For generations Kents Cavern has been one of Britain's most special cave sites, rich in Palaeolithic history and home to some of Britain's most important artefacts. For this reason a conservation plan to protect the caves has been produced so that all staff, researchers, workers and visitors can use it as a pragmatic and informative guide.
Kents Cavern is one of Britain’s rare palaeolithic cave sites, considered by Historic England to hold what are by far the most important known extant cave deposits in Britain. It has for the last 135 years been under the custodianship of one family, the Powe family.
Since the 19th June 1880, the day William Pengelly completed his 15-year systematic archaeological recording of the cavern, the cave has been open to the public and during that time the conservation and on-going protection of the cavern has been a significant part of our management responsibility. We operate within the onerous constraints of the statutory duties imposed on us by the UK Government through Historic England and Natural England.
Kents Cavern has a unique place at the beginning of the ancient human occupation of Europe with evidence found here from three different species of humans; the oldest early modern human fossil found in northwest Europe, a 41,000 year old Homo sapiens jawbone, Neanderthal hand axes from 90,000 years ago and some of the earliest tools ever discovered in Britain, 500,000 year old Homo heidelbergensis stone tools. The human story continues with Bronze Age and Iron Age artefacts found here, 2,000 year old Roman coins at the Face and Tudor adventurers leaving their mark in 1571.
In this document, we have for the first time collated a complete record of the caverns and passages, on and off the showcave route, evaluating sensitivities and risks throughout. The plan ensures those entering the caves understand how special and unique Kents Cavern is, and how any damage can simply never be repaired. It is not only an archaeological site but has a remarkable geological story. From its origins south of the equator in a warm Devonian sea, experiencing the mountain building processes of the Variscan orogeny, the desert like conditions of the Permian and the Ice Age animal and human occupation of the Quaternary. This outstanding geological heritage combined with the Palaeolithic archaeological record found here gave Kents Cavern a pivotal role in securing UNESCO Global Geopark status for Torbay
It is an onerous responsibility to shoulder the protection and conservation of a site that has such a rich human history going back ½ million years but our challenges are made even more complex as the caverns extend under mature urban developments in Torquay.
All the staff at Kents Cavern and our scientific researchers and advisers all share this commitment. This conservation plan has been designed to assist them as a pragmatic guide and as a useful document to ensure this culture continues and the cave continues to be enjoyed for generations to come.