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reports, papers, articles, etc. that someone, somewhere might find of interest!

Mendip Cave Archaeology

publications Posted on Mon, August 22, 2016 07:59:40

I have recently revised ‘An overview of the archaeology of Mendip caves and karst’ adding some graphical interpretations. The latest version is available to download below.

Simmonds, V. 2014 (revised 2016). An overview of the archaeology of Mendip caves and karst.

Probing the Big Ground

publications Posted on Fri, March 13, 2015 05:57:28

Report on the fieldwork carried out at Stanton Drew during February and March 2014 and other related activities.

Simmonds, V., Oswin, J and Richards, J. 2015. Probing the Big Ground: Quoit Farm, Stanton Drew, February/March 2014 and related work at Stanton Drew. Bath & Camerton Archaeological Society.

The Witch of Wookey Hole

papers Posted on Thu, March 05, 2015 07:13:54

caves: Myths, legends, folklore, tall tales and hearsay. Compiled and edited by
Vince Simmonds.

Hole Cave, Wookey Hole. ST 5319 4801.

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 subjected to archaeological excavations on a number of occasions.
Casual finds were made by Buckland during visits in the 1820s. William Boyd
Dawkins conducted an investigation of sorts in the later 19th century.
Herbert 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. Ritual protection marks have been recorded at the
cave and it is suggested these are Post-medieval in date (Simmonds, 2014, p.59-60).

The legend of the ‘Witch of Wookey Hole’
appears to date back to the early 17th century when the
representation of a woman holding what appeared to be a crystal ball was
depicted on a map featured in Poly-Olbion,
a long topographical and poetical description of the wonders of England and
Wales written by Michael Drayton (1563-1631.

Image from
Drayton’s ‘Poly-Olbion’. Note the historic spelling of Wookey Hole.
(accessed online at 03/03/15)

Part of the 1612 map of Somerset and
Wiltshire engraved by William Hole from ‘Poly-Olbion
depicts a water nymph (naiad) in the cave. In Song 3 the female spirit of ‘Ochy Hole’ bemoans the fact that she is
not recognised amongst the wonders such as Peak Cavern, Derbyshire or
Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

The tales of the ‘Witch of Wookey Hole’
and of a Glastonbury monk who turned her to stone have added to the interest of
visitors to the show cave complex (MU5, 2013, p.468). The story goes that a man
from Glastonbury becomes engaged to a girl from Wookey. The witch reputed to be living in the Wookey Hole Cave curses the romance so that it fails. The man, now a monk,
seeks his revenge on the witch who—having been jilted herself—frequently
spoiled any budding relationships. The monk stalked the witch into the cave
where she hid in a dark corner near one of the underground rivers. The monk
blessed the water and splashed some of it into the dark parts of the cave where
the witch was hiding. The blessed water immediately petrified the witch, and she remains in the cave to this day preserved as a stalagmite.
As with many of these stories there are a number of variations depending on who
is telling the tale.

‘He chauntede out his godlie booke,
He crost the water, blest the brooke,
Then – pater noster done –
The ghastly hag he sprinkled o’er:
When lo! where a hag stood before.
Now stood a ghastly stone.’

[from a ballad written in 1756 by Henry Harrington]

The discovery of a skeleton early in the
20th century enhanced the legend, it has been suggested that the
skeleton is that of an old woman who lived out her days in the solitude of the
cave and was either a goatherd or a hermit. The skeleton was found in an open
fissure with a number of other objects including some 4th century
Roman coins (Valentinian and Gratian) by Herbert Balch and Reginald Troup. The
majority of the bones [and the coins] were found 70 feet into the open fissure
in 1908, the skeleton was missing the upper part of the skull and the right
femur. This was apparently found some weeks later 20 feet away and several feet
deep into the floor. Herbert Balch founded the Wells Museum in 1894 where the
skeleton and associated objects are still on display to this day.

display in the Wells and Mendip Museum, Wells, Somerset in March 2015.

Experts are divided on whether the bones
are male or female. Some features of the mandible suggest that the bones are
from a male, but the cranium and pelvis would be required to confirm the sex of
the individual. Tooth wear and other indicators suggest the age of the individual
to be circa 25-35 years. Recent C14 dating of two of the bones indicates that
the main skeleton is of Iron Age (circa 295BC) date, while the left arm is
Roman (circa 190AD). It is likely that the arm bone was found elsewhere in the
cave and added by Balch to complete the skeleton for display. Two goats skulls,
a small carved bone comb and pottery vessel were all said to be associated with
the human bones.

goat skulls, comb and pot on display at the Wells and Mendip Museum.

The comb and pot are both of Iron
Age/Roman date and C14 dating for one of the skulls indicates an Anglo-Saxon
date (circa 713AD). With the bones and artefacts a carved stone ball was found.
It was recorded ‘as a large pestle of stalagmite’ but it has in fact been
carved from a lump of gypsum or alabaster, which is commonly found in Mendip
rocks. Carved stone balls have been found at a number of prehistoric sites
including a Mesolithic ball made of tufa at nearby Midsomer Norton. They are
thought likely to have had a symbolic or ritual function.

carved stone ball on display at the Wells and Mendip Museum.


Barrington, N. and Stanton, W. 1977.
Mendip: The Complete Caves and a view of the hills. Third revised edition.
Cheddar Valley Press.

Simmonds, V. 2014. An overview of the
archaeology of Mendip caves and karst. Available online at

Gray, A., Taviner, R. and Witcombe, R.
2013. Mendip Underground: a caver’s guide. Fifth Edition. Published by the
Mendip Cave Registry and Archive.

Websites: accessed online 3rd March 2015
Mendip Cave Registry & Archive

Mendip cave archaeology

publications Posted on Mon, December 22, 2014 08:57:30

Simmonds, V. 2014. An overview of the archaeology of Mendip caves and karst. Mendip Cave Register & Archive (MCRA).

I have put together ‘An overview of the archaeology of Mendip caves and karst’ freely available online at and in the archaeology section of the Mendip Cave Register & Archive at

Little Solsbury Hill

publications Posted on Tue, February 25, 2014 21:54:18

“Geology by Vince Simmonds” in Oswin, J and Buettner, R. 2012 Little Solsbury Hill Camp Geophysical Survey, Batheaston, Somerset 2012. BACAS (low resolution screen version)

Big Mound

publications Posted on Sat, December 14, 2013 18:19:44

The Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society (BACAS) report on the fieldwork carried out in
2013 at the Big Ground Mound, Stanton Drew.

Richards, J., Oswin, J. and Simmonds, V. The Big Ground Mound and other archaeological investigations at Quoit Farm, Stanton Drew, 2013 (Low Res Version) BACAS

Whitcombe’s Hole

articles Posted on Thu, May 24, 2012 19:00:01

A summary report of the fieldwork carried out at Whitcombe’s Hole in Burrington Combe, Mendip during 2011. This is an ongoing project and the fieldwork is planned to continue in 2012.

Simmonds, V.J. An archaeological investigation of Whitcombe’s Hole, Burrington Combe: a summary of the 2011 fieldwork. Published in the Belfry Bulletin, The Journal of the Bristol Exploration Club, December 2011, Number 542, Volume 58, Issue 5.

Hautville’s Quoit 2012

publications Posted on Thu, May 24, 2012 07:00:20

The Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society in collaboration with Bath and Northeast Somerset Council report on the fieldwork carried out in 2012 at the site of Hautville’s Quoit, Stanton Drew.

Richards, J., Oswin, J. and Simmonds, V. Stanton Drew Surveys, 2012. Hautville’s Quoit and other archaeological investigations. BACAS in collaboration with BANES.

Hallowe’en Rift

articles Posted on Wed, May 23, 2012 21:36:14

The resurrection of an ongoing cave exploration and an update of progress so far. The published article includes images.

Simmonds, V. and Gee, A. 2010 Hallowe’en Rift – 28 years later! Published in the Belfry Bulletin: Journal of the Bristol Exploration Club, November 2010, Number: 538, Volume 1, Number 1.

Stanton Drew 2010

publications Posted on Wed, May 23, 2012 21:26:48

The Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society in collaboration with Bath and Northeast Somerset Council report on the fieldwork carried out in 2010 at the site of Stanton Drew Stone Circles.

Simmonds, V.J. The Geology and the Landscape in Oswin, J., Richards, J. and Sermon, R. 2011 Stanton Drew 2010: geophysical survey and other archaeological investigations. BACAS and BANES.

The Church of St. Mary

publications Posted on Wed, May 23, 2012 21:17:52

A building survey report carried out at the Church of St. Mary in West Harptree, Northeast Somerset, originally an assignment presented as part of my post graduate study with the University of Leicester.

Simmonds, V.J. 2011 An Archaeological Building Record of the Parish Church of St. Mary, West Harptree, Bath and Northeast Somerset.

Dating Domestic Buildings

papers Posted on Wed, May 23, 2012 21:04:42

The following paper was originally written as an assignment, part of my post graduate study with the University of Leicester and amended to reflect comments made by the marker.

Simmonds, V.J. 2010 (amended 2011) Some examples of the kinds of evidence that might be used to determine the age of a domestic building.