Gough's Old Cave


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


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

Sedgemoor (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 46688 53886

Reasons for Designation

Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters 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 rock shelters 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 21 sites in Somerset form the densest and one of the most important concentrations of monuments of this type in the country. Gough's Old Cave is particularly important because of the great quantity and quality of surviving archaeological deposits which are also particularly rich in environmental remains.


Gough's Old Cave is situated in a rift c.10m up the left bank of Cheddar Gorge. It consists of a narrow gated entrance, c.3m high and 1m wide, leading to a chamber measuring c.10.5m x 4.5m. A second entrance, c.5m wide and 2m high, opens into the back of this chamber from a parallel rift in the cliff face. The main chamber leads via a collapsed flight of steps to an inner series of chambers and passages which were used as a show cave in the nineteenth century. The inner series was opened by blasting in 1877 and, prior to this date, was inaccessible. It is therefore unlikely to contain archaeological deposits and has been omitted from the scheduling together with the artificial and constructional features associated with the show cave. Partial excavations at the cave by Gough, between 1875 and 1880, and by the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society uncovered Iron Age and Romano-British material overlying a tufaceous stalagmite that rested on Palaeolithic deposits. The latter contained lithic artefacts and cut-marked horse bone dating to c.12,500 radiocarbon years ago. Considerable areas of undisturbed deposit occur in the chamber and in the entrances. In the latter areas, original deposits occur beneath excavation spoil and extend outside the cave as far as the base of the steep talus slope which forms the main present access to the cave. The monument includes the cave and all its deposits as far back as the made steps and outside the entrances as far as the base of the talus.

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.

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Books and journals
Barrington, N, Stanton, W I, Mendip: The Complete Caves and a View of the Hills, (1977)
Gowlett, J, Hedges, R, Law, I, Perry, C, 'Archaeometry' in Radiocarbon Dates From The Oxford AMS System: Archaeometry List 4, , Vol. 28 no.2, (1986), 116-25
Tratman, E K, 'Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Gough's Old Cave, Cheddar, Somerset, , Vol. 9, no. 1, (1960), 7-21


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

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