The Mendip Cave Registry was formed in January 1956 with the object of recording and indexing all available information on caves, mines, rock shelters and other sites of speleological interest in the county of Somerset.
Some of the founder members being – Mr H Kenny, Mrs B Willis, Mr D Willis, Mr D Coase, Mr L Devenish, Mr H Murrell, Mr S Collins, Mr J Weare, Mr F Frost
The Mendips were divided into areas with a registrar being responsible for his area.
This organisation was far sighted and understood the rich history of the Mendips; how by consulting their archive caves would not be “discovered” several times and also would prove invaluable for research.
The Method of Working
Due to the lack of technology the compilation of data and final transfer into the mater register was very labour intensive and was organised with military precision.
The registrars would record their data on prepared rough sheets. When this sheet contains sufficient information it should be typed but in no case should a period of more than six months elapse between commencement of the rough sheet and the typed version.
The secretary is responsible for typing the Register Sheets and is responsible for amending the Register every three months.
The Register is filed in three loose leaf folders which are located in Wells Museum, Bristol Reference Library and the third copy is held by the Secretary. The Secretary’s copy is amended every three months and then exchanged for one of the other two copies. This copy will then be amended and exchanged for the other library copy.
The Dark Ages
In 1969 the Mendip Cave Registry, probably due to the large workload in its upkeep, ceased to function.
The New Era
In 1994 Dave Irwin, an esteemed Mendip Historian and the author of several caving books, resurrected the Registry and technology was at hand, in the form of computers, to simplify the once onerous task. Dave recruited registrars and single-handedly maintained the Bibliography. Information obtained from the previous Registry and Bibliography formed the basis of the new registry.
The MCR is manned by volunteer Registrars who form the membership of the group and receives no financial aid from clubs, regional or national bodies. As an independent organisation it can operate without constraint and works upon internal policies subscribed by its members.
In 2005 the second edition of the Mendip Cave Bibliography & Newspaper Catalogue (compiled by Dave Irwin) was published. It contained 25,000 references from 883 AD to 2004 amounting to 1.1 million words.
The Name Change
Early in 2007 Dave passed away; a great loss to Mendip caving. Alan Gray took over Dave’s position as Database Recorder and suggested that the function of the Registry is expanded to also cover archive material.
Thus the name was changed from Mendip Cave Register (MCR) to Mendip Cave Register & Archive (MCRA).
This was quite a prophetic name change since in 2008 the Mendip Rescue Organisation (MRO) changes its name to the Mendip Cave Rescue (MCR).
I imagine the confusion when a telephone operator from the police headquarters in Portishead contacts the registry and is supplied with 2000 historical references for Swildon’s Hole!
Two major decisions were taken during 2007 that the Bibliography would no longer be published in printed form but would be available as a searchable database via the internet, also the Register would be available via the internet and displayed using Google Earth.
In December 2013 the MCRA became a registered charity.
The register contains approximately 2800 entries comprising of 2000 individual sites and 800 alternative names for known sites. The registrars have recorded the following information relating to caves, mines, rock shelters and other sites of speleological interest – Site Name, Location, Classification (e.g. cave, Mine), NGR, Altitude, Length, Depth, Description, Notes and Reference.
The 2005 version has been updated, the newspaper catalogue has been incorporated into the master database, several other databases have been combined taking the number of references to 29,724.
The Bibliography is now on-line as a searchable database.
Bristol Reference Library
During the 1960s the Mendip Cave Registry arranged with the librarian of the Central Library, Bristol to augment their caving material. Several clubs sent their publications to the registry for bibliographical recording and onward transmission to the Central Library. A catalogue of all caving material held at the library was published later. This collection of publications covers from 1938 to the present date and also there are books dating from 1748.
At the moment several clubs are contributing copies of their publications to the Central Library via the Registry. Clubs submitting their publications for Central Library caving collection are: Axbridge Caving Group, Bristol Exploration Club, Cave Diving Group, Mendip Caving Group, Mendip Nature Research Club, Shepton Mallet Cave Club, University of Bristol Spelaeological Society, Wealdon Cave and Mine Society, Wessex Cave Club, Westminster Speleological Group.
The photographic archive that currently contains more than 12,000 photographs donated to the Registry. These photographs will be displayed in low resolution and free high quality copies can be obtained for inclusion in publications all that is required is that the photographer and MCRA are credited.
A survey catalogue is being prepared which lists the references to surveys published in caving club publications.
Caving Log Books
See Log books for the logbooks currently uploaded and available including –
Please contact us if you wish to make your personal/club log books available.
Dave Irwin’s family have agreed that the MCRA can use information from Dave’s hard drives which includes –
The Axbridge Caving Group have extensively explored Brockley Combe and discovered some 482 mined depressions (ochre) Tony Audsley has been walking the area around Yoxter and has so far documented over 1000 depressions and estimated that the total count will exceed 2000
Both these databases will be available.
The success of the MCRA is down to a few dedicated individuals and also the advances in Technology –
Typing replaced by Computers and Word Processors Lists replaced by Databases OS Maps replaced by GPS and Google Earth Compass and Clino replaced by SAP Tape measure replaced by Laser measuring devices Hand drawn surveys replaced by Survex etc. Posted letter replaced by e-mail
Paul Allen, Mike Baker, Keith Barber, R Berrill, Ray Biggs, E Blackwell, Eric Catherine, Don Coase, John Chapman, Alfie Collins, Brian Cubbon, Fred Davies, Ken Dawe, Ray Deasy, Luke Devenish, Bryan Ellis, Frank Frost, Mervyn Hannam, Jim Hanwell, Tony Jarratt, Howard Kenny, Richard Kenny, K Knott, John Letheren, Mrs. Kay Mansfield, Ray Mansfield, Hywel Murrell, Brian Prewer, Duncan Price, Graham Price, Mike Rennie, Tim Reynolds, Jonathon Roberts, Miss Jill Rollason, Mrs Lillian Romford, Phil Romford, B Saunders, Don Searle, Ian Standing, John Stickland, Alan Thomas, Mike Thompson, Gordon Tilly, Jack Weare, Mike Wheadon, Mrs. Brenda Willis, Dave Willis, John Williams.
Andrew Atkinson, James Begley, Tony Boycott, David Cooke, Tim Francis, Peter Glanvill, Nigel Graham, Alan Gray, Nick Harding, Tom Harrison, Trevor Hughes, Alison Moody, Mike Moxon, Graham Mullan, Chris Richards, Nick Richards, Steve Sharp, Vince Simmonds, Chris Smart, Richard Stevenson, Paul Stillman, Rob Taviner, Matt Voysey, Dave Walker, Andy Watson, Richard Witcombe.