Ancient Monuments

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Kent's Cavern, Torquay

A Scheduled Monument in Wellswood, Torbay

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Latitude: 50.4674 / 50°28'2"N

Longitude: -3.5031 / 3°30'11"W

OS Eastings: 293418.656356

OS Northings: 64138.134417

OS Grid: SX934641

Mapcode National: GBR QX.2ZHG

Mapcode Global: FRA 37KT.F2T

Entry Name: Kent's Cavern, Torquay

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 31 January 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010745

English Heritage Legacy ID: 10717

County: Torbay

Electoral Ward/Division: Wellswood

Built-Up Area: Torquay

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Torquay St Matthias

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


Kent's Cavern, located on the west side of Lincombe hill, is a very large
solution cave within a more extensive limestone rift system. The cave has two
entrances which open onto a flat terrace platform halfway up Lincombe Hill,
now containing the modern frontage of the show cave. The cave interior
consists of a series of large galleries near the entrances, notably the
`Vestibule' and the `Great Chamber', where many of the archaeological
discoveries have been made; artefacts also occur in deposits of the `High
Level' near the back of the cave. In addition to the two existing entrances,
further openings provided access to the cave in earlier periods. These include
the choked passages of the `Sally Ports', to the south of the present
entrances, and, at one of the eastern extremities of the cave, a rising
passage from the High Level Chamber, which is considered to connect with the
Archaeological investigations, begun in the 1820s, have established that the
cave contains a long sequence of deposits from the Lower Palaeolithic to the
post-Prehistoric period. Within the sequence are two major stalagmite floors
providing dating evidence for the archaeological contexts. The upper floor
seals material more than 10,000 years old, while the lower one seals deposits
dating from 350,000 years ago. Above and within the upper floor are finds of
post-Palaeolithic age. Artefacts of at least three distinct Palaeolithic
horizons occur between the upper and lower stalagmite floors or in
stratigraphically equivalent levels. They include bone, antler and lithic
artefacts associated with human remains, themselves now directly radiocarbon
dated to 31,000 years ago, making them the earliest anatomically modern humans
in N Europe. There are also significant concentrations of Middle Palaeolithic
finds probably dating from between 90,000 and 35,000 years ago. Beneath the
lower floor are lithic tools of Lower Palaeolithic type which are by
definition some of the earliest artefactual evidence in Britain. Faunal
remains are prolific throughout the cave deposits, enabling reconstruction of
climatic changes through a number of Glacial/Interglacial cycles from the
Middle Pleistocene onwards.
Although the cave was extensively explored in the 19th and 20th centuries by
William Pengelly and then by the Torbay Natural History Society, considerable
areas of undisturbed deposit still exist for future investigation. Within the
cave they include stratified deposits near the entrances, in the Great Chamber
and the Vestibule and all remaining deposits within the present cave system.
Outside, there are extensive deposits making up the present talus and entrance
platform in front of the cave. For this reason the monument includes the whole
of the interior deposits of the cave and the area outside the entrances
including the platform and the talus deposits as far as the valley floor. The
scheduling excludes all buildings above the cave and the soil levels overlying
bedrock, although fissures within the bedrock are included. Also excluded are
the buildings and made up footpaths outside the cave entrances, although the
deposits beneath them are included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

Kent's Cavern holds what are by far the most important known extant
Palaeolithic cave deposits in Britain and also provides in situ stratified
deposits extending from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age as well as later
occupation evidence. The site preserves artefactual and palaeoenvironmental
evidence of great significance to the development of Palaeolithic studies not
only in Britain but internationally. As a show cave Kent's Cavern is a major
tourist attraction and offers a rare and exceptional opportunity for the
public to become acquainted with remote periods of prehistory.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Kents Cavern Ltd, , Kents Cavern, (1990)
SX96SW-004, (Kent's Cavern) SX96 SW 004, (1990)

Source: Historic England

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