A Century of British Caving

It seemed appropriate at the turn of the century to look back over the events of the last 100 years on the British Caving scene. Inevitably in any selection like this there will be items that some people think should have been included, and haven't; and others which people think should have been excluded but have been included. I have tried to include all the fatal accidents, not because of a morbid curiosity, but because non-cavers always say how dangerous the sport is and so I thought this article might supply the evidence to answer that comment. If anyone wants to email/write to me with suggestions for additions (with a reference to the original event) I will be happy to update the article on the CPC & SpeleoHistory Web Sites. Similarly if anyone spots any errors I should be grateful for details of them.

The Yorkshire Geological & Polytechnic Society (YGPS) traced Fell Beck water at Gaping Gill to Clapham Beck Head. Eldon Hole was descended by the Kyndwr Club, on their second attempt they used a bosun's chair lowered through a pulley which itself ran on a cable stretched tightly across the shaft.
Swildon's Hole was first entered and explored as far as the top of the 40ft pitch. As part of their continuing programme of studies the YGPS dyetested Alum Pot to Footnaws Hole and Turn Dub. Eli Simpson made his first recorded caving trip, at Stump Cross Caverns. The Bottomless Pit in Speedwell Cavern was descended.
Swildon's Hole was closed by the Lord of the Manor who forbade any access. Work began to dig a way into Eastwater Cavern and in April the entrance boulder choke was passed and much of the cave explored. Major explorations took place in Peak Cavern and in Bagshawe Cavern and survey was published.
Eastwater Cavern was further explored by a combined group of Derbyshire, Mendip and Yorkshire cavers. The Yorkshire Ramblers Club (YRC) returned to Gaping Gill, Reginald Farrer descended into the Main Chamber and Booth-Parsons Crawl was discovered. The already known Old Roof Traverse in Lost John's was pushed and the very wet Monastery Pitch descended by YRC members for the first time. Eli Simpson surveyed and photographed parts of Stump Cross. Mendip diggers started work on Hillgrove Swallet; although there have been some gaps digging is still in progress at this site. The West Series of Wookey Hole was explored by Balch.
The first woman (Miss LE May Johnson) descended Gaping Gill (with Leeds Ramblers Club not YRC). An attempt was made to use guidewires to stop the chair spinning but this was abandoned after one broke. Jockey Hole and Rift Pot were explored by YRC. Many small Chapel-le-Dale caves were surveyed by Yorkshire Speleological Association (YSA) members although the YSA was not formally founded until 1906.
The YRC descended Gaping Gill main shaft on ladders and discovered T Junction and "The Great Hall" (later renamed Sand Cavern). YRC found a prehistoric skeleton in Scosca Cave. YRC reached the second pitch in Meregill Hole. EA Baker and friends pushed part way along the rift in Juniper Gulf, below the present-day traverse route.
The Mendip Nature Research Club was formed, the first true caving club on Mendip (renamed Mendip Nature Research Committee in 1907). Despite the surveying work done in 1904 this year saw the first formal meet of the YSA; the first club to be formed for the express purpose of exploring caves. The YSA made the first descent of Hardrawkin Pot and followed Long Kin East Cave all the way to Rift Pot.
YRC descended SE Pot in Gaping Gill to the water surface. The Netherworld of Mendip by EA Baker was published.
Flood Entrance to Gaping Gill discovered, but SE Passage was not reached from this entrance until the following year. A YRC group were flooded in for over 6 hours in Long Churn. Another YRC group reached the third pitch of Meregill Hole. Rift Pot (Allotment) was bottomed.
The YRC used a guidewire down Jib Tunnel to try and keep the GG chair out of the water. The entrance to Rat Hole was first spotted and the YRC made the first descent of Sunset Hole. The collapsed entrance to Oxlow Caverns was dug out by Derbyshire Pennine Club.
The YRC dug their way out of the bottom of Sunset Hole and into the bottom of Braithwaite Wife Hole, they later blocked this route because they considered it too dangerous. There was an accident and rescue from Sunset Hole, during which Boyd's broken leg was set in plaster while underground on a rescue which took around 18 hours. Rat Hole was pushed as far as the top of the big pitch. A group were trapped by flooding in Eastwater for a short period.
YRC members descended Swinsto Hole as far as the crawl beyond the first pitch. A further YRC attempt on Meregill, using "heavy wide ladders" rather than just ropes, got a small way beyond the third pitch.
After five annual camps the YRC finally reached the bottom of Meregill Hole using "narrow Botterill ladders". The Morgan brothers were the first to explore the entrance series of Dan-yr-Ogof (DYO). The Bristol Speleological Research Society was formed, and reformed after WWI as the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society (UBSS). The first descent of Disappointment Pot was made as far as what is now a duck. Moors, Crags and Caves of the High Peak and Neighbourhood by EA Baker was published.
Rope ladder used on Mendip to descend Lamb Leer.
The first party reached the bottom of the 12m (40ft) pitch in Swildons and explored to the top of the next pitch. Wookey Hole, Its caves and cave dwellers was published by Oxford University Press. YRC members made the first complete traverse of Crossover Passage in Meregill Hole, this was not done again for nearly 40 years.
YRC explored upstream in Calf Holes.
Whilst home on sick leave Harry Savory took some photographs in Wookey Hole. JW Puttrell explored Lathkill Head Cave.
No reports of caving activity located.
YRC explored Dismal Hill Cave.
The UBSS was founded. The UBSS Hut was erected near Burrington Combe and Reads Cavern was explored.
The first Proceedings of the UBSS was published.
Relocation of the winch gantry allowed descents of Gaping Gill down the main shaft The first party reached the bottom of the Swildon's 6m (20ft) pitch and explored on to the sump.
The Gritstone Club (GC) was formed and published their first Journal which included surveys of several of the deep pots on Newby Moss. The YRC descended Little Hull and reached the first pool. C Long spent 168 hours camping and digging down Stump Cross, he finally dug through the Clay Level and later pushed on to find the streamway.
C Long discovered White Scar Cave and explored it as far as the Lake. First descent of High Hull was made by the GC.
Juniper Gulf was bottomed and surveyed by the GC. Gingling Pot (now called Gingling Hole, Fountains Fell) was pushed to Stalactite Chamber by YRC.
White Scar Cave was opened to the Public.
New Roof Traverse was discovered in Lost Johns. Treak Cliff Cavern was extended by Blue John miners who discovered some of the best decorated passage in Derbyshire. The Caves of Mendip by HE Balche was published.
Centipede Pitch was discovered in Lost Johns and on a later trip it was descended although the group were stopped just short of Battleaxe Pitch/Traverse.
Lost John's Master Cave was reached for the first time by the YRC. The Northern Cavern and Fell Club (NCFC) was formed.
The Craven Pothole Club (CPC) was founded. The first attempts to get down Swinsto Hole by R Hainsworth and GC, took from Whitsuntide until August but only got as far as the fifth pitch. Alfred Hadfield and George Etchells entered the Alderley Edge Mines to explore the abandoned workings, they got lost and their bodies were not found until five months later.
Another attempt on Swinsto was made using rope ladders strengthened with wire to help them survive their passage along the crawl. R Hainsworth was defeated at first but eventually reached the final chamber. The first CPC Bus Meet was arranged. A survey of Lost John's was published by the YRC.
The CPC held their first meet at Gaping Gill.
A first attempt was made to blow the roof off Swildon's 1 sump. After many attempts, the first descent of Diccan Pot was achieved by the GC. The CPC published its first publication, Record of Meets Season 1932, and achieved the first Alum/Diccan exchange. Caving, Episodes of Underground Exploration by EA Baker was published.
The GC made the first descent of Washfold Pot big pitch but they failed to reach the bottom of the pot. At Gaping Gill a petrol engine was used to power the winch together with an improved gantry which allowed passengers to walk directly to the chair rather than climbing down a ladder to reach it. The CPC pushed the tight Intestines route in Marble Steps. A route through the boulder choke in White Scar was discovered. Lyle Cavern (named after Lyle Martin, the first women to reach Groundsheet Junction) was discovered in Lost Johns. The Bradford Moor Cave Club was formed, it was renamed Bradford Pothole Club (BPC) in 1935.
The first attempt was made to dive Swildon's Sump 1, this was the first cave dive on Mendip but unfortunately neither FG Balcombe nor J Sheppard managed to pass the sump. The Wessex Cave Club (WCC) was formed. The entrance to Lamb Leer was re-opened but fell in again. There was an accident in Gingling Hole when a boulder trapped and broke the leg of Reg Weetman. It took 26 hours to get him to the surface and this incident led to the formation of "Central Rescue Organisation", later renamed as Cave Rescue Organisation(CRO). Cine photographers shot 300ft of film in White Scar. The NCFC finally reached the sump in Washfold; this was probably the wettest, tightest and most awkward pothole explored at the time. NCFC members also pushed beyond the 1912 limit in Meregill Hole for a further 150m to reach the present day sump. In Derbyshire Nettle Pot was finally entered after a massive two year dig.
The first descent of Rat Hole into GG Main Chamber was made by the CPC. Eli Simpson, together with Monty Grainger, finished the survey of Gaping Gill. Treak Cliff Caverns was opened to the public. A major diving exploration by Graham Balcombe and Penelope (Mossy) Powell was undertaken at Wookey Hole using Siebe Gorman bottom walking kit. The divers got as far as Wookey 7. There was an outside broadcast by BBC Radio from within Wookey Hole as part of the expedition, including a report by FG Balcombe while he was diving. Bristol Exploration Club (BEC) and the Mendip Rescue Organisation were formed. Inaugural Meeting of the British Speleological Association (BSA) occurred in Derby, Eli Simpson was appointed Honorary Recorder.
The first BSA National Conference was held in Buxton. Swildons sumps 1 and 2 were dived. The present entrance to Lamb Leer was dug out. The first fatal accident occurred in a British Cave; Mabel Binks was hit by a falling rock in Alum Pot. The CPC discovered the entrance series of Langcliffe Pot. The NCFC descended the big pitch in Nick Pot, at 84m and it was the deepest underground pitch in the country at the time. Six members of BPC were trapped, by a combination of flood waters and a broken ladder, in Penyghent Long Churn for 28 hours.
In a major epic of solo exploration Eric Hensler found the long crawl and streamway which are now named after him. These passages in Gaping Gill were later surveyed by a group including Monty Grainger. The BSA took a lease out on Cragdale. The passages beyond the Lakes in DYO were first entered. Work started on converting DYO into a showcave. UBSS made a film of exploring Lamb Leer, a cable-way was erected across the main chamber. Yorkshire Caves and Potholes : North Ribblesdale by Albert Mitchell was published as was the first volume of Caves & Caving by the BSA.
The Central Rescue Organisation was renamed the Cave Rescue Organisation. Harry Harrison retired from being show cave guide at Ingleborough cave after 50 years. He had assisted EA Martel, who also died this year, when Martel became the his first man to descend Gaping Gill in 1895.
Simpsons Pot was explored as far as the bottom of Storm Pot. A UBSS dig broke into first part of GB Cave. John Lambert died in Rowten after a fall, BBC Radio had broadcast a request for help from all potholers. The first attempt to dive Alum Pot Sump was made using a garden hose and a car foot pump.
The "Blasted Hole" in Simpsons Pot was enlarged and the connection was made with the bottom of Swinsto. Hull Pot was explored after the construction of a dam to divert water away from the side passage. The BSA lease on "Cragdale" came to an end. Seven youths became lost in the Alderley Edge Mines and the search to find them took 24 hours. The first volume of the Journal of the Mendip Exploration Society was published, in 1947 this was renamed British Caver.
The first serious cave accident on Mendip occurred down GB Cave when a caver fell 10ft and landed on his head. The entrance to Mossdale was discovered and Bob Leakey free-dived through several short sumps during his often solo explorations.
J Coleman & NV Dunnington finished their survey of Pollnagollum after two years, at 3.5 miles it was the longest cave in Ireland. Quaking Pot was explored from the first pitch to the chamber at the bottom of the third pitch where it was decided that further exploration would need explosives.
The first exploration of Grange Rigg included digging through a boulder choke to reach the final chambers. The BEC were the first club in Britain to use Electron Ladder, on the 12m pot in Swildons.
The UBSS dug into Rod's Pot and Sidcot School Speleological Society dug into Longwood Swallet. In January a naked Bob Leakey solo free dived the then sump in Disappointment Pot and dug out beyond it, to convert it into a duck with 1 inch of airspace. Over the next few months the cave was pushed until it joined Hensler's Streamway.
FG Balcombe dived in Alum Pot sump, Goyden Pot and Keld Head. In Derbyshire a survey of Speedwell Mine was started.
The entrance shaft leading into Lancaster Hole was discovered. Notts Pot was discovered and explored down to the sump. The CRO was reformed after the war. Harold Sargent fell and later died of hypothermia in Grange Rigg. The Northern Pennine Club (NPC) and Red Rose Cave & Pothole Clubs (RRCPC) were formed. Kenneth Brown fell down Plank Shaft in the Alderley Edge mines and died. The South Wales Caving Club(SWCC) was formed and dug out the bottom entrance to Ogof Ffynnon Ddu (OFD). The first dives were made in the OFD resurgence. The Cave Research Group (CRG) and Cave Diving Group (CDG) were formed.
The first edition of Pennine Underground was published as was the first volume of BSA Cave Science. The CPC found the remains of a body in Gaping Gill and police investigators were lowered into the Main Chamber using the CPC winch. Iron ladders were fitted to the main shaft in Lancaster Hole to help with access. The BSA took out a lease on the land to control access to Lancaster Hole. Cornes Cavern (Lancaster/Easegill) was first entered; the largest cave passage discovered in England at that time. Oxford Pot was dug out in Easegill Beck and explored as far as Spout Hall. On Mendip Sump I in Stoke Lane Slocker was passed by free-diving and Wookey 9 was reached by FG Balcombe and D Coase. The WCC dug into Cuckoo Cleeves and UBSS opened up August Hole.
The Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Organisation (UWFRA) was formed. Cow Pot was connected into Lancaster Hole by the NPC. Car Pot was bottomed and surveyed by CPC after a dig. The first Transactions of the Cave Research Group were published. The UBSS made their first trip to Co Clare and surveyed in Poulnagollum.
Stream Passage Pot was connected to the GG system. The Bar Pot entrance was dug out and connected to GG. Ireby Fell Cavern was discovered. Penyghent Pot was discovered by the NPC. The Buxton Water Sump was passed in Peak Cavern by divers, the Muddy Ducks were passed by the sherpas on the same day and this gave a dry route into the major extensions; the two parties met at Surprise Pitch. Gordon Marriott died whilst diving in Wookey Hole. The original short entrance series of Agen Allwedd was pushed and the main cave was discovered.
Poetic Justice and Eureka Junction were discovered and the connection was made between the Upper Easegill System and Lancaster Hole.
There were two major rescues down Penyghent Pot; John Williams died of hypothermia and it took 36 hours to rescue Johnny Frankland after a fall on the rift pitches. Easter Grotto was discovered in Easegill. The Oxford Pot Entrance to Easegill became impassable and Rosy Sink was opened as an alternative. Maskhill Mine was connected to Oxlow Caverns. Lewis Railton and Bill Little were trapped in OFD 1 for 58 hours. The CRO were asked to assist in OFD, this was the their first call out to "foreign parts".
County Pot entrance was dug out. Top Sink entrance was dug out and connected into the Easegill System. The Derbyshire CRO was established.
The longest cave dive in Britain was made when P Davies and J Buxton dived a total distance of 244m in Clapham Beck Head. Geoff Workman spent two weeks alone down Gaping Gill; long stays underground had not been attempted before this time. Tunnel Cave was discovered near DYO. St Cuthbert's Swallet was discovered on Mendip. The first edition of Britain Underground was published. Doolin Cave, Co Clare, was first entered by the UBSS.
The CPC discovered Dowber Gill Passage and dug into Providence Pot. Balcombe attempted to dive Swildon's Sump 3. Backwash Sump was passed by dam building and bailing to give a major extension of Giants Hole.
Providence Pot was connected to Dowber Gill by the CPC. JE Fisher died after falling down Dolly Tubs pitch in Alum Pot; a non-caving ambulance man who was taken to the site of the accident received a Queen's Commendation for his efforts. Bob Davies dived with an aqualung and reached a depth of 22m in the Skeleton Pit in Gough's Cave. He then went to Wookey with the intention of pushing beyond Wookey 11, the limit for bottom walking. Unfortunately he nearly came to grief when he dived without a line; at the time the blame was placed on the fact that he was using an aqualung and fins and the divers of the day turned against this equipment.
Following an invitation to the CRG, Bob Powell (CPC) and Nick Pratchett (BPC) were invited to join the International Expedition which reached Sump I in the Gouffre Berger; the first cave to be pushed to over 1000m deep. The Mendip Cave Registry was formed
The exploration of Hammer Pot by the NPC set a new standard for perseverance in pushing a severely tight pothole. Discovery of Magnetometer Pot after using a magnetometer to find the railway lines covering the hidden shaft top. The Blue Pencil dig in Swildon's was successful and allowed access by non-divers into the further reaches. The first edition of Caves of Mendip was published. There was a major rescue of 6 students who were trapped by floodwaters while attempting to complete the Providence Pot to Dow Cave through trip. Leonard Garraway died crossing the resurgence pool in Porth yr Ogof. Hereford Caving Club discovered major extensions in Agen Allwedd making it one of Britain's longest caves.
The CPC completed their survey of Stump Cross Caverns. Echo Pot was explored by the NPC. Herbert Ernest Balch, pioneer Mendip Caver, died.
Knotlow Cavern was dug open. Neil Moss died in Peak Cavern after 3 days of attempts to rescue him. There were three other fatal accidents; one involving a rock-fall in Dow Cave, the second a fall in Bar Pot and the third was a cave diver sherpa who died of exposure in Swildon's Hole. Digging was started at Priddy Green Sink.
The end of Short Henslers in the Gaping Gill system was dug out to connect with the passages just beyond Bar Pot. A dig in Cwm Dwr finally yielded a route to Cwm Dwr Jama. There was a fatal accident in Eastwater Cavern due to rock fall. The Double Troubles in Swildons were dug out but were not yet connected with Vicarage Passage and the streamway beyond Sump 1. The Derbyshire Caving Association was established.
Sumps 5 and 6 were passed in Swildons. The Longwood-August Hole connection was dug through. A rescue from Pen Park Hole led to its closure to cavers by Bristol City Council. The Grampian Speleological Group was founded. There was a fatal fall in Ball Eye Mine, Derbyshire.
The death occurred of Eli Simpson, possibly the man who had the greatest impact on British caving in the first half of the century. There were fatal falls at Alum Pot and in Hell Hole. After a rescue from Pegleg Pot due to flooding, the landowner closed the fell to cavers. This eventually led to formation of the Council of Northern Caving Clubs (CNCC). The death occurred of Professor Leo Palmer, founder Member of UBSS, Honorary Curator of Wells Museum and proponent of the second Great Chamber in Lamb Leer which he believed he had discovered by resistivity measurements. The Mendip Cave Registry was re-started after a period of dormancy. Jack Waddon, an experienced cave diver, died whilst training in the Minneries Pool. Sump 6 was passed in Swildons; then Mike Boon passed Sump 7 after an underwater epic. This sump was not passed again until it was enlarged. Boon was also the first person to use a side-mounted cylinder for diving. Frank Salt led the first British expedition to the Gouffre Berger which not only bottomed the cave but one member free dived partway in to the sump and decided that it would be a feasible dive with air.
The annual BSA Conference was re-started with the first one being held at Sheffield University. CNCC was formally established to negotiate access agreements with landowners. Geoff Workman stayed underground in Stump Cross for 105 Days. Mike McShea drowned in Marble Steps Intestines Route on a trip to recover tackle left behind after making a hasty retreat to avoid flood water the week before. There was a fatal accident in Longwood/August when a female student died of exposure. John McElliot (non-caving sub-aqua enthusiast) died whilst diving in Ecton Copper Mines. Ken Pearce led the expedition which dived Sump 1 in the Gouffre Berger only to be stopped by a second sump. The first edition of Caves in Wales and the Marches was published.
Cavers were officially re-admitted to DYO beyond the showcave. Alan Clegg was drowned in Lancaster Hole downstream sump. There was a major rescue call-out with an underground search around Maeshafn for two missing youths, who were later found in Weston-Super-Mare. P8 (Jack Pot) was dug in to by the Manchester group of the BSA. The first edition of Caves of Derbyshire was published. The Cambrian Cave Registry was set up.
The first edition of The Speleologist was published (Britain's first truly commercial caving magazine). The Council of Southern Caving Clubs (CSCC) was formed. Cowsh Avens were scaled in Swildons. Swildon's sumps 8 to 12 were passed by divers for the first time with the latter remaining the limit of exploration for a considerable period. A broken column in the Colonnades in Lancaster was mended with Araldite. Aygill Caverns were discovered after a dig. The longest free dive in Britain was achieved when a young army cadet (John KP Stevens) took a wrong turning in a Carslwark sump and managed to keep going until he found a small airbell after 21m. He was found after a major pumping exercise.
Divers found a route into OFD II. The Long Crawl in DYO was passed and gave entry to DYO II where The Rising in DYO was also passed. Kingsdale Master Cave was discovered by the University of Leeds Speleological association (ULSA). Both Dale Barn and Gingling Hole were extended; the sumps in Langstroth Cave were passed and the avens beyond were scaled. Out Sleets Beck Pot was entered for the first time. Giants Hole and Oxlow Caverns were linked to give a new British depth record. The Ladder Dig in GB Cave finally went. The Scottish Cave Rescue Organisation was founded. The publication of A Technical Review of Cave Diving on Air by Mike Boon had a major impact on cave diving techniques.
At Mossdale Caverns there was the worst caving accident in British history with six fatalities due to flooding. A caver "under instruction" was killed when the lifeliner failed to hold him in a fall down the 160ft pitch in Alum Pot. In Sunset Hole Eric Luckhurst fell down the final pitch and was fatally injured; the attempts to rescue him formed the basis of Sid Perou's first cave film "Sunday at Sunset Pot". Tatham Wife, Black Shiver, Pasture Gill and Smeltmill Beck were all discovered as was Langstroth Pot which was connected to Langstroth Cave. A detailed survey of Lancaster Hole and Easegill Caverns by the RRCPC was published by CRG. Cwm Dwr was connected to OFD II. The Top Entrance to OFD was dug out after being located from the inside. Little Neath River Cave was discovered. The blockhouse at the entrance to Swildon's was built. In Carslwark Cave a "youth on adventure training" died whilst attempting to dive a sump. The Entrance Series to Giants Hole was blasted out by the landowner in an (unfulfilled) attempt to create a showcave. Restrictions on access to farmland due to foot & mouth disease disrupted caving. In Gloucestershire a caver died when his hemp rope broke as he attempted to abseil a 300ft mine shaft. Ken Kelly's expedition to Provatina descended the then deepest shaft in the world, a pitch of 411m. Ken Pearce's Gouffre Berger Expedition passed Sump 2 but were stopped by a further pitch.
Far Country and the Whitsun Series in Gaping Gill were both discovered and explored. Major extensions were made to Birks Fell Cave, Langcliffe Pot and Sleets Gill. Strans Gill Pot and Growling Hole were discovered. Dave Brook first postulated the Three Counties System. On Mendip the Great Flood washed away infill in the Water Rift providing a bypass to the 12m pitch in Swildons as well as causing many other changes to caves such as GB. Whernside Manor was established as a caving centre by the Boy Scouts Association. Anthony Stannard died while crossing the resurgence pool in Port yr Ogof. The National Caving Association (NCA) was formed. The CRG held a Cave Hydrology Symposium in Leicester.
Christopher Hay died from exposure in Meregill Hole, having been brought through the sumped up mere with a diving mask held over the face. Another caver was killed in Easegill by a rockfall. Colin Green's accident in Kingsdale Master Cave led to the scrapping of hemp cored wire belays. CNCC agreed to publish weather forecasts in co-operation with Yorkshire Dales National Park Information Services. Sump 1 in St Cuthberts Swallet was passed. The Belfry (BEC Hut) was burned down. Shatter Cave was discovered in Fairy Cave Quarry. The entrance to Eastwater was re-opened after it had collapsed. The Cambrian Caving Council was formed as was the British Association of Caving Instructors. The first issue of Descent and the last issue of The Speleologist were published. There was a British Expedition to PSM to help French teams push upstream from the Tete Sauvage entrance.
After a major digging exercise by HWCPC, Pippikin Pot was extended and quickly gained a reputation for being very tight. The HWCPC also dug into Hurnel Moss Pot. Alan Erith disappeared, his body was found five years later, he had drowned diving in Keld Head. Mike Wooding passed a major psychological barrier when (in Keld Head) he made the first cave dive of over 300m(1000 feet). Norman Thornber, one of the first Cave Rescue Wardens and the author of Pennine Underground, died. On TV there was the first showing of Sid Perou's film on the attempts to connect Gaping Gill and Ingleborough Cave. Speedwell Cavern was connected to Peak Cavern when divers passed the Treasury Sump. Stephen Sedgewick died crossing the resurgence pool in Porth yr Ogof.
A visitor was killed by rockfall in Weathercote Cave and a caver died in a fatal fall in Swinsto. Gavel Pot was extended and the Earby extensions were discovered in Lancaster Hole. A new permanent ladder was installed on Stop Pot in Lancaster/Easegill System. On a solo trip Mike Wooding discovered Far Waters in Gaping Gill. Paul Esser died while diving in upstream Porth-yr-Ogof. Tunnel Cave was opened as a showcave and renamed Cathedral Cave. Dudley Soffe was rescued from Swildon's Lower Oxbow after 10 hours of major effort. The Rhino Rift dig went to the head of the deep shaft. NCA together with BSA & CRG started to identify caves of special scientific importance (SSSIs) on behalf of the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) in a programme that was to go on for the next three years. The first Ghar Parau Expedition left Britain for Iran.
The first Edition of Northern Caves (Vol 1 Wharfedale) was published. OM Mines re-opened Moorwood Sough from Stoney Middleton to Eyam. A major pumping exercise by the Technical Projects Unit in Knotlow Cavern, allowed exploration of passages normally 15m below water level and the recovery of an historic rag and chain pump. Divers linked Noon's Hole to Arch Cave in Fermanagh. The Grand Circle route in Agen Allwedd was dug through. Withyhill Cave was discovered in Fairy Cave Quarry. The second Ghar Parau expedition was halted by a sump one pitch beyond the end reached by the previous year's expedition
Reg Hainsworth - founder member, chief warden and then chief controller of CRO retired from his more active roles. BSA and CRG merged to form BCRA, the first issue of BCRA Bulletin was published. Sulo Sulonen was killed in a fall down Eldon Hole. Merlins Cave and Carswark Caverns were linked after a dig, although the link was later blocked. NWCC discovered Ogof Hesp Alyn. NHASA dug into Manor farm Swallet. Graham Alston (Junior soldier) drowned in Porth-yr-Ogof when he attempted to swim out of the downstream end. Pete Clements drowned while exiting from Firehose Cave in NW Scotland. Mammoth Cave and Flint Ridge Cave were linked to overtake Holloch as the longest cave in the world. The Ghar Parau Expedition Fund set up to aid future expeditions.
The first true SRT fatality occurred when the rope broke whilst David Huxtable was abseiling Gaping Gill main shaft. Divers discovered the China Shop in Boreham Cave. There was a fatal 30ft fall in GG system. The CRO bought their depot in Clapham. Major extensions were made in Dalebarn Cave. John Smith died while diving in Merlin's Pipe, Carslwark; Roger Solari died while diving in Sump 4 of Agen Allwed. Sump 1 (Tidal Sump) was passed in Otter Hole and was followed by a streamway and sump 2. After a fall in Lamb Leer, the insurance company settled a claim for damages resulting from the accident out of court. A caver who broke a leg in the Black Hole Series was rescued through Sump 1 in Swildons without breathing apparatus. Thrupe Lane Swallet was entered for the first time and the Manor Farm dig went. The uppermost sections of Cowsh Avens in Swildon's Hole were reached after four years of climbing and digging. BCRA held its first one-day regional meeting and first issue of BCRA Transactions was published. Limestones & Caves of NW England was published by BCRA, the first of the series on Limestones and Caves of Britain.
There was a fatal fall in Ireby Fell Cavern. As a consequence of flooding the CRO had seven rescues in one night involving 47 cavers; Bob Hryndij and Phil Pappard were awarded Royal Humane Society Awards and the CRO was awarded the freedom of Settle. Dale Head Pot was entered after long dig, it was the third deepest pot in northern England. Alan Erith's body was discovered in Keld Head. The Hall of the Thirty was discovered in Otter Hole. Chris Murray (WCC) died in an SRT accident in Picos de Europa. The New Guinea Expedition left Britain, 19 of the most experienced cavers in the country went out for 6 months. The SC3 (Belfry) entrance to the PSM was discovered by BEC members making the PSM the deepest cave in the world.
In Langstroth Pot, three cavers drowned attempting to free-dive sumps. Radagast's Revenge was discovered by divers in Ingleborough Cave. A dive by Phil Papard linked Ireby Fell Cavern and Notts Pot. The Scout Association ceased running Whernside Manor and North Yorkshire CC stepped in. Chamber 25 was reached in Wookey and the first attempt was made to dive the deep sump beyond. The drought caused Sump 1 in Swildon's to become a duck and allowed exploration of normally flooded passages in many parts of Britain. Ogof Craig-a-Ffynnon was explored as far as Choke 2. Stephen Nunwick died after a fall in Oxlow Cavern. Derek Tringham died in a cave diving accident in Spain. An expedition set off for Los Tayos in Equador to ascertain whether, as claimed by Erik von Daniken, the caves had been carved out by spacemen using lasers! Neil Armstrong accompanied the expedition.
Link Pot was discovered and connected to Lancaster Hole. Silver Jubilee Pot was discovered by the MSG, although only 75m long it is the highest cave in England at an altitude of 768m. A caver was killed by falling rocks in Blayshaw Gill Pot. Mike Nelson was drowned while diving in Ilam rising. The Tyning's Barrow dig went. Wookey 25 was dived to minus 45m using gas mixtures. The 7th International Congress of Speleology was held in England, this was the first Congress which encouraged sporting cavers to attend as well as scientists.
Link Pot was connected to Pippikin. The Keld Head and downstream Kingsdale Master Cave dive lines were linked. Sid Perou's series of films Beneath the Northern Pennines were shown on TV. The NPC dug into Ogof or Herwheliwir in North Wales. Winnats Head cave was pushed to Fox Chamber. Ogof Craig-a-Ffynnon went again and Hall of the Mountain King was discovered. The first edition of Caves of South Wales was published. The BCRA Bulletin was renamed BCRA Caves & Caving. Dr EK Tratman, member of the UBSS since 1919, editor of The Caves of North-West Clare and Chairman of the 1977 International Speleological Congress, died. The first expedition returned from Mulu where the six cavers had surveyed over 30 miles of caves in just over 3 months
Two cavers died after being overcome by explosives fumes in Cote Gill. After a search of the Gaping Gill system which lasted 57 hours, Jeremy Petersen was eventually found at bottom of Mud Pot. The first through dive from Kingsdale to Keld Head, which established a new world record (1829m), was filmed by Yorkshire TV. On Scales Moor major extensions were made in King Pot; Vespers Pot was discovered and linked to Spectacle Pot. Ingleborough Cave and Beck Head were linked by divers. The Pippikin Pot film won the Royal Television Society Award for the best sporting and adventure film. Bernard and Alice Robertshaw retired from Bernies. Permission was given for diving to restart in Peak Cavern. Two cavers were washed away and drowned in the OFD streamway.
Ian Plant, cave diver and editor of the Craven Herald, died while diving in Bull Pot of the Witches. A caver fell down Walrus Pot in Top Sinks after getting onto an SRT rope which had been left by a group the previous week because it had jammed. Mark Woodhouse died during a training dive in Keld Head. The Eastwater entrance shaft was stabilised with a new metal framing. A caver died of a heart attack while down GB Cave. Major extensions were made to Reyfad in Co Fermanagh. The Mulu '80 expedition discovered over 50km of cave including Sarawak Chamber, the largest in the world.
A fixed high level traverse rope was installed across Mud Hall in Gaping Gill. Roaring Hole was opened up. The Far Sump in Peak Cavern was passed by Martyn Farr only to find that the miners had been there before him. Ink Sump in Peak Cavern was passed, this was later to become the site of the most extensive dig beyond a sump anywhere in Britain. There was a 50 hour rescue from Southern Streamway in Agen Allwedd. Adrian Luck died crossing the resurgence pool in Port yr Ogof. Keith Potter died diving in Wookey Hole. David Woods died in the downstream sump in Pollnacrom. Uamh an Claonaite became Scotland's first mile long system. After being found in 1979, Pozu del Xitu was explored to a final depth of 1139m; the first British exploration to go below 1000m. The Jean-Bernard became the deepest cave in the world at 1460m.
Ted Holstead died when he went out of control while abseiling the main shaft of Gaping Gill. An experienced caver had a fatal heart attack down Diccan Pot. Exceptional flooding swept away a caver in Sunset Hole and he drowned. A fall while climbing the first pitch in Ireby Fell Cavern unlifelined was also fatal; as were a fall down the hole between Bar Pot and SE Pot in Gaping Gill, and a fall in an old mine on Grassington Moor. An MP suggested in a private members bill that cavers should be made to pay for rescues; he withdrew the bill after an avalanche of letters. Renold's Rift (named after C Reynolds!) in Longwood August was extended to give new depth record for Mendip of 173m. Wookey 25 was pushed to 60m deep. Eleven cavers had to be rescued after being trapped by floodwaters in the Ladder Dig extension in GB Cave. Charterhouse Cave was discovered. BCRA Transactions was renamed Cave Science.
Gaping Gill and Ingleborough Cave were connected at Radagast's Revenge after a dig and two divers made the through trip in each direction. The start of the West End Series was discovered in Eastwater. Gordon Warwick well known geomorphologist and a founder member of CRG died. A joint expedition by LUSS and SEII pushed Sima 56 in northern Spain to -1169m in another major British success. Roppel was connected to Mammoth/Flint Ridge to makes the longest cave system in the world at nearly 500km.
A metal tube was installed in the entrance to Stream Passage after the BPC had dug it out when it became blocked. The Wretched Rabbit entrance to Easegill was dug out. Rift Pot was discovered and connected to Large Pot. Sid Perou's Speleogenesis film and his Lost River of Gaping Gill - Part Two outlining the actual connection, were shown on TV. A dry route was dug out to connect Peak and Speedwell Caverns. As a result of the drought Sump 1 in Swildon's became a duck. More extensions were made in the West End Series in Eastwater. Major extensions were also made in Agen Allwedd and Ogof Daren Cilau. The discovery and exploration of Ogof Llyn Parc consolidated the inclusion of North Wales on the caving map. Scotland Underground was published.
Derek Crossland died while diving in Hurtle Pot. Dave James drowned in Lancaster Hole downstream sump when he went for a swim. The sump at the bottom of Notts Pot was passed to gain entry to Notts II. The upstream Gavel Pot sump was dived to 63m deep. Whernside Manor ceased to offer caving courses. Knock Fell Caverns, the most complex maze in England, was discovered. Divers found the "Lost River of Cheddar" in Gough's Cave. Oliver Lloyd, one of the more colourful Mendip caving characters died. There was a major attempt to dig Sump 2 in St Cuthberts. The end of Wookey was pushed to a depth of 68m using Trimix. The landowner refused all access to Lamb Leer after a dispute over payments for access. Time Machine Passage, the largest in Britain, and St David's Sump were discovered in Ogof Daren Cilau. Marble Arch in Co Fermanagh was opened as a showcave. The first British caving expeditions left for China.
Dave Anderson died in Rowten Pot; he was the first member of the CRO to be killed on a rescue. A caver was drowned by floods down Dale Head Pot. CRO attended a total of 6 rescues involving 24 cavers in one day in May due to flooding. A walker fell down Gaping Gill and died. ULSA found a major extension in Penyghent Pot. Jingle Pot and Hurtle Pot were linked by divers. Many Mendip landowners with cave SSSIs on their land refused to allow access to the caves as the NCC notified them of limitations on land use due to "potentially damaging operations". Divers at Gough's Cave found the main river and one of the larger chambers under Mendip (Lloyd Hall). Atilla Kurucz was killed by boulder fall in Longwood Swallet. Downstream Daren Cilau was connected by a dive to Elm Hole in the Clydach Gorge giving one of the longest through trips in Britain at nearly 5km. Long term digging led to the establishment of the Hard Rock Café in Daren Cilau. Major extensions were made in Daren Cilau heading back towards Agen Allwedd. Some formations were seriously damaged in Ogof Craig-a-Ffynnon by a gang of Hells Angels. Gwynfor Hughes died of a heart attack whilst installing a rope across the downstream pool in Porth-yr-Ogof. The first Irish Caving Symposium was held. The fissure which had prevented entrance to Lechuguilla Cave, the best decorated cave in the world, was finally passed .
There was a breakdown of the access agreement for Casterton Fell after the owners requested that CNCC collect £2 per head when issuing permits. Dave Elliot's SRT Rigging Guide to 25 Dales caves was published. A planning application was submitted to turn Bar Pot into a showcave by fitting scaffolding staircases down the two pitches. Most major Mendip Caves were re-opened to cavers after the problems over SSSI designation were resolved. There was a nine-day diggers camp in Daren Cilau which resulted in more extensions in Daren and Agen Allwedd but still no link. Eldon Hill quarry was refused permission for an extension after objections by BCRA, DCA, Eldon PC and others. Cliff Cavern was climbed in Speedwell after a major siege. Alex Pitcher disappeared in the Berger and was not discovered until June 1988. Nobert Casteret died.
A new access agreement for Casterton Fell was made between the landowners and RRCPC not CNCC. A boulder collapse killed David Simpson, Michael Preece and Janet Barnfield in Easegill. Nick Whaite died while diving in Unnamed Cave in Barbondale. Hagg Gill was discovered but details were not published until a new entrance had been opened up. Fresh attempts by divers to penetrate Malham Cove began in earnest. A forty-five metre bolt route put up beyond Far Sump in Peak Cavern entered major high level extensions. Diggers bypassed sumps 1 to 3 in Agen Allwedd in the continuing search for a connection to Daren. Cenotaph Aven was climbed in Eastwater. A climber, Charles Butterworth, trying caving with another climber, died of hypothermia in Uamh nan Claig-ionn. Some cavers started to get worried about radon gas levels in caves.
Pippikin sump was connected to Gavel/Lost John's sump. A caver died of exposure whilst prusiking out of Gaping Gill. The Trident formation in OFD was repaired after the end had been broken off. The dig in Welsh's Green Swallet on Mendip went. Wookey Hole was bought by Madame Tussauds. The downstream Lancaster Hole sump was dived and led to a large flooded passage. Sump 1 in Swildon's became a duck yet again due to the dry weather. Tony Jarratt bought Bat Products from Phil Romford. Much exploratory work was done in Peak Cavern beyond Far Sump. Conservation guidelines were published for Peak Cavern. A British team in Mulu extended Blackrock Cave which they had found the previous year, and extended Clearwater Cave making it 11th longest in the world.
Phil Tamms, a Bangor University Student, was found dead by other members of his party in the Kingsdale Master Cave Streamway. Concrete pipes were put in the entrance to Ireby. Divers discovered the East Kingsdale Branch of KMC/Keld Head system. The rescue of a school party from Ibbeth Peril led to the tightening up of guidelines on taking such groups caving. There were reports of 8mm bolt anchors starting to fail due to excessive use, some people questioned whether or not it was deliberate damage? G Cornes, the discoverer of Cornes Cavern, celebrated his 80th birthday by doing a Lancaster Hole/County Pot through trip supported by large numbers of fellow cavers. The Greensites Project was set up over OFD to try and develop new ways of detecting unknown cave passage. A new permanent ladder installed in Daren Cilau. Late in December the first explorers entered Slaughter Stream Cave after a long dig. There was a major push by divers on the Cheddar River in Gough's Cave. The Swildon's stream dried up so much that there was airspace through both Sump 1 and 2. NCA appointed a Training Co-ordinator. BACI was formally disbanded.
The connection of the West Kingsdale sumps with the King Pot sump was followed by a through dive from King Pot to Keld Head, over 3kms and the longest diving traverse in the world. Roaring Hole was connected by divers to Meregill. Battlefield Chamber in White Scar was opened to tourists. The entrance to Dale Head collapsed. Major extensions were discovered beyond the sump in Gingling Hole. Agreement was reached that 8mm self-cutting anchors would be replaced by resin fixed "P-hangers". Hymac Hole was opened, the first entrance to be dug with a Hymac digger hired by the "Mendip Mining Company". A Hymac was used to open the entrance to Whitepit. After 14 years Wigmore Swallet finally went. Major extensions were made in Slaughter Stream Cave. Carno Adit went after nearly 10 years of digging. The White River Series was discovered in Peak Cavern. The first issue of NCA Speleoscene and the 100th issue of Descent were published. Eric Hensler, one of the grand old men of British Caving, died.
Gingling Hole, Dub Cote Cave, Peak Cavern and Carno Adit all continued to grow. Roy Deane and Les Hewitt, went in to Sleets Gill just after midday and were trapped by flooding. The following day divers found them and after a swift lesson in how to dive they were dived out successfully. This was the first use of diving gear to rescue non-divers. Martin McMahon died while diving in Joint Hole. The re-enactment of the Black Hole Rescue in Swildons was filmed as a pilot for the new BBC 999 series and was shown on TV in July. At the end of the project when talking about cavers the producer was heard to say "I didn't know people like you existed!!" Diggers in Thrupe Lane broke through to the top of High Atlas. Amanda Stead and Graham Lipp died in separate incidents crossing the downstream pool in Porth yr Ogof. An NCA census of cavers' attitudes to the present structure of British Caving showed that 87% were not happy with the status quo. A British team connected Clearwater and Blackrock Caves in Mulu to give a 100km + system, the 7th longest in the world. Ken Pearce, the first person to dive sump 1 at the bottom of the Gouffre Berger, died; as did Bill Little, a well-known and sometimes controversial South Wales Caver. Giles Barker died in an SRT accident in Matienzo, Spain.
Michael David Jones died during flooding of Simpson's Pot. A film reconstruction of the Sleets Gill rescue, No Picnic at Sleets Gill, was shown on TV. A judge found in favour of RRCPC in their dispute with the owners of Bull Pot Farm. After underwater digging the divers finally broke through into upstream passages in Leck Beck Head. Foxholes was connected to Ingleborough Cave. There were serious problems with deteriorating air quality in Swildons. Priddy Green Sink was re-opened and digging to reach Swildons restarted. A new agreement was reached which allowed access to Pen Park Hole. Elm Hole & Pwll-y-Cwm were connected in the Clydach Gorge. Yet more major extensions were made in Daren Cilau. Sid Perou won an Emmy Award for his filming in Lechuguilla.
Paul Lyons was killed by a boulder collapse in Lost Johns. Trevor Kemp died while diving from Dismal Hill to Birkwith Cave. Peter Ball died in Old Ing Cave after it flooded. The Fall Pot and Stake Pot ladders were removed from the Easegill system. There was the first report in Descent of a long-term dig called Ogof Draenen, it went and within a month was 15km long. Cnoc nan Uamh was extended to a total length of 2km to make it the longest in Scotland. Luke Devenish, a colourful long-term Mendip caver and Wilfred Joint, a similarly well-known Devon caver, both died. David Jenkins, author of Caves of Wales and the Marches, died. Alan Box died in an SRT accident in Matienzo, Spain. Ian Rolland died while diving the terminal sump of Sotano de San Augustin, Mexico.
Box Head Pot was opened up and gave a new entrance to Lost John's. Illusion Pot was connected to the back end of Dalebarn cave. There was a successful trial radio link-up between cavers in White Scar Cave and other cavers in OFD. Lee Craddock, a cub scout, crawled into Jib Tunnel and fell to his death. George Cornes, the person who found Lancaster Hole and an important figure in the exploration of the Easegill System, died aged 85. David Heap, author of Potholing: Beneath the Northern Pennines, died. James Hall Mine was connected to the Speedwell Cavern streamway. The Main rising in Speedwell Cavern was pushed by divers to -66.5m, already the deepest in Britain but seen to continue and go deeper. Ogof Draenen continued to grow, by February it was the 4th longest cave in Britain. Relations between cavers and Llangattock residents fell to an all-time low. The Charterhouse Caving Committee was replaced by Charterhouse Caving Company Limited. Dry weather again led to an airspace through Swildon's Sump 1 and bad air problems in the cave. Con Cormican, Patrick Kennedy and Philip Marshall were drowned by flooding in the Marble Arch System. Divers discovered Uamh an Claonaite 7 where huge extensions restored the cave as the longest in Scotland. A shaft in Brezno pod velbom was claimed to be the deepest underground shaft in the world at -501m, there is a ledge of sorts at -377m but the rest of the hang is free.
A new route out of Pippikin to the surface was named Bye George Pot in honour of George Cornes. Christine Bleakley fell down second pitch of Quaking and died. A major inter-club water tracing project in the Malham area attempted to clarify the hydrology. Divers found Bronze age human remains in a cave near Sedbergh. CNCC published its first Rigging Cards and CNCC Rigging Guide number 2. Ogof Draenen continued to grow and attempts continued to link Aggen Allwedd to Daren Cilau. Priddy Green Sink was connected to Swildon's. The CDG celebrated their 50th anniversary at Wookey Hole. Nicola Dollimore (and a Hungarian colleague on the OUCC trip) died during flooding in the Gouffre Berger. The Sports Council tells NCA it will not make any funds available to support caving expeditions. Three Americans were sent to jail for smashing formations and selling them to local mineral shops.
Michael Jeffries died in an SRT accident on Lancaster Hole entrance Shaft. Divers connected Witches Cave and Pippikin Pot. James Hall Mine was connected through to Peak Cavern beyond Far Sump after major dig. Melvyn Davies, a long term figure on the South Wales caving scene died. The land above Ogof Draenen was put up for sale as the cave passed 60km in length. The drain for the Mud Sump in Swildons became blocked and it became impossible to bale it. Rob Palmer died while diving in the Red Sea and Rob Parker died while diving in the Bahamas (4 Sharks Blue Hole).
The deaths occurred of Mike Dewdney-Yorke and PB Smith, both larger than life cavers. The Ogof Draenen land sale was still not finalised although the cave continued to grow. Pollution problems causing bad air led to the closure of Otter Hole. Pete Livesey, hard caver and climber of the 60's and 70's died For the second time ever, diving gear was used to rescue non-divers from Uamh an Claonaite when it flooded. Gouffre Mirolda briefly became deepest in world at -1610 (8m deeper than the Jean Bernard) before being passed by Lamprechtsofen -1632.
The first British cave dive of over a mile in each direction took place in Keld Head. The deaths occurred of Monty Grainger, surveyor of GG in 1937 and again in the mid 60's; Reg Hainsworth, hard man of the 20 and 30's, founder and committed member of the CRO; and Bryan Ellis, stalwart of the BCRA. Titan shaft, the largest in Britain was discovered and climbed in Peak Cavern. The caves of Fairy Cave Quarry were re-opened to cavers after being closed for over a decade. Peter Fowler died in a cave diving accident in S Wales. Access to the Gouffre Berger was stopped after the FFS had taken the Maire d'Engins to court.

Sources and Acknowledgements

Thanks are extended to John Beck, Tony Bennett, John Buxton, Judith Calford, John Cordingley, David Gibbon, Pat Halliwell, Chris Howes, Dave Irwin, Alan Jeffreys, Graham Mullen, Ceri Murray, Brian Prewer, Jack and Laurie Sheldon and Tony Waltham for suggesting a number of changes to an earlier version of this article.

Various BCRA Publications, Caves & Caving (BSA), Cave Science (BSA), Various CNCC Publications, Various Craven Pothole Club Publications, Various CRG Publications, Descent, Gritstone Club Journals, Log of the Wookey Hole Exploration Expedition 1935, Various South Wales Caving Club Publications, The Speleologist, Proceedings of the UBSS, ULSA Reviews, Wessex Cave Club Journals, Yorkshire Ramblers Club Journals, Yorkshire Speleological Association Journals.

EA Baker - Moors, Crags & Caves of the High Peak; H Beck - Gaping Gill; CJ Carlon - The Alderley Edge Mines; D Checkley - Sima 56 S Craven - unpublished manuscript on the History of Yorkshire Caving; P Davies - Pictorial History of Swildon's Hole; Jim Eyre - The Easegill System; Jim Eyre & John Frankland - Race Against Time; M Farr - Dan-yr-Ogof & Darkness Beckons; P Johnson - A History of Mendip Caving; CH Kenney - Caving Log 1942-50; J Lovelock - Life and Death Underground; AC Oldham - Caves of N Wales; PM O'Reilly - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu; H Savory - A Man Deep in Mendip; UWFRA - Anytime,Anywhere.

Derbyshire Caving Association, Red Rose CPC and Northern Pennine Club WWW sites.

Produced by Ric Halliwell, Craven Pothole Club
Last updated on 4 February 2002

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