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Historic England Research Records

Wookey Hole Cave

Hob Uid: 197048
Location :
Somerset
Mendip
St. Cuthbert Out
Grid Ref : ST5319048010
Summary : Wookey Hole Cave represents the upper course of the River Axe, and has been extensively developed in the 19th and 20th centuries as a show cave. Originally, the cave comprised a small entrance way and a tunnel circa 85 metres in length, which led to four chambers. Three of these are partly occupied by the River Axe. The fourth is submerged, but was examined in the 1970s. The cave has been excavated on a number of occasions. Casual finds were made by Buckland during visits in the 1820s. William Boyd Dawkins conducted an investigations of sorts in the later 19th century. HE Balch intermittently undertook excavations during the first half of the 20th century, and some minor excavation has occurred as recently as the 1970s. The bulk of finds belong to the Iron Age and Roman periods. Finds include pottery, Iron Age and Roman coins (including a possible hoard), and numerous other objects including an ear ring, finger rings, a spoon, an ear scoop, spindle whorls and so on. A considerable quantity of human remains have also been recovered, including a cemetery of Romano-British date excavated in the 4th chamber in 1973-7. At least 28 individuals were present in the cemetery, accompanied by pottery, coins and other items. Investigation of the river bed in 1947-9 by divers produced Romano-British bowls and lead ewers, part of an 11th-12th century cooking pot, and two late 17th century glass bottles.
More information : (ST 53194801). Wookey Hole (NR). (1)

Wookey Hole cave was excavated in 1911 and later by Balch, revealing an average of 4-7 ft of stratification, mostly Iron Age sealed by Romano-British. Finds included a silver coin of Marcia (BC 124), pottery from EIA to RB, iron weapons and tools, bronze ornaments, and Roman coins, from Vespasian to Valentinian II. Further work in 1926/7, again by Balch, produced many similar finds mainly from the upper RB levels. Investigation of the river bed within the cave by divers in 1947-9 produced RB bowls and lead ewers, part of an 11th-12th c cooking pot, and two late 17th c glass bottles. A considerable number of human bones associated with RB material was also found. Some of the pottery found by Balch was of Glastonbury type, and there were distinct resemblances between skulls found
at Glastonbury and Wookey Hole. (2-6)

A silt bank in the previously inaccessible 4th chamber, known as 'Holy Hole', was excavated over short periods in 1973-7. Remains of at least 10 individuals were found accompanied by RB pottery and 2nd-3rd c ornaments. The burials here, and in other parts of the cave, may have been ritual, as they were almost all of young people and apparently not of entire bodies. (7-9)

Excavations in the fourth chamber at Wookey Hole 1973-6 revealed a Romano-British cemetery. Full report (10)

Additional reference (11)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1960
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Archaeologia : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details : Balch, HE and RDR Troup
Page(s) : 565-92
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 62, 1911
Source Number : 11
Source : British Archaeological Report (BAR) British series
Source details : Whimster, R
Page(s) : 399-400
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 90, 1981
Source Number : 12
Source : Romano-British cavemen : cave use in Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 106
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 19
Source Number : 13
Source : A gazetteer of Romano-British cave sites and their finds
Source details :
Page(s) : 148-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Archaeologia : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details :
Page(s) : 337-46
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 64, 1913
Source Number : 4
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details : Balch, HE. Excavations at Wookey Hole and Other Mendip Caves 1926-7.
Page(s) : 193-7
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 8, 1928
Source Number : 5
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : Hawkes, CFC
Page(s) : 92-4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 107, 1950
Source Number : 6
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details : Mason, EJ. Report of Human Remains and Materials Recovered from the River Axe in the Great Cave of Wookey Hole During Diving Operations from Oct. 1947 to Jan. 1949.
Page(s) : 238-43
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 96, 1951
Source Number : 7
Source : Bristol Archaeological Research Group (B.A.R.G.) bulletin
Source details : Hawkes, CFC
Page(s) : 181-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 7, 1976
Source Number : 8
Source : Somerset archaeology and natural history : the proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 110
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 121, 1977
Source Number : 9
Source : British Archaeological Report (BAR) British series
Source details : Green, MJ
Page(s) : 184
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 24, 1976
Source Number : 10
Source : University of Bristol Spelaeological Society proceedings
Source details : Hawkes, CJ, JM Rogers and EK Tratman. Romano-British Cemetery in the Fourth Chamber of Wookey Hole Cave, Somerset.
Page(s) : 23-52
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 15(1), 1979

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Cave
Evidence : Subterranean Feature
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Cave, Inhumation Cemetery
Evidence : Subterranean Feature, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : 17th century glass bottles
Monument End Date : 1699
Monument Start Date : 1600
Monument Type : Cave
Evidence : Subterranean Feature

Components and Objects:
Period : Iron Age
Component Monument Type : Cave
Object Type : COIN, VESSEL, HUMAN REMAINS
Object Material : Pottery
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Cave, Inhumation Cemetery
Object Type : EWER, VESSEL, COIN
Object Material : Pottery, Lead
Period : Post Medieval
Component Monument Type : Cave
Object Type : BOTTLE
Object Material : Glass

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Somerset)
External Cross Reference Number : 2/44/42
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : ST 54 NW 14
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, WOOKEY HOLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1904-01-01
End Date : 1915-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOOKEY HOLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1926-01-01
End Date : 1927-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOOKEY HOLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1947-01-01
End Date : 1956-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, WOOKEY HOLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1973-01-01
End Date : 1976-12-31