights in the respective areas, and the inclusive cost should be around a minimum of £30.

If anyone is interested will they contact me as soon as possible - this does not mean next June.

Keith S. Gardner.
  22. Wesley Hill


The Editor would be glad to receive contributions for the Xmas number of the BB as soon as possible.  As you know the Xmas issue is usually a ‘Double’ one, but unless someone sends in some gen. P.D Q. you’ll be lucky to get two pages, let alone six.


I had in reserve the start of a very excellent series of Geological Articles written by Sett and Jack Waddon.  Unfortunately Jack has now recommenced evening studies and is, for the time being, unable to complete the series.  In view of this he has asked me to refrain from publishing those articles in my possession until he is in a position to complete the series.


Do YOU go caving or climbing? if so, tell me all about it;  the BB should publish Club NEWS but it isn’t able to as there is none.

Auntie Prudence.

Auntie Prudence, to wit Ray Brain has recently undergone a rather severe operation.  I am glad to report that she(he) is now well on the road to recovery, although she(he) is still as yet unable to resume the control of the problem page.



This Caving

By Oldtimer

A few years ago, in the early thirties and before, the term ‘Caver’, ‘Potholer’, ‘Speleologist’ or ‘Spelunker’ meant little of nothing to the man in the street. Today the vast majority of the public are familiar with certain types of cave and have formed ideas about the persons who explore them.

The picture that they mentally form is a composite one; a mixture of memories of visits to ‘show’ caves, and the photographs that from time to time appear in the popular press. Usually no existing cave remotely resembles their brain child, and the same probably applies to the type of people whom they imagine spend their life in ‘Cavernous’ exploration.

The spate of accidents earlier in the year about which so much was written by journalists, complete with little sketches, has enabled the public to imagine either (a) parties of boys from youth organisations crawling through holes unfit for rabbits, or (b) highly organised parties of supermen equipped with every device known to science, descending tremendous gulfs down which waterfalls thunder and rocks fall. In both cases the efforts seemed to be ‘useless’ in so far that Mr. & Mrs, Public could derive no benefit from them, and that lives were being lost and people worried for no good reason whatsoever.

This picture, although ‘attractive’ from the point of view of the sensationalist, is so far from the truth that cavers are often unable to recognise incidents in which they themselves had taken part when hearing or reading of the incident at a later date.

Accidents do happen, as we all realise, even in an organisation that takes every precaution against them, but there are thousands of cavers, potholers, speleos, call them what you will, who have enjoyed their sport for many years in safety by using common sense whilst underground.

Well, what IS it like then? It’s dark; wet; cold; often muddy; sometimes smelly; some chambers are large, some are small; there are sharp rocks that tear clothes and flesh; one dangles in space from ropes and ladders, gets burnt by carbide lamps and usually regains the surface feeling a wreck both physically and mentally and vowing never to go underground again, only to repeat the process the following weekend. It is just this unpleasant list plus a number of other factors that accounts for the enormous increase in popularity of the sport in recent years. It is ADVENTURE! That love of the unknown that today has so little outlet and which finds satisfaction in the depths of the earth. There is a comradeship amongst cavers that is rarely met elsewhere; to a great extent you ‘depend on your friends’ and they depend on you. There is sometimes the thrill of a new discovery – the opening of a new passage in which ‘the hand of man has never set foot’ – of knowing that your footprints are the first ever to be impressed on that mud bank and that your eyes were the first ever to see this particular passage! The physicall effort, too, gives satisfaction, and there is a great feeling of contentment, when, after a strenuous day underground, one is able to relax in a friendly pub or café.

Oh, yes, there is danger; that of falling rocks in 1ong-opened caves is inconsiderable unless the place is obviously unsafe, and then of course the place should either be avoided or great care taken; the danger of a rope or ladder breaking can be minimised by testing each article before a descent; adequate lighting arrangements should be taken by all those who venture underground.

Danger arises from simple things – the exhaustion which creeps upon one unawares, when one’s limbs and brain rebel against common sense and one just wants to sit down and stay there; from the simple slip or mis-step that sprains or fractures and ankles; from weather conditions that can change a dry passage into a raging torrent, and from the very small percentage of impossible people who ‘couldn’t care less’ underground, and cause trouble to all who come in contact with them. Not withstanding all theses factors, caving is still no more dangerous than the vast majority of other sports providing adequate care is taken, and it would be interesting to check on the number of accidents amongst members of caving clubs as opposed to those amongst free-lances, always remembering that a large number of those interested are members of one or more of the various caving organisations.

So far I have dealt solely with the sport of caving. The science of Speleology attracts large numbers to the nether regions each year – biologists; botanists; archaeologists; palaeontologists; geologists; ethnologists; all can reap a rich harvest, discoveries of scientific nature are constantly being made.

‘So what?’ say Mr. & Mrs. Public, ‘That’s all very interesting, but how does it affect us? We haven’t any scientific friends or anyone sporting who would be interested’. Well, I can’t recite rows of startling inventions that have had their beginnings underground, but I can say that a study of caves has helped in the clearing up of many problems of water pollution and distribution and has greatly increased our knowledge of both geological and anthropological history. In the sporting side it can be said that clubs are doing a grand work with the younger generation by developing self-reliance, leadership and comradeship, and this alone should justify caving in the eyes of the general public, because it is the youth of today on whom depends our safety tomorrow.


Report on a Week in the Lakes

By Sett, Chief of the S.I.G.H.T.S.
(Scientific Investigation Group, Highly Technical Subjects)

The object of the trip was to discover whether bar-room mountaineering was rife as had been led to believe, and the places and methods utilised in this pastime.


1. Preliminaries

Friends and relations were informed months in advance that a week’s holiday was to be spent climbing in the Lakes. This serves the dual purpose of allaying the fears of fond parents that their eldest sons are off on another glorious booze-up and in addition frightens off any drinking types who may think of coming along. In the unlikely event of a real climbing type wishing to join the party, it is only necessary to tell him the true purpose of the trip to frighten him away.

2. Visit every hostelry which is in, or near, a climbing area and observe the clothing and habits of the inhabitants.


Climbing clothing and boots together with ropes and ice axes are carried to complete the bluff outlined in para. 1, but at least one pannier, or equivalent space, should be stuffed with assorted bottles of wine, spirits and liqueurs, with a Christmas cake or two thrown in. The quality of the climbing equipment is irrelevant since it is only to be used for show. The quality of the drink and food is highly important since it has to form the staple diet of the party for a whole week and will only be supplemented by numerous pints of the local brew and an odd Youth Hostel meal thrown in for good measure.


Sett and Jack set out from the Belfry one and a half hours late but in spite of ice on Mendip and fog in the Midlands managed to arrive at Pongo’s only three quarters of an hour late. Here they were treated to a sumptuous meal, their last in civilisation for a week. They departed thence accompanied by Pongo on his brother’s 2509 Triumph, registration lettering BUN, and arrived at the Coniston Youth Hostel half an hour before dinner was due. After dinner the party adjourned to the BLACK BULL to start the investigation; results negative (no climbers).

The following morning the day’s provisions were carefully packed. These consisted of two bottles of Sauterne, one pound of Christmas cake and an assortment of sweets and dates. The party were joined by a photographic type and walked via the Copper Mines Prison Band and Brim Fell to the top of The Old Man of Consiton, whence having consumed all the drink and food they walked round to the top of Dow Crag and back to Coniston. After supper at the Hostel the investigation continued at The Black Bull. Two climbing types were discovered drinking, results encouraging.

The next day the party motored back to Ambleside and having garaged the bikes set out to climb Rydall Fell; however just above Nab Scar the cloud came down and so did the climbers. A visit to the Salutation in Ambleside left us just enough time between closing time, three pm. and Hostel opening time four-thirty pm., to visit Stockhill Force. The Royal Oak was very quiet that evening, the party having previously had a good dinner in Tony’s Café, Windermere.

Next morning we were told that a local weather adage is ‘When you can see Rydal fell it is going to rain; when you can’t see it is raining’. We couldn’t! Having seen Pongo off the remainder of the party set out for Kirkstone Inn. This, we discovered, sells only bottled beer at fancy prices; however, it is open all day to travellers. The weather cleared up somewhat during the afternoon and a return trip via Coniston Beck and Scardale afforded some marvellous views. The day’s provisions were consumed whilst waiting for the Coniston bus. On the bus it was noticed the driver is confronted with a large notice stating’ This bus is eight feet wide and thirty feet long’. Other refinements noted were a pair of power operated doors, a very smooth gear change and the engine at the rear. After dinner at the Hostel and a few noggins at the Black Bull, where two more climbers were seen, we sat up until midnight to see the New Year in and had tea in the Warden’s sitting room.

We arose next morning to another rainy day, so we decided on a bus to Ambleside and a walk to Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. After a six mile walk we called in at the new hotel, Dungeon Ghyll to find the bar empty. This was a highly polished affair with several hundred varieties if liqueurs and a few bottles of beer, so after a Youngers No.3 apiece we pulled out the map and spotted another hotel about half a mile further up the road. Upon entering the Dungeon Ghyll old hotel we nearly fell over several ruc-sacs. There were three or four parties of climbers drinking decent beer, a blue football shirt was wrapped around a chimney of a slow combustion stove and one of the lads was cursing the barman roundly for being tardy with his beer. This looked more like it so we called up two pints and took a couple of seats on an upturned empty beer and cider barrels. During the conversation we learned that this was, as we already suspected THE Dungeon Ghyll; it apparently knows no closing time (opinions differed as to whether this was official or a matter of distance from civilisation) and serves beer, tea or coffee indiscriminately at quite reasonable prices to all who require them. This was borne out by several parties who strolled in whilst we were there. One of a pair of girls who referred to each other as Hag, complained of a head and when asked, said that at four am she had been standing on a table in the middle of the bar with her arms round the president of the Rock and Fell Club singing ‘I wish I was a fascinating bitch’, whilst the president’s wife looked on disapprovingly. When we left at three forty-five pm the bar showed no signs of closing, but unfortunately we had to catch the bus. Later that night, in the Royal Oak, we met one of the parties from the D.G. who had caught the 4.45 bus, and they said that officially they had been up Bow Fell. Later still in the Hostel we attempted to start a conversation with a party of six from the Bristol Explorers’ Club. However they would not be drawn. One of them caused much amusement by a remark that, when he put his foot on a slab it came off! When they had gone to bed a nasty crack about theoretical climbers started a most enlightening discussion about ropes, nails and vibrams and methods of belaying and tying knots. And so to bed; a very satisfying day.

The next day dawned bright so we caught the bus to Dunmail Rise and walked to the top of Dollywagon Pike. The going was very heavy, most of the way there was six inches of soft snow with a crust that would not quite take one’s weight; however we were rewarded with some marvellous views of most of the Lakeland mountains and the sea both to the North and South. Several other parties of walkers were seen, this being the only occasion during the week. We returned to the road just in time for the bus and so back to Ambleside to pack and make ready for the morrow.

The return journey was uneventful, cold and dry. We arrived in Bristol at 4.30pm. having left Ambleside at 9.30am.


Bar-room mountaineering is far more widespread and practised more often than bar-room caving although it is possible that the investigators have an opinion biased by their method of survey.


Full National Grid Reference of Dungeon Ghyll Old Inn is 35/286061.


Sauterne and Christmas cake are far more efficient than Bass and Baked Beans.


A Nomination form for the 1954 committee will be enclosed with the October BB. It is in your own interest to nominate those members whom you feel will further your interests in the Club.



T.H. Stanbury, Hon. Ed. 48, Novers Park Road, Bristol. 4.

1954 Committee

Have YOU sent off your committee Nomination Form yet?  The final date for the return of these forms is December 1st.  If you have mislaid your form a further one may be obtained from Ken Dobbs at 55, Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4.

Additions to Club Library.

N.S.S. Newsletters        No.7 (July) & No. 8 (Aug).

C.R.G. Ditto                  No. 44 May & June.

B.C.C.C. Ditto               No.7 July & Aug.



To Ron and Jean Newman (Nee Treble) a second daughter, on Sept. 10th.

Ed’s Note

The B.B. ‘personal’ column seems to have gone awry as I can find no reference to the ‘First’.  Jerry, Ron and Jean.

Ron Newman and Miss Treble were married on 11th April, 1951, and their first daughter was born on 14th. May 1952.


On two occasions recently, I have found and immediately removed inscriptions which have apparently been written by members of the Club on cave walls.  Such inscriptions as ‘Joe Muggins, B.E.C. Sept, 1953’ are not exactly a creditable advertisement for the individual concerned, or more important, the reputation of the Club as a whole.



Reports that Pat Brazier has evolved a method of carrying climbing equipment when underground must be denied.  The objects seen dangling beneath her helmet when emerging from Swildons Hole recently were not Karabiners, but, in fact, the latest fashion in ladies ear rings!!


?????????????? Lost.

Lost – one cave.  Will finder please return to D.A.C.


Belfry Notice

It was decided at the last committee meeting that the Double Charge system at the Belfry was very successful, but that in future it would be the responsibility of the member to obtain his job from the Hut Warden.  A notice to this effect will be posted in the Belfry.

Anti-Accident Campaign

I learn that Sett has learned a new method of Car Avoidance since driving in .  The idea is that if you can lean the bike over enough, you can push it back upright with your shoulder.  He gave a very convincing demonstration at the top of Cheddar one Sunday recently.


Caving Report.

On Sat. 26th. Sept. a small party did an ‘Oldmans’ Swildons.  The party consisted of three members of Holy Cross Youth Club and was led by your Ed.  A fairish drop of water was going down, and after an easy canter down the Long Dry, quite a bit of fun was had in the wet, foam and noise of the Wet Way on return journey.  It was notice with dismay that the formations at ‘bod’ level seem to have a thicker coating of dirt than usual, but we were glad to note the exhortation in the Old Grotto and approved heartily of it.  Other points of interest were the blockage of the water-rift with foam and the fact that the volume of water down the water chute had excavated a ‘pot’ in the downstream approach passage that very much facilitated our passage.


Ed’s Note

I very much regret that I had to put an account of my trip as the first bit of local caving since I have re-taken over the editorship.  I was prompted to do so for two reasons.  Firstly, to show the diffident ones that a very ordinary and elementary trip is worth reporting and to show them how it looks in print, and secondly to prove to those consistent scoffers who regard the Club as 100 p.c. armchair that once in a while someone does go underground.



Where, oh where are those articles for the Xmas Issue?

Letters To The Editor


Dear Harry

It is not without much regret that I find it necessary to terminate my association with the B.E.C.  My work has taken me abroad, and for several years it looks as though I shall be wandering about a bit.

I have found it necessary to retract as many of my connections with home as possible until I can get settled down once more with a permanent address.

Incidentally this last Easter was the first time I had missed Mendip since I first met your Somersetshire folk, and, believe me, I really did miss it.

However, I got myself married not long ago, and that explains a lot of things!

My work is chiefly to do with starting up D.D.T. factories, and although my base is Geneva at the moment, I just got back last week from Jugo-Slavia, and tomorrow I and off to Delhi.  So far, all above the earth!!---------------

---------------- It is difficult for me to say ‘Good-Bye’, so let it be ‘au revoir’, and many thanks for all your past troubles and efforts on my behalf.,

With best wishes
            Tony Bamber.


Good luck, Tony.  May you return to our fold one day.  Ed.


Hope Bay
Graham Land

Dear Mr. Stanbury.

It seem ages ago since I last met you or even wrote to you.  However, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the B.E.C. for all the help that they have given me in the past.  Although I have not been a member officially, you have always given me that help when requested.  I would therefore be most grateful if you would convey my regards to the members.  Also I feel that you may be interested in what I am doing out here.

At present I and engaged with a research expedition to the Antarctic by the Colonial Office, working mainly on Biological and Geological research.  This work entails much sledging, using huskie dogs teams wherever we go.  So far I have travelled just over six hundred miles, part of this along the Weddell coast.  No doubt you heard about our encounter with the Argentines on the radio, therefore I shall not give a repetition.  All being well I shall be returning soon -----

Yours sincerely,

Max Unwin.

I hope that we can persuade Max to write an account of his travels for us, as such a unique opportunity may never occur again.  Ed.


In the Club Library there are two volumes of Lyell’s principles of Geology; I find then very useful, chiefly for propping up other library books etc.  It may interest members to know that Charles Darwin on his famous voyage in the ‘Beagle’ in 1831 took Vol. 1 of the work to read in his spare time.  (Not our copy I fear).  Lyell’s theories greatly interested Darwin and started him off on the train of thought which was later to cause such controversy when he first published ‘The Origin of Species’.

John Ifold

Welsh Rarebit.

Have you ever wondered what some of these tongue-twisting Welsh names mean?  Did you, example, know that Ogof Fynnon Ddu means ‘The Cave of the Black Spring’?  I propose to list a few of the more common Welsh words so that cavers will know the worst sooner.

Aber              -    mouth of a river.
Ach               -    water
Afon               -    river
Aran              -    high place
Bach (fach)     -    small, little
Bala               -    resurgence or outlet
Bryn (fryn)      -    small hill
Cader             -    stronghold
Caer              -    fort
Can               -    bent,  crooked
Clogwyn         -    precipice
Cors              -    bog
Craig              -    rock
Cwm              -    valley
Dan               -    under,  beneath,  below
Dinas             -    castle
Ddu               -    black
Dwfr               -    water
Dyffryn           -    vale,  valley
Ffordd            -    road
Ffryd              -    stream
Ffyn               -    torrent
Ffynnon          -    spring,  rising
Gwy               -    water
Gogof             -    cave,  cavern
Llwyd             -    grey
Llyn               -    lake
Ma                 -    place
Mawr             -    large, big, great
Min                -    side, edge
Moel              -    hill
Mynydd          -    mountain
Nant              -    brook,  stream
Ogof              -    cave
Plas               -    place
Pont              -    bridge
Pwll               -    pool
Pistyll            -    waterfall
Sych              -    dry
Tan                -    under,  below
Uch               -    highest
Uchel             -    high
Wrthy            -    near,  close
Y                   -    the
Yr                  -    the



Hon. Gen. Sec. R.J. Bagshaw, 56, Ponsford Road, Bristol. 4

Hon. Assist. Sec.  K.C. Dobbs, 55, Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4.

Hon. Editor  T.H. Stanbury, 48, Novers Park Road, Bristol. 4.