The Restoration of Main’s Barn, Priddy

The new changing area floor, Main’s Barn.

The old stone barn on the edge of Priddy Green, Somerset, has been used by cavers for many decades, and by 2023 was in serious need of having some restoration work done. Peter Burgess reports.

We are pleased to report the completion of the restoration work to Main’s Barn, Manor Farm, Priddy in Somerset. This work was funded by a grant from The Mendip Hills Fund of the Somerset Community Foundation.




The work commenced in December 2023, and took place over several weekends, involving volunteers from the caving community. Wayne Starsmore describes how the job unfolded.

“The existing floor was both rotten and dangerous, and four layers of flooring were removed including the original wooden floorboards. Two old water tanks also had to be removed. All this work revealed a fair number of rotten joists. These were replaced, and the remaining joists were strengthened. All the old nails had to be removed and new flooring sheets of good quality marine ply were cut to size. These were then screwed into place and the joints sealed with mastic. The entire area of new flooring was then given two thick coats of garage floor paint, each cost taking some seven days to fully dry. In the meantime, the staircase up to the changing rooms was re-engineered and strengthened.”

A series of photos showing the work as it progressed can be found below.

A special thank you is due to Alan Butcher for planning and overseeing the work. Others involved in the project include Darren Chapman, Brendan Hanley, Anthony Butcher, Pete Hann, Nigel Graham, Chris George, Simon Richardson, Dave King, Barry Wilkinson, Claire Starsmore, Wayne Starsmore, Pete Hellier, Aidan Harrison, Mark Easterling, Frank Tully, Dave Cundy, Merry Matthews, Elaine Oliver, and Zac Woodford.

To end this good news story, here is a little history of the barn, from the caver’s perspective.

Swildon’s Hole entrance lies across the fields of Manor Farm, which has been owned by the Main family for as long as anyone can remember. Indeed, much of the cave lies below the farm. The history of exploration of Swildon’s Hole is therefore very much tied up with the cooperative relationship between the Main family and cavers. The barn at Manor Farm on Priddy Green has been used by cavers for many decades. A fascinating glimpse into the 1950s caving scene can be found in the recollections of Malcolm Cotter of the Mendip Caving Group, who recalls paying one shilling a night to the farmer to stay in the barn while caving on a 36-hour weekend pass while serving in the Royal Air Force. There was a small fireplace, all cooking was done on paraffin stoves, and lighting was by candles. Water came from the continually flowing Priddy Fountain just across the road on the green. Milk and eggs were available from the farm. To discover more, I thoroughly recommend the Mendip Caving Group occasional publication No.5, where these recollections may be read in full.

Many of us will have memories of using this changing area. Linda Wilson recalls: “In the early 80s after a trip to sump one and back, a few of us were changing upstairs. A voice called out something from below that we didn’t quite hear so one of my female companions wandered to the head of the stairs (naked). The teenage boy scout promptly fell down the stairs. None of them came up to change! We never did work out what they asked.”

The following images capture the work at various stages from stripping out to completion.

Report by Peter Burgess and photos by Wayne Starsmore