Author Topic: Kitley Caves  (Read 405 times)

Offline langcliffe

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Kitley Caves
« on: January 11, 2019, 03:32:03 pm »
Does anybody know the history of Kitley Caves as a show cave?

I remember going through there in about 1972, and I have a memory, possibly false, of it being run by the Plymouth Caving Group. On the other hand, an article by Nigel Graham from a 1983 Wessex Cave Club Journal implies that it was being run by the DKRS, and an article in a local website implies that it was being run by its owner when it closed in 1999.

Can anybody be more definitive?

Offline RobinGriffiths

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2019, 04:14:45 pm »
"Things have changed so dramatically in the tourist leisure market," Mr Bastard said at the time.

Offline mikem

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2019, 04:42:14 pm »
Their stately home was also turned into a hotel at the same time as he was named as one of the directors of kitley caves ltd in 1996 (the company being incorporated in 1970, but that may just be a standard answer when they don't have a definite date) and the hotel business was sold off around the time when the caves were closed:
https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/business/bastards-bought-back-plush-kitley-1752559
& yes a predecessor was a Tory politician...

Bob's cave was apparently named after Bob Cawthorne of Plymouth caving group:
http://matienzocaves.org.uk/history/obit/BobCawthorne.htm

DCUC suggest contacting David Jean via William pengelly cave studies trust about access, so they may have better idea.

Mike
« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 04:59:28 pm by mikem »

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2019, 04:57:57 pm »
Their stately home was also turned into a hotel at the same time as he was named as one of the directors of kitley caves ltd in 1996 (the company being incorporated in 1970, but that may just be a standard answer when they don't have a definite date) and the hotel business was sold off around the time when the caves were closed:

Thanks - useful.

Offline mikem

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2019, 05:10:10 pm »
Further info:
http://www.showcaves.com/english/gb/showcaves/Kitley.html

The matienzo link suggests PCG did help run the place & Devon karst research society was set up in 1976, so right time scale to be involved in 1983.

Offline wildsurf

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2019, 08:22:41 pm »
I grew up 2 doors down from John Wright who was the guide there and did a lot of excavation in his spare time. John was the oracle on Kitley Caves.

Offline LeckFell

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2019, 09:08:17 pm »
My New Year resolution was to stop being a UKCaving lurker guest and start posting when something relevant came up - and here we are!
My second caving trip in 1966 was to Kitley Caves. In 1971 a guy called John Dryden (who had been editor of the Speleologist Magazine) moved to Yealmpton in Devon and he opened a Night Club in Plymouth. I'm not sure how the connection was made but he  opened up Kitley Caves as a Show Cave. A few members of the Plymouth Caving Group helped out and got some pocket money and got free access to the caves in the Kitley Estate. I was one of them but I can confirm the caves were never managed by PCG!
John Dryden eventually lost interest or control (I'm not sure which and when but not more than a few years) and Kitley Caves in Yealmpton were once again in the restricted control of the Kitley Estate and stopped being a Show Cave.
Some time after this the Devon Karst lot negotiated control of the caves but certainly not to run the place as a Show Cave - that would have been contrary to their ethos.


Offline langcliffe

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2019, 09:58:52 pm »
Thank you, LeckFell, that is interesting. My distant memory probably relates to the fact that I may have met a member of the PCG when I was visiting. It was very shortly after Fish, Wooding, myself, and someone from the PCG (Steve?) established the KMC - Rowten free dives, and so I was conscious of the PCG at the time.

This link implies that the cave was open from 1971 to 1999, but you reckon that there was a period after John Dryden left when it stopped being a show cave.

Offline wildsurf

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2019, 10:16:00 pm »
That is my neighbour John Wright in the photo on that link. Up until a few years ago he still visited the caves every week.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Kitley Caves
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2019, 10:55:17 pm »
Most of the info is up there now. First visited  the place in the late 60's. Met John Dryden in the 70's (and many years later bought a book off him when he was living just outside Taunton in Hatch Beauchamp). A couple called Jo and Andy worked there for a bit and I remember taking them into St. Cuthberts once. John Wright, a teacher from Plymouth, dug for many years there making considerable extensions and found many bones (now in Plymouth Museum). PCG extended the main cave through a choke - that later collapsed. The next edition of the Belfry Bulletin will contain a  bibliography on the caves courtesy of Pete Rose (Mr. Radon) and that should be issued in February this year. I have a fair number of photos of the caves taken from the 60's to the present century. Hope this helps.