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Redcliffe Caves

Mine workings from 15th-18th century extend under the Redcliffe area of Bristol. There are many entrances to the caves and the full extent of the caves are unknown. Redcliffe Caves are owned by Bristol City Council. Schemes for redevelopment of the caves are open for offer. The caves are locked but guided historical tours are available.

Bristol was the largest glass making centre outside of London and the caves main product was fine sand perfect for making glass. Bottles for beers and spirits were produced and the fine sand was also used for ship’s ballast. As well as glass being produced for the domestic market Bristol even exported to America. Goods for African and West Indian trade were stored here in the caves. There are many local myths about these caves with tales of smuggling and hidden treasure. There is a barred section in the caves and there are stories that slaves were kept here.

The Axbridge Caving Group have access to the caves and have permission to give guided tours. Tours usually last for two hours, begin at Phoenix Wharf cave entrance with a historical tour round the Redcliffe area followed by the underground tour. The caves are dry, safe and suitable for all ages. Tours for groups of up to a maximum of 25 people cost £25 regardless of how many are in the group. Group visits are geared to the requirements of the group, children are free and disabled facilities are available. £1 is collected from adults to cover expenses and future research into the caves.

The caving group have discovered some interesting artifacts during their digs including a scoop used for filling the canvas sacks at the Lead Shot Tower (in 1782, William Watts perfected the manufacture of lead shot by pouring molten lead from a great height into water). The excavations also produced a small crucible for pouring molten lead, broken pottery, an ink pouring bottle and old clay pipes. They have also accessed three small chambers with writing on the walls, one as early as 1761 with the signature of Joseph Coles, confirmed as genuine. Near the older part of the caves is a hole through a brick wall dug by Captain Thomas King in order to claim the caves as his part of his property.

For bookings contact the Axbridge Caving Group, c/o Alan Gray. 42 Maynard Terrace, Clutton, Somerset. BS39 5PW, enclosing a SAE. Alan Gray has been giving these tours since 2001. Tours take place on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening from 7.30pm, however it is possible to arrange weekend trips. Indenmity and license forms need to be applied for, completed and returned to the City Docks Manager and a copy should be brought on the day of the tour.



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