British Cave Research Association Online Archive

BCRA Online Archive

The Leslie Pill Collection


Photograph of Leslie Pill and R.T. Clough. Photographer: Unknown

Arthur Leslie Pill (1918-1997) was a Derbyshire-based caver, living in Sheffield. His first recorded caving trips were with the Martel Club in April 1944. They certainly appeared to be an innovative club, using abseiling techniques in Oxlow Caverns and Eldon Hole, and experimented with prussiking. They also developed a hair-raising scheme for pushing what was then the terminal sump in Giant's Hole. The last recorded meet of the Martel Club was on July 15th 1945. He logged into the British Speleological Society hostel in Settle on July 29th as a member of the Martel Club and the BSA. He attended the BSA Gaping Gill meet in June 1946, when he came across human remains in Gaping Gill Main Chamber without being fully aware of what they were. The body wasn't actually recovered until the following year.

Leslie Pill was a research chemist for a steel works company in Sheffield, and he had a passion for investigation and recording. He wrote a large number papers on a variety of subjects for the British Speleological Association's publications, and others, including on water chemistry, cave exploration, exploration techniques, bats, mineralogy, archaeology, and lead smelting, and he was happy to take on investigations for the BSA. He was a good photographer, and a competent draftsman. In his retirement, he described himself on his letterheads as "Archaeologist and Antiquary".

The Pill collection provides an important insight into post-war caving. It includes his own scrapbooks of both personal and non-personal caving happenings over several decades, which are worthy of perusal in their own right.

Its arrival in the BCRA Library is a bit of a mystery, but it is thought that it found its way via P.B Smith and the Technical Speleological Group. It somehow got mixed up with the BSA Records. Dave Judson catalogued them in 2008 at the same time as the BSA Records, 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 BSA folders, but it proved too costly.

Eventually, Alan Jeffreys and John Manchip from the Grampian Speleological Group undertook the task of photographing and processing the collection 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.