Banwell Bone Cave, Follies & Tower Open Day
This event has finished
When: 26 May 2013
Cost: Admission is free but donations towards further restoration can be made in the various collection boxes.
Opening hours: 10:30am-4:30pm
Website: Visit website
Annual Public Open Day
Refreshments Available; Filled Rolls, Cream Teas and Cakes.
“The Caves” is the name of an early 19th century house and gardens situated on the west side of Banwell Hill overlooking Weston-super-Mare and the Bristol Channel beyond.
There are two caves in the grounds which are unique and of national significance. The Bone Cave contains bones of animals that are no longer native to this country and are up to 80,000 years old.
There are various follies in the grounds, the most prominent being the Tower which stands 50ft tall on the highest point of Banwell Hill and commands panoramic views of the Welsh mountains to the north and the Somerset Moors to the south.
The Bone Cave and the Tower are open to the public on certain days during the year and the present owners are keen to restore the follies and gardens to their former glory allowing visitors to enjoy the scenes as they did once before in the 19th century. The tower has been partially restored and safe access to the top can now be provided for visitors.
The Bone Cave and Stalactite Cave
The Bone Cave is a large cavern about 40ft in diameter and about 20ft tall. The floor was partially excavated to reveal hundreds of animal bones which were neatly stacked at the sides of the cave where they remain to this day. The animal bones discovered include bison, reindeer, cave bear and wolf. Some specimens have been removed and can be seen in Taunton Museum and these include a complete bears skull and reindeer antler. It has been the subject of many theories why so many animal bones should be found in one place. It is now accepted that the bones were washed into the cave in the Ice Age about 80,000 years ago.
In the 1950’s a keen local caver, Percy Baker, in conjunction with Axbridge Caving Group, discovered another chamber off the side of the main chamber called the Ruby Chamber because of its ruby coloured walls. Beyond the house is a deep cave called the Stalactite Cave which extends to a depth of 200ft. Once open to visitors, it can now only be accessed by cavers. After passing through two large chambers with many loose boulders the visitor is led to a green lake of pure water.
Built in 1840 of local blue lias with Bath Stone quoins, the tower was once a prominent feature on the top of Banwell Hill and could be seen for miles around before the present wood surrounded it. A spiral staircase leads to the viewing platform at the top where panoramic views can be enjoyed. A large amount of restoration has taken place, however the decorative balustrade has yet to be restored to complete the work.
Built in 1834 the Druid`s Temple was intended to remind the visitor of a pagan world destroyed in the Biblical Flood. The nineteenth century builders called it the Lower Grotto. The double entrances open into a semi-circular chamber with alcove seats around the wall. In the centre is an oval stone table or altar. On the outside is fixed a marble plaque inscribed with verse.
The Stalactite Cave was discovered in 1757 by local miners and the Bone Cave was located by chance in 1824 whilst attempting to find another entrance to the original cave. The Bishop of Bath and Wells, George Henry Law, owned the site and had a small cottage built on the side of the hill. The cottage was gradually enlarged and various follies were built in the grounds including the Osteoicon where the choicest bones were displayed for visitors to view. The Bishop thought that the discovery of so many animal bones was proof of Noah’s flood and he encouraged visitors to the site to inspect his finds. Some of the money raised in this way was donated to various charities in Banwell. Visitors continued to come to The Caves after the Bishop’s death up until 1865 when it was closed to the public.
Nr Weston super Mare
How to find “The Caves”
From the A371 take the Christon road, Well Lane, on the Weston-super-Mare side of Banwell village. Follow this lane up to the top of the hill and “The Caves” is on the left-hand side. For sat nav users the post code is BS29 6NA. If using public transport, take the no 126 bus between Weston and Wells stopping at Well Lane, Banwell.
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