Wells and Mendip Museum Exhibition: Out of Time: Underground Mendip

H.E. Balch’s drawing of the Eastwater boulder choke.

Wells and Mendip Museum plan to delve deep into the pioneering days of British caving in an exhibition that will run from 6th July to 7th September 2024.

A new exhibition, Out of Time: Underground Mendip, will connect early 20th century quests for archaeological and geological knowledge with current environmental concerns. This exhibition connects the pioneering works of Herbert Balch, John Hassall, and Harry Savory, who unravelled the mysteries of Mendip caves, with new contemporary works by Ben Rivers and Emma Stibbon, aiming to inspire others to imagine the future of this subterranean world.

At the heart of the project is a series of black and white pen and ink drawings by the museum’s founder, Herbert E Balch, whose motto, Search and Learn, has been borrowed by a wider heritage-funded programme. Balch’s drawings from the 1900s, shown for the first time in this exhibition, result from a relentless investigation into how the caves have been formed and used by humans for 45,000 years. The documents have an urgency and directness that reflect hours of physical endeavour to pioneer the discovery of Swildon’s Hole, Priddy (1901), Eastwater Cavern, Wells (1902) and Wookey Hole (1906). The 1914 publication Wookey Hole: its Cave and Cave Dwellers was the culmination of years of research by Herbert Balch in collaboration with the photographer Harry Savory and the graphic artist John Hassall. This book will be displayed alongside examples of the three artists’ work and archaeological specimens.

The exhibition curator is Josephine Lanyon.

Source: Wells and Mendip Museum Newsletter for June/July 2024