Ossum's Cave


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Ossum's Cave
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1011919 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 20-Sep-2019 at 10:36:54.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Staffordshire Moorlands (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SK 09587 55753

Reasons for Designation

Palaeolithic caves and rockshelters provide some of the earliest evidence of human activity in the period from about 400,000 to 10,000 years ago. The sites, all natural topographic features, occur mainly in hard limestone in the North and West of the country, although examples also exist in the softer rocks of South-East England. Evidence for human occupation is often located near the cave entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms. The interiors sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or were places where material naturally accumulated from the outside. Because of the special conditions of deposition and preservation, organic and other fragile materials often survive well and in stratigraphic association. Caves and rockshelters are therefore of major importance for understanding this period. Due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all examples with good survival of deposits, are considered to be nationally important. The Palaeolithic caves of Staffordshire form a small but significant regional group of which the monument at Ossum's Cave is an important example owing to the good survival of the talus deposits and the preservation of rare faunal remains.


Ossum's Cave, situated on the west side of the Manifold Valley, consists of a narrow phreatic passage which slopes steeply downwards and is flooded 5m beyond the entrance. It has a small exterior platform with banked deposits on either side and a steep talus in front of the cave suggesting a major continuation of the cave deposits. A limestone block on the right of the entrance perhaps indicates a former extension of the cave mouth. Between this block and the cave wall is the remains of a side-passage sloping up towards the concavity known as Ossum's Eyrie. Most of the deposits within the cave were removed during excavations carried out by the Orpheus Caving Club and D. Bramwell (1954-6), but there are still major deposits outside the cave which have been partly sampled by a 6.4m long trench through the platform talus. Amongst the finds recovered in the excavations were Upper Palaeolithic flint artefacts in apparent association with charcoal and the bones of reindeer. Although the bones showed no obvious traces of burning or cutmarks, they occurred in the same layer (Layer C) as the flint artefacts and have been radiocarbon dated to about 10,500 BP (Before Present). There is probably little material left inside the cave, unless deposits survive in the deeper flooded areas. However, the talus and areas of excavation spoil outside the entrance are thought to be undisturbed and offer considerable potential. The monument includes all the deposits within the cave, and outside the cave includes an area of 10.5m radius from the cave entrance.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Bramwell, D, Third Report On Excavations At Ossom's Cave, (1956)
Bramwell, D, Second Report On The Excavation At Ossom's Cave, (1955)
Bramwell, D, Report On Work At Ossom's Cave For 1954, (1954)
Scott, K, 'Studies in the Upper Palaeolithic of Britain and NW Europe' in Man in Britain in the Late Devensian; evidence from Ossom's Cave, (1986)


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].