Ray Mansfield


Active member

Born in Bristol in 1942

Lived in Bedminster and one of his first memories was when he was about 3, standing in the street with neighbours cheering a soldier returning from war, and being told it was his dad.  His brother Gerald was born after the war.  Gerald sadly died a few years ago, also of cancer.

Went to Cotham Grammar School and started caving when he was about 14.  He sometimes went into school for the morning register, then nipped out again and went caving, often with his friend, Tony Oldham.  His mum wondered how he had got so muddy at school.  He became part of the Cotham Speleological Society. 

Began caving in Burrington Combe, often cycling out and back.  He then met other cavers and discovered that there were bigger caves on Mendip.  He was then hooked on the sport and later became a member of MNRC (Mendip Nature Research Committee), SMCC (Shepton Mallet Caving Club) and UBSS (University of Bristol Speleological Society). He was known to use UBSS as an alias, for example when caught  on the Yorkshire Moors without a permit.  This misfired once when another party wrote to them complaining about his cavalier attitude, only to be told they were all in Ireland at the time.  They had overlooked Ray.

He also loved books and worked at Bristol Reference library and Bath University library before finding a job on his beloved Mendips with agricultural engineers Uphills at Chewton Mendip.  He had married Kay and they bought a cottage in Oakhill, where they had regular visitors from other cavers calling in for coffee and a chat. 

In 1974 he had a fantastic trip to the USA & Canada with Milche, Martin and Bob.  They bought an old car and in 3 months drove 12549 miles, visited 27 limestone caves, 32 lava caves, 21 National Parks, & 6 National Monuments.  They also climbed several mountains and came back very fit and very thin - it was a time when a person could only take ?300 out of the UK.   

He carried on caving all over the UK and abroad, and even got conned into carrying a bag of cement all the way down St Cuthberts Swallet when they were building dams at the bottom. 

However, his main interest was cave literature and from 1963 onwards became involved with BSA Speleological Abstracts as a Regional Abstractor, and by 1964 he was editor.  In February 1970, with Tony Oldham, he initiated Current Titles in Speleology, an annual publication covering  Caving Publications for the previous year.    From 1993 CTS was integrated with Speleological Abstracts, and Ray continued to work with them for several years before eventually handing over to others.

Until the mid 80's he kept a card index of all publications he was aware of and on Boxing Day started to put  the cards in order ready to type the information on to stencils, usually finishing by the end of February.    Although it took him a while to agree to use a computer, he was glad when he did as he could just press a button at the end of the year and everything was sorted into order ready for printing and he just had to proof read before publication.  It was a herculean effort but gained him huge respect from all over the world as an authority and added greatly to his knowledge.  In 1976, the national caving body in America awarded him the NSS Certification of Merit & he was made a Fellow of NSS.

From very early on Ray had been accumulating off prints and knowledge of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky and even back in the 1970's had hinted of publishing a bibliography.    Mick Sutton & Sue Hagan of CRF in America were in the UK so Ray passed all his Mammoth Cave references on to them and he co-authored with them the Mammoth Cave bibliography, which is now on line.  If you need any more evidence of what a force for caving he was and how much of his knowledge he gave unstintingly to others, you only need to consider how many publications and books he is listed as an acknowledgement.

In recent years when asked the inevitable question of what he intended regarding his book collection he responded with, put an advert in the paper - "Half a ton of Caving Books, all different.  Best offer over ?10".

In 1960 her went caving on Mendip with Tom Harrison, the then curator of the Sarawak Museum in Kuching, and inspired by his tales Ray always wanted to visit South East Asia.  In May 1982 he set off with Janet, both carrying as little as possible in their rucksacks.  They flew to Bangkok and spent almost a year travelling through Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, with a brief stop in America on the way home.    They avoided most of the tourist spots but went to as many limestone areas as possible.  They had lots of adventures including staying with tribespeople in longhouses in the highlands of Borneo, visiting some fantastic caves, going into China as some of the first individual travellers to be allowed in, and meeting up with cavers in Japan where they were given a warm welcome and taken on caving trips.  Janet even dragged him grudgingly to Disneyland, and he loved it.

On his return to the UK he went back to work at Uphills and Janet & Ray lived at Nedge Hill for three years before moving to Downhead.

Having produced an international caving bibliography Ray was well known around the world and had regular visits from foreign cavers when they were in the UK.    He went with Janet to a caving meeting in Puerto Rico, where he gave one of the lectures.  They returned to China for a month with their friend Liz Price.  They also went to Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary a couple of times to meet some of his caving contacts.  His passport then ran out and he decided he no longer wanted to go abroad but would rather stay in Downhead, in the cottage he loved, surrounded by all his books and several cats.  He built an extension on the house - definitely needed to house all the bookcases.    By this time he had left Uphills and became self employed, doing odd jobs some days each week and building the extension on others.  He initially did some decorating for David Reakes and ended up working in the office and doing egg deliveries for Mendip Eggs.  He also went back to Uphills as assistant storeman for a while.   

In retirement, Ray & Janet enjoyed many walks with their neighbour's dogs, following many local footpaths or just wandering through Asham Woods.  Although he wasn't in such good health over the past year and the dog walks were shorter and slower, he seemed determined to get jobs finished so the house was in good order for Janet.         

He was also a keen stamp collector, with his main interest being stamps on caves, Japan and Japanese Occupation.    Being Ray, and never doing things by halves, he produced an index to his Japanese Stamp Magazine, for which they awarded him their International Silver Medal. 

Ray always loved cats and Janet became involved with the local Cats Protection branch.  Ray didn't become a  member but was always willing to be their handyman, helping with maintenance of cat pens etc.  He was also happy to stay home looking after the cats while Janet was away on holiday.

He had always been a keen cyclist and in his teens had several cycling holidays, using Youth Hostels for accommodation.  He rejoined YHA in the early 80's and became a life member, sending them regular contributions to appeals as he felt they had helped him in his youth.  In his teens he cycled all the way to Liverpool to stay with his uncle.  When he was in his 40's he joined the Somer Valley Cycling Club and enjoyed riding time trials.  When he could no longer cycle as fast as he would have liked he carried on helping the club at events - marshalling, time keeping etc.

Although in recent years he wasn't keen on going out, other than for dog walking which he loved, he was always happy for friends to call in, particularly if they were interested in caving books, prints or stamps.     

In 2010 he suffered his first heart attack and 6 months later had a cancerous kidney removed.  He recovered well and life seemed back to normal.  At the beginning of 2015 it was found he had prostate cancer of the bones.  After a year of being reasonably well his cancer spread to his spine and he died on 6th March, at home, comfortable and out of pain, with Janet and her sister Pam at his side.


After the funeral there was refreshments in the back room of the Hunters Lodge at Priddy - the cavers' pub.  There so many  people there that  they had to use the other bars too.



Active member

By Milche

Builder of Invisible Garages!

1971 31 August: tried to kill me with a falling boulder in Disappointment Passage, St Cuthbert?s.

Mendip Cave Registry and the Register typed MS.  Also Bristol Central Caving Collection.

1965 July: with Tim Reynolds and Ian Standing: ?The Mendip Cave Bibliography and survey catalogue 1901 ? 1963 CRG Occ. Pub. (13)

Wrote a number of articles on obscure/rare cave literature

1978 February: Cuthbert?s Leader for UBSS

Several Somerset Sump Indexes.

1971 September: Omalos Cave, Crete, bottomed with MW and SWR (at that time deepest cave in Crete)

1972 March: w/e trip to Majorca and its show caves

1973 February: w/e trip to Tunisia ? not many caves found.

1976 August: NSS Certification of Merit & Fellow of NSS (with ADO) for producing CTS

1973 1 September: at first attempt bottomed Birks Fell Cave, meeting Randle Coe (original discoverer) in the pub in the evening, he was amazed that we had managed to bottom it first time; the White Rose had made several attempts and not got to the bottom yet.  Asked how we had found it, Ray used one of his ?put you downs? ?OK but a bit short!?

1970s: on many of the first tourist trips into new Mendip finds.

Japanese Stamp Catalogue, International Silver Medal.  Never did things by halves.

1964 ? 67 SMCC member. Hut Warden 1964- 65, Secretary April ? Nov. 1966.  Tended to be impatient with SMCC pace in those early days.  Although not a member, continued to support SMCC (esp. Library) over succeeding decades.

1970 Easter: regular SMCC hut builder from the beginning.

1960 19 June: went caving in Swildon?s with Tom Harrison then curator of the Sarawak Museum in Kuching and was inspired by his tales outside the New Inn ? eventually visited Niah Great Cave, amongst others, on 1 September 1982 in a best part of a year-long trip (with Janet) round Asia

1974 2 June ? 2 September: USA/Canada. 12549 miles driven, 27 limestone caves and 32 lava caves visited, 21 National Parks visited, 6 National Monuments, 28 US states visited + 2 Canadian ones.  Ray had all the contacts and we went from one caving area to another.  Spent a day at NSS Library.  Always headed for cavers? bookshelves looking for grotto Nltrs not seen.  14 June Jim Quinlan and Art Palmer Surface topography of Mammoth Cave NP.

1963 onwards became involved with BSA Speleological Abstracts as a Regional Abstracter, by 1964 he was Editor. In February 1970 with ADO he initiated CTS (the literature of 1969) which went international in 1972 and continued until 1992 (pub. 1993), a continuous sole effort ending in over 3500 refs each year. The principle behind this arrangement was that ADO would exchange publications with any foreign club, in exchange for British Caver, these would be passed to Ray who would abstract, and put on index cards (photocopying anything about lava caves to me which has allowed me to embarrass a couple of American know-it-alls recently and which has hugely helped my interest and knowledge on the subject).  The publications were all hand typed initially on to stencils and later electronic technology intervened and made him very cross as he struggled to cope.  He began around Christmas each year and continued until the task was done.  He abstracted into subjects and countries.  When I received my copy I did the easy bit  of sitting down and reading it and looking for the silliest title of that year  and any obviously misplaced entry (not many).  It was a herculean effort but gained him huge respect from all over the world as an authority and added greatly to his knowledge. (see August 1976 above).

Member of Cottam ? MNRC ? SMCC ? UBSS ? we haven?t found dates for Cottam, MNRC or UBSS.  Would be interested if you can come up with these from other sources.

We were in the habit of using UBSS as an alias e.g. when caught on the Yorkshire Moors without a permit.  This misfired on one occasion when doing flying angels off the pitch in Lamb Leer.  Another party was told we were UBSS and they wrote to the UBSS complaining about our cavalier attitude to which the UBSS responded that they were all in County Clare at the time ? unfortunately they had overlooked Ray.

In recent years when asked the inevitable question of what he intended regarding his book collection he responded with advert in local paper ? ?Half a ton of Caving Books, all different.  Best offer over ?10.?

Reading somewhere something about the exploits of Martell which I knew was clearly wrong, I shared this with Ray who immediately sided with the other person and said that of course it must be true because it was all written up in Speleopedia!

Majority of his working life he worked for Roy Uphill Agricultural Engineer.  Ray adopted the salesman approach of not turning up in a suit or plush car but joining the farmer in whatever task he was doing before going on to discuss business.

Between 2 August 1970 and March 1974 with Fred Davies and others weekly pushed Cowsh Aven upwards from Swildon?s Four stream-way to within 8 m of the surface.

Music: bought mainly 20th century modern American classical composers, especially for the record sleeve illustration.

Very good with young children, especially ours ? kept series of videos to entertain them and introduced them to such classics as Spaceballs, Dogtanian and the Jungle Books ? endlessly patient with their questions and foibles ? though once did continue to tickle Alison despite being warned not to as the results could be somewhat unpleasant and a damp lap!  Regularly gave them book tokens for Christmas and Birthdays and they regularly had to report back what they had spent them on.

Phenomenal caving (and other) knowledge.  When I asked (regularly) What do you know about ? he would go away and come back with some book/ publication and so do you know this?  I never did of course!  The number of books and publications I received as gifts has crammed my shelves.  Only once did I stump him on a publication/book which he knew he had but could not find.  It took him 3 hours and resulted in his listing what was on which shelf so it could be more easily retrieved.

If you need any more evidence of what a force for caving he was and how much of his knowledge he gave unstintingly to others, you only need to consider how many publications/books he is listed in as an acknowledgement.

From very early on Ray had been accumulating off prints and knowledge of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, and even back in the 1970s had hinted of publishing a bibliography (in Dutch?!).  I never saw or heard anything more until I met Mick Sutton and Sue Hagan? in Galapagos.  They said you must know Ray Mansfield to which I replied yes.  They said that they had co-authored with him the Mammoth Cave Bibliography which is now online and this was all news to me.  So when I next say Ray I asked him about this and he produced a paper copy and loaned it to me.  It would appear that in 1994 he had passed all his Mammoth Cave references to the CRF.

I well remember an after pub trip on Sunday July 4 1965 when he and I descended Swildon?s to the first mud sump carrying between us 4 x 14lb tins of cement for dam building.  En route we encountered telephone wires which led as far as the then 40 ft pot where a ?telephone talking piece? was noticed.  On our return journey Ray could not be restrained from picking up the phone which connected to RMA Sandhurst Cottage on the Green (now the Moodie residence).  And he signed the hut log entry ?Ye Blakeey Deff?.



Active member
Latest Obit

Descent (151) 36-37photos.  Do nothing by halves by Martin ?Milche? Mills.  Another Ray Mansfield obituary.


Active member
From CRF N/L

Ray Mansfield, 1942 - 2016

Ray Mansfield, speleo bibliographer extraordinaire, succumbed to cancer on March 6,

2016. Ray lived in Downhead, Somerset and was a long-time fixture on the Mendip

caving scene, but he became best known internationally for his services to speleo-

bibliography. He was for many years the editor of Speleological Abstracts and in 1972,

with Tony Oldham he cofounded its successor, the annual Current Titles in Speleology.

For this effort, in 1976 Ray and Tony were awarded Certificates of Merit and later

Fellowship in the National Speleological Society. Among Ray?s many areas of interest

was Mammoth Cave. Ray did visit Mammoth Cave once, in 1976 when he and three

friends did a grand tour of the US in a beat-up second hand car, visiting an astonishing

number of caves throughout the continent. On June 14, they were at Mammoth Cave

National Park and managed to get a personal tour of the surface karst conducted by Jim

Quinlan and Art and Peggy Palmer. Over the next two days, they took the wild cave tour

and the historic tour. This was Ray?s only experience of Mammoth Cave, but he took a

great interest in it, and it was one of his bibliographic areas of specialty.

By the ?90s Ray had developed the most comprehensive Mammoth Cave

bibliography up until then, assembled on a set of nearly 400 index cards, this being

before the ready availability of databases. When we started assembling a Mammoth Cave

bibliography database in 1986, we quickly became aware of Ray?s work and had

extensive correspondence with him. In 1994, on one of our periodic visits to the UK, we

visited Ray and his companion Janet Woodward at their Downhead Cottage home, which

also served as a sanctuary for abandoned older cats. We enjoyed marvelous hospitality

and when we left, Ray offloaded on us his entire Mammoth Cave index card collection.

After we had finished compiling the wealth of data, the Mansfield bibliography formed

the core of the present database, now up to nearly 7,000 entries, of which Ray is co-

author. For this generous gift, Ray was awarded Fellowship in the Cave Research

Foundation. In October of last year, we paid another visit to Downhead Cottage and met

again with Janet. She insisted we go through Ray?s Mammoth Cave files and books and

generously invited us to take away whatever material we wanted ? our luggage home was

stuffed with treasures which someday will end up in CRF?s Hamilton Valley Library. We

also came back with some of Ray?s ashes which we plan to distribute near the famous

American cave he visited once, fell in love with, and studied for the rest of his very

productive life.

Mick Sutton and Sue Hagan