appreciate this page,
you should also visit:
the reality be separated from the myth?
scientific evidence is there?
there be more than one origin for the legend?
explores the topic
several possible sources
the likelihood of substantial underground caves,
forward a remarkable suggestion!
to find the cave entrance
Gate Cave and other explorations
to track water flows from Helm
Helm Gate Cave
Barrows Green Cave
was more or less a throwaway remark from Richard Mercer:
has anyone mentioned to you the cave found in 1855?
The Westmorland Gazette feature "150 Years Ago" in January
2005 had a report of a cave found at Barrows Green hamlet.
A friend of mine drank in the Punchbowl
Inn at that
time and said that the site was the overgrown area on
the left of the road that leads from the pub towards
the river. He said the owner had applied for planning
permission for the site and this was refused because
it is a filled-in cave.
behind the Punchbowl Inn lies .....
Barrows Green Cave site
I hadn't heard of it so I went to Kendal Library to
find out more. The first visit was frustrated
by the staff being on strike but the second attempt
was totally correct. It did not take long scanning
through the January 2005 Westmorland Gazettes to find
under the heading "150 Years Ago" a summary of what
had been reported on the 20th January 1855.
then asked for the fiche for January 1855. This
was quite an eye-opener. The heading of the paper
was the familiar name The
Westmorland Gazette in its
familiar font although it also carried a subsidiary
title of the Kendal Advertiser. However the first
surprise was the day it was published: Saturday,
next surprise was the nature of the news- predominately
national and international- the best part of three pages
devoted to the Crimean War including Lord Raglan's despatches
a full column was devoted to the Barrows Green Cave.
The two long paragraphs make interesting reading.
Discovery of a Cave
morning about five weeks since the occupant of a house
at the hamlet of Barrows Green, on the Burton Road,
about three miles south of the town, making forth into
his garden, observed a disarrangement of the surface
of his bed of winter onions which he first attributed
to some trespasser having left his mark there, but on
going nearer to the onions, he found that a number of
those savoury esculents, together with the soil in which
they grew, had disappeared to an unknown depth into
a cavernous recess of the earth. After this strange
occurrence, or, as a learned writer would style it,
this remarkable phenomenon, had sufficiently roused
the curiosity and wonder of the neighbours, a tramp
who was passing that way was induced to allow himself
to be let down into the hole by a rope, with a lantern
to assist his investigations. The man came up again
with a magnificent tale about an extensive and beautiful
cave, and it has been since imagined that the roof of
the cave was hung with beautiful stalactites, etc. Subsequently
the place has been visited by more accurate observers,
amongst others by Mr. John Ruthven, the able practical
geologist of this town, and from him we gather that
though not the "antre vast" into which rumour had magnified
it, the cave so unexpectedly opened is curious enough
to be worthy of a description. The descent of all the
first visitors was, like that of the tramp, effected
by a rope, but Mr. Ruthven having a natural dislike
to suspensions of that kind, waited until a ladder had
been planted at the bottom of the cavern. The descent
for about twenty feet is through a well-like shaft or
funnel, which at that depth opens into a dome-shaped
cave about seven feet high at the highest part, and
of course diminishing at the sides. On two of the sides
of the dome or principal chamber, as we may call it,
namely east and west, the cavity is continued for some
distance, but at so little elevation from the floor
that the explorer has to crawl on hands and feet to
reach the limit of those low lateral extensions of the
cave. It is in these recesses that some stalactites
may be found, but they are very difficult to get at.
The width of the cave from the extremities of these
recesses is about eight yards, but the extent of that
portion of the cave in which a man could stand upright
is not more than half that space. The strata of the
earth through which the shaft passes are as follows:-
First, at the aperture, a foot or two of garden soil;
second about four feet of samel; third, about five feet
of sand mixed with small angular bits of limestone;
and, finally, the fragmentary limestone of which the
cave is composed. The opening at the top is about six
feet across, widening considerably at about six or eight
feet down, and again contracting in the fragmentary
limestone till the immediate opening into the roof of
the cave is only about two feet. The cave geologically
is in the line of dislocation between the mountain limestone
and the upper Ludlow rocks, at the base of the hill
of Helm. The eastern of the two prolongations of the
cave we have mentioned is forty- five degrees east of
the magnetic north, and the opposite one forty degrees
are not aware that any organic remains have been discovered,
but the floor of the cave in the centre is heaped with
a conglomorate of various soils, with occasional turnips,
cabbages, onions, etc, which have been thrown down from
the garden above. The cave has been recommended to the
especial attention of the Natural History and Scientific
Society of Kendal, but we do not apprehend that the
torch of science will be brandished with much effect
in the investigation, or that the march of intellect
will be specially advanced by a passage through this
particular hole. Discoveries of caves in the mountain
limestone have been by no means infrequent, but we never
heard that they led to any important scientific result.
We may mention that some years ago one of these caves
was discovered on the Low Mill Bridge estate, Stainton,
and was filled up with about 200 carts of stone and
rubbish. No doubt the owner of the garden where the
cave at Barrow Green was found heartily wishes that
his cave was stopped up in like manner, the influx of
curious visitors having quite a devastating effect
upon the garden beds. About sixty years since a cave,
discovered on the farm of Mr. Allan Wilson, at Helsington,
was explored by the late Mr Gough, the eminent naturalist,
who collected therefrom a quantity of bones which were
transmitted to London, but nothing more was heard of
them. This opening had a shaft running horizontally
for about eighteen yards, and people from Kendal flocked
to it in such numbers that the owner, finding the assemblage
of curiosity-hunters a nuisance, filled up the aperture.
Many of our readers will recollect that some ten or
eleven years ago a cave at Arnside, on the estate of
G. E. Wilson, Esq., was explorer by Mr. John Ruthven,
when some animal remains were discovered. The exploration
of the caves at Barrows Green appears to be not entirely
without danger, on account of the crumbling nature of
the soil; and we are told that some lads, who had descended
on Sunday last, were prostrated for a time by a fall
of the loose earth.
with the kind permission of The
hoped that a visit to the Cumbria Record Office (Kendal)
would produce the Annals of the Natural History and
Scientific Society of Kendal and a detailed account
of the professional exploration of the cave.
all there was to be found was the Minute book.
the Victorian handwriting was a challenge to an untrained
eye but, as far as I could tell, the committee meetings
seemed more concerned with the administration of the
society, rather than its adventures.
the Minute book was a copy, presumably from the Westmorland
Gazette, of an account of its 1855 Annual Meeting, held
on 10th September at the Museum.
History and Scientific Society Minute Book
Report of the Secretary, William Wakefield, was read
to the meeting.
is made to having received a mahogany cabinet containing
preserved specimens or rare British and Foreign butterflies,
moths and insects, to the skull of a bottle-nosed dolphin
cast up on the sands at Grange and to a bust of the
aforementioned Mr Gough, presented to the Society by
his friends, but, alas, there is no mention
of the Barrows Green cave.
It seems that the Westmorland
Gazette reporter of the original incident had indeed
been correct in his prediction concerning the likelihood
the torch of science" being "brandished with much effect"!
can only conclude that the cave met a similar fate to
the previously discovered one at Stainton, namely being
obliterated by the deposit of many cartloads of rubble.
site is now quite overgrown. Whilst viewing it
from the road, I was told
by a neighbour that she knew nothing about the cave,
but she believed that the ownership of the piece of
land in question was disputed and that an application
for planning permission had been made but had been turned
Reference to the SLDC planning department's
website showed an application refused in 2003. However
although reference was made on the documentation to
a Constraint of "Mineral Consultation Area - Limestone",
this had not been mentioned in the reasons for refusal.
once again we are left with a tantalising hint of what
may be going on under our feet but nothing to advance
the "march of intellect"!
Shore, August 2008
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