A UNIQUE record dating back to early Victorian times about cave explorations in the Ingleborough area has recently been rediscovered.

In 1837, members of the Farrer family, of Clapham, instigated the exploration of what is now called Ingleborough Cave.

From that date and until 1855, they recorded their progress, thoughts, surveys and experiments within The Cave Book.

Over the years this hand-written tome has gone missing on more than one occasion, but has recently come to light at Ingleborough Estate, based in Clapham.

The document, now in a fragile state, has been deposited with the North Yorkshire County Council Archives, in Northallerton.

Recognising the book’s importance to speleology (the scientific study of caves and cave systems) and to make it publicly available for the first time, the Estate has given permission for twenty copies to be reproduced.

Each copy, of approximately 110 A4 pages, will feature a new and complete text transcription and will be printed and hand-bound on archive paper in a buckram-covered hard binding.

The work will be led by Kevin Dixon, a member of Bradford Pothole Club and a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

Kevin estimates that the work will take around thirty days, which he is doing unpaid in his own time.

The materials and printing costs are being paid for by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant.

Kevin said: “This fascinating document is one of the earliest speleological records and is of international significance.

“As well as containing a wealth of scientific data such as the growth of a stalagmite called the Jockey Cap and an analysis of the mineralogical content of the dripping water to determine growth rate, it also includes a very evocative description of the cave explorers swimming with candles on their hats to light the way.

“I wish to express my gratitude to the Farrer family, Ingleborough Estate, North Yorkshire County Council Archives and Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust for their support.”

Copies will be deposited at Ingleborough Estate, NYCC Archives, Skipton Library Reference Section, the British Geological Survey Library, and the six National Libraries.

The remaining copies will be available to Caving Clubs and associations to buy for their libraries.

Priority will be given to libraries that have a close association with the Gaping Gill cave system, have appropriate storage facilities, and are best positioned to increase exposure of this important record.

Kevin added: “It’s well-known that in 1895 Edouard-Alfred Martel was the first person to descend the Gaping Gill shaft and reach the main chamber floor. Martel is often described as the Father of Speleology, but given that Ingleborough Cave was being explored two generations before him, perhaps we should be considering those earlier explorers to be the great grandfathers of Speleology.”

Philip Farrer said: “We are extremely grateful to Kevin for the immense hard work that he has put into this project and are delighted to be able to share more widely this important historical record of early caving.”

The project is part of Stories in Stone, a scheme of conservation and community projects concentrated on the Ingleborough area.

The scheme was developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

Any Caving Clubs or associations interested in buying a copy should email Chris Lodge, YDMT Project Officer, at chris.lodge@ydmt.org

Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust has helped to deliver inspiring projects worth around £28 million in the Yorkshire Dales and surrounding areas.

These projects cover areas as diverse as countryside apprenticeships, supporting local communities, education and outreach, restoring woodlands and wildlife habitats, and improving access and understanding of this special place.

The Trust has recruited more than 50,000 supporters to date.

Stories in Stone is a five-year programme of community and heritage projects. It has been developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

More details about Ingleborough Cave can be found on its website: https://ingleboroughcave.co.uk/