Denehole

Froxfield Hants

Sunday 2nd June 2013

“Southsea, where is that? We have all been asked at least once. Usually followed by “many caves in Hampshire are there?”
However in June 2013 we eventually managed a local trip.
Following an email from a farmer in Froxfield who had been puzzled by a small but deep hole that had opened in one of her fields Simon, Peter and Paul found themselves peering down a void one Sunday afternoon. This was rigged using a none too substantial pair of hazel trees with a back-up lifeline attached to a car and operated by John of G.C.C.

Peter Descending the Denehole

Peter Descending the Denehole

The said hole revealed a shaft in clay with numerous tree roots. The shaft dropped for about 5 metres until it widened into a chamber cut into the underlying chalk. The shaft was 15 metres in depth and at it’s widest at the bottom was 7 metres across. The whole was bottle shaped with a débris or talus cone at the centre presumably where the entrance shaft had collapsed. In the débris were pieces of masonry. One piece was removed in a tackle bag for examination on the surface, this can be seen to the left as Peter enters the shaft (picture above).

Inside the Denehole

Inside the Denehole

Talus Cone

Talus Cone

Conclusions
The cavity was probably a chalkwell or “bell pit” used to extract chalk as lime for agricultural use. This would either have been either to replace minerals leached from the soil or possibly to enrich clay soils in areas where woodland had been cleared to create fields.
The masonry was the remains of domed brick closure put in place to support the infill when the shaft was sealed once it became redundant.
For more info on deneholes/chalkwells see

http://archive.is/DzFK

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