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White Scar Cave History

The cave’s history is a long one. It began with the laying down of limestone deposits, which millions of years later were hollowed out by the action of water. Much later still, in 1923, the cave entered human history with its discovery by Christopher Long.

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1923

1923

In August 1923 Cambridge student Christopher Long was on holiday in the dales. He noticed a slight fissure in the ground, and decided to investigate. Spurred on by the distant roar of water, he struggled over jagged rocks and through pools, until eventually he found himself at the foot of a waterfall. On subsequent expeditions, Long swam across the subterranean lakes and squeezed past a massive boulder, only to find his path blocked by a jumbled mass of rocks.

350 million years ago

350 million years ago

350 million years ago in a warm tropical sea lived billions of tiny marine creatures, including corals and sea-lilies. When they died their skeletons accumulated on the seabed. As the layers built up, the immense weight compressed these fossils, which crystallised as limestone. The rock floor of this ancient sea is exposed at the cave entrance.

1925

1925

Christopher Long planned to open the cave to visitors by making an access tunnel, but tragically in September 1924 he died from an overdose of chloral hydrate. Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Smith from York took on the task. The tunnel was blasted and dug by local coal miners, and electric lights and wooden flooring were installed to a point beyond the second waterfall. The first visitors were admitted on 10th April 1925.

1971

1971

Ever since its discovery in 1923 White Scar has attracted cave explorers. The system was investigated by members of the Happy Wanderers caving club, and it was they who discovered a massive chamber and named it Battlefield Cavern. The first person ever to squeeze into the cavern was teenager Hilda Guthrie. Twenty years later a sixty-five metre connecting tunnel was driven from the stream cave to the Battlefield, bypassing the tortuous and slippery climb made by Hilda and her friends.

1975

1975

In 1975 Mabel Sharp decided to sell up. She had presided at the cave for decades, and was renowned for the quality of her home-baked scones. A public auction was held on 20 February at the Royal Hotel in nearby Kirkby Lonsdale. The bidding intensified and a hush fell in the room, as people waited to see which of two contenders would land the prize. In the event Antony Bagshaw from Staffordshire became the new owner with a bid that silenced the competition.

2004

2004

Since 1925 the cave entrance had been open to the elements. In 2004 the Yorkshire Dales National Park approved the building of a timber structure that would protect visitors on rainy days and from the fierce midsummer sun. The timber is covered with sedum grass, making a living green roof which blends into the natural landscape.  The design was stress tested by structural engineers in New York to ensure that it could withstand a hurricane.

2011

Present day

In 2011 the presentation of the cave to the world underwent a major upgrade. So Creative, a specialist design company in the Shoreditch area of London, was commissioned to revolutionize the look and feel of our publicity. Building upon this, the Oxford-based web designers Obergine were invited to produce this new website. We want to get across the message that the cave is worth seeing!

200 million years ago

200 million years ago

The phenomenon of continental drift explains how the limestone was conveyed from the tropics to form part of Yorkshire. In 1912 the German meteorologist Alfred Wegener proposed that there was once just one huge continent. He theorised that about 200 million years ago this supercontinent began to break up. Sections drifted apart, eventually forming the various smaller continents that exist today. Only when the theory of plate tectonics emerged in the 1950s was continental drift satisfactorily explained.

40 million years ago

40 million years ago

A fault is a break in the rocks that make up the Earth's crust, along which rocks on either side have moved past each other. About 40 million years ago, when the Alps were being formed in southern Europe, the Craven Fault moved; the rocks south of the fault were forced vertically downwards by almost a mile. Ingleborough was assured of its lofty position overlooking the lowlands to the south. The Craven Fault is referred to by Charles Darwin in his 1859 work On the Origin of Species.

1 million years ago

1 million years ago

White Scar Cave formed during warmer periods that occurred between the ice ages. The last million years encompass the ice ages: glaciers swept over the whole region and moulded the landscape we observe today; and during the warmer periods between individual glaciations water flowed through the limestone and formed caves - including White Scar Cave. The groundwater was rich in carbon dioxide and so was sufficiently acidic to dissolve the rock.

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