History of The Caves & Area

Reopening of a "Lost Cave" on Banwell Hill in the 19th. century and the discovery of a second cave that contained the bones of animals no longer living in Britain caused great interest. The landowner, George Henry Law, Bishop of Bath and Wells considered the bones to be of animals drowned in Noah's Flood ! These caves are now known as The Stalactite Cavern and Bone Cavern.

The Bishop had both caves opened to the public so that his visitors could see the proof of God's punishment of a wicked world. Nowadays we know the bones to be of animals which roamed Britain in the Ice Age. Because of the importance of Banwell Caves they are classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

To enhance the visit a wood was planted on Banwell Hill and through it paths lead to follies in the shape of summerhouses and Banwell Tower erected on the top of the hill. The first of the summerhouses to be built was eventually enlarged to become the house now known as "The Caves".

To manage the Bishop's caves and follies he appointed a local farmer William Beard. Beard gave up farming and devoted the rest of his life to the caves and bones. It was Beard's enthusiasm that kept the caves open after the Bishop's death in 1845. Beard took his last party into the Bone Cave in 1865 when he was 93 years old! After Beard's death in 1868, interest in the caves began to decline.

Throughout most of the 20th century the ornate follies began to become ruins until the present owners and a small group of local volunteers formed The Banwell Caves Heritage Group with the aim of restoring and giving access to the Caves and follies.

William Beard

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