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Monument record MDR269 - Cave, Thirst House, Chelmorton

Type and Period (3)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

A cave in Deep Dale was discovered in 1884 to have been inhabited 'in bye-gone times' by Matthew Salt. Together with Robert Millett, he continued to examine the cave, finding bones, pottery and other artefacts. Some of these were shown to Professor Boyd Dawkins and include a polished spear head, part of a bone pin, a small Roman ampulla, a bronze fibula and three different types of pottery, including Samian. (1) Further digging in autumn 1890 produced a considerable amount of material, mainly consisting of brooches and other women's ornaments. Two coins were also found. (2) None of the finds made in 1891 appear to have come from within the cave. They appear to have come from a space of about eight square yards on the slope below the entrance of the cave and at various depths, some as much as five feet. (3) A general description of the cave in Deep Dale was published by Ward in 1895. He described the entrance as 'singularly artificial in appearance … [with] the form of an elliptical arch, about twenty-six feet wide and fifteen feet in height in the centre, set within a shallow rectangular recess in the rocky face'. The width reduces rapidly within the cave to about ten feet, and then remains constant to the back, some ninety feet from the entrance. The carving 'T.E. 1661' is visible on the wall in one place. The back of the cave terminates in a short steep downward passage into a second chamber. Mr Millett's work was chiefly in the second chamber, while Mr Salt confined his to the first chamber and the slope outside, below the entrance. Probably no other English cave has yielded so large and interesting a number of Romano-British objects. Bronze metalwork includes brooches (penannular, harp, circular, cruciform and dolphin, some exhibiting traces of gold and silver plating or rich enamel), toilet accessories, tweezers, pins, finger rings, coins and a pendant ornament. Iron objects include several fibulae, six rings and hooks, two buckles, some nails, and two knives. Pottery includes most varieties of British and Romano-British wares. Glass is represented by five beads and a tessera, while bone objects include several needles, pins and borers. There were also several whetstones, a small ball of black marble, a 'curious implement made out of a piece of stalactite', and several flint implements, including a horseshoe scraper and an arrowhead. (4, 5) A trench dug by M and W H Salt below the entrance of the cave in 1896 uncovered a human skeleton ' laid at full length in an enclosure, cist-like, but without cover-stones, constructed of massive blocks of limestone'. Three bronze objects - an armlet, a ring and a pin - were associated with the burial. Close by the head were fragments of a vessel that had contained burnt bones. Outside the 'cist' were several burnt teeth and bones which belonged to a young person. (6) The most extensively explored of the Romano-British caves in Derbyshire, and the most productive of Romano-British remains is that sometimes called Thirst House, in Deepdale. Here a few prehistoric and many striking Roman remains have been discovered, partly in the first chamber of the cave near the entrance but principally outside it. A deep bed of rubbish, disturbed soil and refuse slopes from the mouth of the cave down to the bottom of the gorge, and this bed has yielded the most notable finds. Two fairly perfect interments were also noted, one found in 1896, the other two years later. This was a cist of which one side was formed by the hill, containing a skeleton and an iron spear-head. Several other traces of burials were noted in the rubbish. The age of the Roman remains is given roughly by the coins, of which the earliest is dated AD 154 and the latest AD 268-270. The fibulae suggest a somewhat similar period, and the Samian ware is of a type which is associated with the period 100-250 AD. (7) Most of the pottery found in the 19th century excavations at Thirst House cave is of a type described as Derbyshire ware, so-called because a survey of its distribution shows that it was probably made in the south of Derbyshire. Its distinguishing features are the rim-type and the fabric. (8) The entrance to this cave is some 8 m wide and 5 m high, this funnels back gently to 3 m wide and 3 m high. Buxton Museum hold a vast collection of material from this cave. (9) SK 09747128. Thirst House Cave. Two separate extended Romano-British skeletons were found in the ground below the cave entrance. One was surrounded by limestone blocks and had a cremation in a globular urn by the right shoulder. Another cremation had been interred north of the body outside the surrounding limestones. The other skeleton was covered by two capstones levelled by stones built up from the lower side of the slope. There was an iron leaf-spearhead and a ball of iron pyrites were found in association. (10) The finds of Salt and Millett included bones, bronze pins and brooches, lead spindle whorls and bone implements including awls, pins, a spearhead and a button. Held at Buxton Museum (Accession nos. 3619-3699). A quantity of Romano-British Derbyshire ware was also found. (Accession nos 1311-1330). (11)

Sources/Archives (12)

  • <1> Article in serial: Cox, J. 1890. 'Some notes on Deepdale Cave, Buxton', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 12, pp 228-230.
  • <2> Article in serial: Cox, J. 1891. 'Some further finds in Deepdale Cave, Buxton', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 13, pp 194-199.
  • <3> Article in serial: Ward, J. 1894. 'Romano-British objects from Deepdale, Autumn 1891', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 16, pp 185-189.
  • <4> Article in serial: Ward, J. 1895. 'Deepdale Cave, near Buxton', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol. 17, pp 60-81.
  • <5> Article in serial: Ward, J. 1897. 'Recent cave-hunting in Derbyshire. II - Thirst House', The Reliquary. Volume III (N.S.), pp 87-98.
  • <6> Article in serial: Salt, W H. 1897. 'Discovery of ancient remains in Deep Dale, near Buxton', The Reliquary. Volume III (N.S.), pp 99-101.
  • <7> Bibliographic reference: Haverfield, F. 1905. 'Romano-British Derbyshire', in Victoria County History, Derbyshire, Vol 1. pp 233-235; figs 33-35.
  • <8> Article in serial: Gillam, J. 1940. 'Romano-British Derbyshire Ware', in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 61. p28.
  • <9> Personal Observation: F1 JB 02-FEB-66.
  • <10> Bibliographic reference: Marsden, B. 1977. The Burial Mounds of Derbyshire. pp 116-117.
  • <11> Personal Observation: Bishop, M (Buxton Museum & Art Gallery). 1983. Personal Communication from the curator of Buxton Museum, 4/11/1983.
  • <12> Index: NDAT. 0680.



Grid reference SK 0969 7130 (point) (Centre)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (3)

  • EDR500
  • EDR501
  • EDR741

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Record last edited

Feb 23 2011 11:47AM

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