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Eli Simpson "Birth of a Yorkshire River" film rushes, 1953

Photograph of Eddy Percy, Eli Simpson, and the generator in 1953

Eddy Percy, Eli Simpson, and the Generator

Whilst sorting through some British Speleological Society archive material, a box of 16 mm film clips were found together with some notes. These were passed across to Sid Perou, who identifying them as being very fragile, negotiated with the Yorkshire Film Archive that they be digitised and enhanced, with the YFA retaining the originals for safe-keeping. Copies were then returned on DV tapes, which allowed Sid to inspect the contents.

They turned out to be the original 1953 experiments by the BSA, led by Eli Simpson, which were intended to be the preparatory work for making a film about limestone caves in the Yorkshire Dales called "Birth of a Yorkshire River". As originally conceived, it was a grandiose project which included resurrecting the waterfall at Malham Cove using pumps and laying hoses down the Watlowes Valley, and powering large underground lights with an even larger generator which needed to be transported to the cave entrances. But as the technical and cost constraints became apparent, the project was abandoned and all that remains are these rushes and notes. Using his technical know-how and a lot of detective work, Sid unravelled the story and made a superb documentary on the project first shown at the BCA's Hidden Earth. This may be viewed online.

The rushes may be viewed from the links below. Places shown in the clips include Gatekirk Cave, Hull Pot, Hunt Pot, Ingleborough Cave, the Ingleborough Estate grounds, Ingleborough Hall, Malham village, Malham Tarn, and Malham Cove. People include Arnold Brown, who was the Ingleborough Cave guide between 1939 and 1962, Norman Hinchcliffe, Cymmie himself, and a glamorous mystery blonde.

Film Id Type Length Subject Link
Reel 1.00 Monochrome 02:27 Undergrounds shots of Ingleborough Cave and surface shots of Trow Gill. Here
Reel 1.01 Monochrome 04:32 Undergrounds shots of Ingleborough Cave. Here
Reel 1.02 Monochrome 04:29 Cavers descending Hull Pot on rope ladder. Here
Reel 1.03 Monochrome 04:34 A caver descending and ascending Hull Pot on rope ladder. Here
Reel 1.04 Monochrome 04:23 Cavers, including the glamorous blonde, descending Hull Pot on rope ladder. Here
Reel 1.05 Monochrome 05:09 Two lady and one gentleman caver moving around in Gatekirk Cave. Here
Reel 1.06 Monochrome 04:22 Further shots of the three cavers moving around in Gatekirk Cave. Here
Reel 1.07 Mixed 01:22 Two ladies walking through hayfields, and one in front of the Weathercote Cave waterfall. Here
Reel 1.08 Kodachrome 03:23 Two men and a lady looking at limestone landscape features above Calf Holes. Here
Reel 1.09 Kodachrome 04:16 Cavers ascending and descending rope ladders at Hull Pot and Hunt Pot. Here
Reel 1.10 Kodachrome 04:21 Cavers ascending and descending rope ladders at Hull Pot. Here
Reel 1.11 Kodachrome 05:41 Views of the area from Malham Tarn to Malham Cove. Here
Reel 1.12 Kodachrome 03:37 Views of the area around Malham, including the Cove, the village, and Smelt Mill Sink. Here
Reel 1.13 Kodachrome 07:02 Views of Ingleborough Hall, the walk up to Trow Gill, and Ingleborough Cave. Here
Reel 2.01 Kodachrome 06:42 Views from the top of Trow Gill, and a tour of Ingleborough Cave with Arnold Brown. Here
Reel 2.02 Monochrome 11.24 This reel has fine footage of Arnold Brown guiding visitors around Ingleborough Cave. Here
Reel 3.01 Kodachrome 04:33 Malham village on a sunny day, followed by footage of two men in Churn Milk Hole. Here
Reel 3.02 Kodachrome 04:13 Views of the Malham Cove area. Here
Reel 3.03 Kodachrome 04:34 A hotpotch of captions, Janet's Foss, Smelt Mill Sink, Malham Cove, etc. Here
Reel 3.04 Kodachrome 04:35 The first half is footage of Ingleborough Cave, the second of Weathercote Cave. Here
Reel 3.05 Kodachrome 04:56 Shots of the glamorous blonde in Malhamdale. Goredale Scar features. Here
Reel 3.06 Kodachrome 02:58 Shots of the glamorous blonde and another lady in Chapel-le-Dale. Here
Reel 3.07 Kodachrome 03:54 Shots of Horton in Ribblesdale and Douk Gill Cave. Here
Reel 3.07a Kodachrome 01:36 Shots of the 1954-1955 archaeological excavations at site Cave Ha 3, Giggleswick Scar. Here
Reel 3.07b Kodachrome 02:21 Views from the White Scar Cave curtilage. Here
Reel 3.08 Kodachrome 03:59 Shots of the glamorous lady walking around the Turn Dub area of Ribblesdale. Here
Reel 3.09 Kodachrome 02:15 Views of Chapel-le-Dale from the Philpin Lane area with a shot of Eli Simpson himself. Here
Reel 3.10 Kodachrome 02:29 Two ladies exploring the valley floor in Chapel-le-Dale. Here
Reel 3.11 Kodachrome 02:18 Two ladies exploring the valley floor in Chapel-le-Dale. Here
Reel 3.12 Kodachrome 02:15 Footage from around Gayle Beck in Ribblehead, and from Ribblehead Viaduct. Here
Reel 3.13 Mixed 02:19 A hotpotch of surface and underground footage in monochrome and Kodachrome. Here