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British Cave Research Association Online Archive

BCRA Online Archive

The BSA Records

Introduction

Photograph of Eli Simpson taken in around 1958

The British Speleological Association (BSA) was founded in 1935 by Eli Simpson, who remained its driving force until his death in 1962. Whilst encouraging the exploration of caves, the BSA considered itself to be a scientific organisation, and set great emphasis on recording everything speleological. Simpson was the Hon. Recorder until his death, and he accumulated a vast quantity of information much of which was stored in a set of large folders some one hundred strong. The role of Hon. Recorder continued after his death, but relatively little was added.

From 1937, the records were housed in the BSA's impressive Cragdale premises in Settle, where in a 2023 a plaque was installed on the wall commemorating Simpson. Its lease was given up in 1940 owing to financial pressures resulting from the war, and space was taken in Commercial Yard off Duke Street in Settle next to the BSA hostel. This provided living accommodation for Simpson and a headquarters for the Association. Here Harry Long remembers from the end of the 1950s, that Simpson had an office where the records were kept in a bookcase. It is known that some material was sold after Simpson died, a portion reappearing in a Parisian bookshop, but that may have been considered by Simpson's executors to have been his personal property, rather than Association records. There are also reasons to suspect that some records relating to Wales disappeared around the same time.

The remaining BSA records consists of about 100 large format record books, and a substantial amount of miscellaneous material. The record books are generally about 250 pages long and contain a fascinating mixture of maps, surveys, photographs, exploration accounts, newspaper cuttings and published articles. The subject matter is mostly the exploration of the caves in the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District. They date from the period of 1920 through to the 1960s and cover the discovery and exploration of many of the major cave systems in these two areas.

Following BSA's merger with the Cave Research Group in 1973 to form the British Cave Research Association (BCRA), most of the Derbyshire material was moved into the custody of the Technical Speleological group, and the remaining material was moved to the Craven Museum / Skipton Reference Library. However, following a flood in the basement of the premises in 1978 when two boxes of foreign newspaper cuttings were irretrievably damaged, the Yorkshire material was moved to Tom Lord's Pig Yard Museum at Townhead in Settle, and the rest moved to Derbyshire. In about 1983, the Yorkshire material was also moved to Derbyshire, and for the next twenty plus years they were stored in boxes and lay largely forgotten.

The records re-emerged in 2007, when Roy Paulson who was the BCRA librarian, died and the library moved from his house to a storage facility. Jenny and Boyd Potts rediscovered them when opening some boxes, and immediately recognised their importance. David Judson catalogued them in 2008, and in 2009 they were transferred to the National Geological Repository at BGS Keyworth for safekeeping. It was hoped at the time that the British Geological Survey (BGS) would digitise the collection and make them available online. The exercise was started with the one of the Yorkshire folders, but it proved too costly. That folder was made generally available through the BCRA Online Archive.

Eventually, Alan Jeffreys and John Manchip from the Grampian Speleological Group undertook the task of photographing and processing the bulk of the material in Edinburgh using equipment supplied by the British GeologicaL Survey. This was a hugely time-consuming task, and we are deeply indebted to them for their efforts.

We are attempting to track down the owners of the copyright of the various elements of the record books and archive, as many of the original explorers are now dead. This is not an easy task and if anyone knows the likely owners, we would appreciate your help. Also, if anyone is such an owner and has a problem with the publishing on-line of your material, please let us know and we will withdraw that part.

We hope that you find this material as fascinating as we do. It is an important part of British caving history.

The scanned records have been given a BGS archive catalogue reference. Below is an expandable hierarchical browser based on the BGS catalogue, with descriptions of the items, where hyperlinks take you to the start of the specified scanned volumes. Click on a box to expand a section. Note that the scanning is work in progress, and some volumes are not yet available.

Some of the images have been scanned at an inconvenient orientation, but they may be rotated when viewing at the highest zoom level.

Introduction

Yorkshire cave photos
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Yorkshire cave photos'
Miscellaneous photographs and documents
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Miscellaneous photographs and documents'
Loose mono prints, mostly Yorkshire, many Gaping Gill
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Loose mono prints, mostly Yorkshire, many Gaping Gill'
Yorkshire Speleological Association: Remains of Minute Book
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Yorkshire Speleological Association: Remains of Minute Book'
Book of drawings - all Gaping Gill, (from 1895-1912 surveys, mostly by E Simpson)
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Book of drawings - all Gaping Gill, (from 1895-1912 surveys, mostly by E Simpson)'
Book of drawings, Chapel le Dale, Alum Pot, Kingsdale, (from 1904-12 surveys by E Simpson)
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Book of drawings, Chapel le Dale, Alum Pot, Kingsdale, (from 1904-12 surveys by E Simpson)'
Book of drawings, 4-Peaks and Wharfedale, (from 1903-12 surveys by E Simpson)
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Book of drawings, 4-Peaks and Wharfedale, (from 1903-12 surveys by E Simpson)'
Box to hold 12 no.4 inch x 6.5 inch glass plates but now empty
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Box to hold 12 no.4 inch x 6.5 inch glass plates but now empty'
Postcards/ Christmas Cards to E Simpson/Rawdin
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Postcards/ Christmas Cards to E Simpson/Rawdin'
Gaping Gill, East Passage
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Gaping Gill, East Passage'
Gaping Gill Main Chamber
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Gaping Gill Main Chamber'
Correspondence with potential publishers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Correspondence with potential publishers'
E Simpson's odds and ends, (*** only 2 negs in place!?)
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'E Simpson's odds and ends, (*** only 2 negs in place!?)'
E Simpson's odds and ends
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'E Simpson's odds and ends'
E Simpson's odds and ends
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'E Simpson's odds and ends'
16mm mono film material and associated notes
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to '16mm mono film material and associated notes'
Film rushes, ends & scraps for uncompleted film
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Film rushes, ends & scraps for uncompleted film'
Technical and diary notes on filming activities at many locations in Yorkshire
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Technical and diary notes on filming activities at many locations in Yorkshire'
True Tales Seldom Told and other Yorkshire Jottings
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'True Tales Seldom Told and other Yorkshire Jottings'
The Yorkshire Netherworld, (2 vols)
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'The Yorkshire Netherworld, (2 vols)'
Cave Formation Around Ingleborough
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Cave Formation Around Ingleborough'
Draft paper on Cave Formation in Yorkshire
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Draft paper on Cave Formation in Yorkshire'
3 papers on Cave Formation
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to '3 papers on Cave Formation'
Photos of finds in Attermire & Kelco Caves and other photos
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Photos of finds in Attermire & Kelco Caves and other photos'
Bibliography of the Yorkshire Caves, inc.hydrology, geology, etc
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Bibliography of the Yorkshire Caves, inc.hydrology, geology, etc'
Etchings of Weathercote Cave
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Etchings of Weathercote Cave'
Settle Public Water Supply
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Settle Public Water Supply'
BSA Secretarial papers, the formation of the BSA
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA Secretarial papers, the formation of the BSA'
BSA Secretarial papers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA Secretarial papers'
BSA Secretarial papers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA Secretarial papers'
BSA Council, Executive Committee (1947) and administration papers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA Council, Executive Committee (1947) and administration papers'
BSA Council and administration papers, accounts and balance sheets
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA Council and administration papers, accounts and balance sheets'
BSA Council papers, accounts and balance sheets
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA Council papers, accounts and balance sheets'
BSA: lists of members and their addresses in date order, some with payment records
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA: lists of members and their addresses in date order, some with payment records'
BSA Council papers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA Council papers'
BSA administration and membership papers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA administration and membership papers'
Miscellaneous
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Miscellaneous'
1st National Caving Conference, Buxton badge design work
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to '1st National Caving Conference, Buxton badge design work'
1st National Caving Conference, application forms and letters
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to '1st National Caving Conference, application forms and letters'
Conference papers & abstracts, and attendance list (signatures)
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Conference papers & abstracts, and attendance list (signatures)'
Conference planning and programme preparation papers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Conference planning and programme preparation papers'
2nd National Caving Conference, application forms, letters, & attendance lists
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to '2nd National Caving Conference, application forms, letters, & attendance lists'
Conf.planning and programme preparation papers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Conf.planning and programme preparation papers'
3rd & 4th Annual Conferences papers, Giggleswick and Swansea
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to '3rd & 4th Annual Conferences papers, Giggleswick and Swansea'
4th Annual Conference, Swansea University
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to '4th Annual Conference, Swansea University'
Cave reports, surveys, photos, etc; A-J
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Cave reports, surveys, photos, etc; A-J'
Cave reports, surveys, photos, etc; K-Z
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Cave reports, surveys, photos, etc;  K-Z'
Mounted cave photos, drawings, and engravings
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Mounted cave photos, drawings, and engravings'
Wookey Hole
271 images
Scotland
42 images
Wales
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Wales'
Conference Flyers & Progs and assoc.papers and 52yr. analysis
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Conference Flyers & Progs and assoc.papers and 52yr. analysis'
[Derbyshire]
207 images
Chapel le Dale area
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Chapel le Dale area'
Windy Knoll-Treak Cliff, Castleton Area
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Windy Knoll-Treak Cliff, Castleton Area'
Speedwell Mine - Castleton Area
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Speedwell Mine - Castleton Area'
Legal papers
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Legal papers'
Gaping Ghyll
105 images
Gaping Ghyll
103 images
Settle area
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Settle area'
Malham area
290 images
Malham
229 images
Grassington
102 images
Yorkshire: Dentdale, Wild Boar Fell, Mallerstang, Ravenstonedale, Hackergill, Coverdale, Garsdale, Gaping Gill
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Yorkshire: Dentdale, Wild Boar Fell, Mallerstang, Ravenstonedale, Hackergill, Coverdale, Garsdale, Gaping Gill'
British Speleological Association; Cave rescues
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'British Speleological Association; Cave rescues'
BSA: Settle Group project reports
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA: Settle Group project reports'
BSA Songs
40 images
BSA; Yorkshire legal and insurance iocuments
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'BSA; Yorkshire legal and insurance iocuments'
Accounts of the Gaping Gill Meet
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Accounts of the Gaping Gill Meet'
Bibliography: England; Yorkshire 1
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Bibliography: England; Yorkshire 1'
Bibliography: England; (except Yorkshire 2)
Work in progress - document not available
Image link to 'Bibliography: England; (except Yorkshire 2)'
South East
29 images