Victoria Cave is located above Langdale near Settle, Yorkshire and nowadays forms a gaping hole in the lower part of Attermire Scar.
The cave itself is somewhat uninspiring, the floor is strewn with fallen boulders and blocks of limestone and there are hardly any of those nice stalactites, stalagmites and other flowstone formations usually associated with Dales caves.
Mud abounds in the small passages in the inner part of the cave, and it is in this mud, mud, glorius mud that we find a clue to the real significance of Victoria Cave.
The cave formed by solution of the Lower Carboniferous Great Scar Limestone many hundreds of thousands of years ago and it was occupied by spotted hyenas in an interglacial around 130,000 to 120,000 years ago. The bones of unfortunate hippo and rhino were trapped in the mud along with their dead predators. Between 120,000 and 12,000 years ago, the last glacial episode saw the cave filled with glacial deposits (mainly clay from meltwaters). At the end of the glacial period, as the glaciers retreated, Brown bears took up residence in the cave, and the first humans arrived to the dales with their harpoons. In more recent times, the cave was used for worship by the Romano-British in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, then by foxes and badgers until Victorian times. The cave was rediscovered in 1837 when a dog was sent in after a fox and between 1867 and 1878 the cave was subject to intense excavation and hundreds of tons of materian were dug out by hand and dumped outside the cave. The main excavations commenced in 1870 supervised by Sir William Boyd dawkins and R.H. Tiddeman (a famous geologist after whom the striking “Tiddeman’s Breccia” of the Craven Basin is named). So it was in the mud that the real treasures, the bones of Victoria Cave were to be found. Exploration of Victoria and other caves in the area did not cease with the Victorian excavations, and the famous Tot Lord (and in particular his good friend and cave explorer Eli Simpson) and the Pig Yard Club played an important role in bringing to light many archaeological treasures from the caves of the settle area.