St Cuthbert's Swallet

Useful Information

Location: Near Priddy.
(51.251733, -2.654165)
Open: surface: no restrictions.
cave: after appointment only.
Fee: surface: free.
Classification: KarstDoline KarstPonor SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: n/a, bring full caving gear for cave tours.
Dimension: L=6,700 m, VR=145 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Bristol Exploration Club, Toby Maddocks, Tel: +44-1934-842746.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1953 cave discovered.
1955 leader system created, strict controll of access.


St Cuthbert's Swallet is a swallow hole or ponor, located prominently near Priddy in the area of the Priddy lead mining district. The water sinking in this area flows underground to Wookey Hole Cavern and re-emerges as river Axe. As a result mining activities at the lead mines coused pollution of the water which was used for the paper mill.

The historic mining area and the swallet are impressive sites, but the most important part is underground, a cave also named St Cuthbert's Swallet. It is sometimes also called St Cuthbert's Cave, but this might be mixed up with a cave of the same name in Northumberland. This cave system is part of the Priddy Caves, and with almost seven kilometers length and 145 m deep, of impressive dimensions. It is a classic example of a deep phreatic cave system. There are seven distinct levels, deep pits, and abundant speleothems including rare cave pearls.

We listed this cave as a karst feature for its surface appearance and very much recommend surface visits. Being prone to flooding this cave is very dangerous and should never be visited by non cavers. However, the Bristol Exploration Club offers guided tours after appointment. They are intended as a measure to restric the impact on the cave by visitors. So they are made for cavers, not even cavers - except the BEC - are allowed to visit the cave without guide.