The Devon Karst Research Society.

The Homepages for the
Cattedown, Plymouth, Devon, England, U.K.


Text revised on 27 May 2003.
Mr Robert Burnard was one of the joint owners of Messrs Burnard, Lack and Alger's Chemical Fertilizer Works at Cattedown. [For the interest of local residents, this was a precursor to the more recent Fison's Fertilizer works.]
Mr Burnard seemed to be the principal stock-holder of the Company and oversaw the rapid growth of his Company at Cattedown. After the expansion of his wharves at Cattedown in 1886, during which R.N. Worth's Bone Cave was found, limestone blasting operations taking place in Messrs. Sparrow's Carpenter Rock Quarry to the west of his property, led to the discovery over a period of time and on several occasions, of further ossiferous deposits within caves that were accidentally encountered.
During this time, Mr Burnard was also a Member of various local Institutions and Societies, including the Plymouth Institution and the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art. In the latter Institution, he served for a period as the Chairman of its "Committee on Scientific Memoranda". He was a well-known naturalist, so, if anything of "scientific interest" were found in the district, he had arranged that he should be contacted immediately.
Mr Lewis Sparrow duly alerted Mr Burnard to the accidental discovery of a new cave [to be known shortly after as Burnard's Cattedown Bone Cave] within the Carpenter Rock Quarry and containing ossiferous deposits.
It was at the Meeting of the Association at Torrington in August 1899 that he produced his single, known report on any of his encounters with the discovery of fossil bones in the caves at Cattedown. The Report was subsequently published by the Association in Volume 31. (Vol. 1. New Series) of its Reports and Transactions on pages 91-92. under the sub-Heading "VI. Palaeontology".
For completeness, we now reproduce the full text of his Report to the Devonshire Association in August 1899. Editor's notes, comments or clarifications are enclosed in square parentheses.

"Animal Bones Found at Cattedown, near Plymouth.

"During the spring of this year a small deposit of bones and teeth were discovered in a cavity in the limestone of Messrs. Sparrow's Carpenter Rock Quarry, Cattedown, Plymouth.
"The cavity was disclosed by blasting operations, and as soon as the bones were observed, I was communicated with and had the hollow cleared out and collected the animal remains, which were embedded in clay. These were forwarded to Professor Stewart, FRS., of the Royal College of Surgeons, who kindly identified and enumerated them as follows :-

..........10 teeth  Hyæna spelæa.  [Cave Hyaena].
...........3 teeth  Rhinoceros antiquitatus.  [Woolly Rhinoceros].
...........7 teeth  Bos primigenius.  [Great Fossil Ox].
...........5 teeth  Cervus elaphus.  [Red Deer].
...........1 Mandible of Hyæna spelæa.  [Cave Hyaena].
...........4 bones of  Equus caballus.  [Horse].
...........8 fragments of bones of ditto. [Horse].
...........3 bones  Bos primigenius.  [Great Fossil Ox].
...........1 Maxilla of  Hyæna spelæa (2).  [Cave Hyaena].
..........21 teeth of  Equus caballus.  [Horse].

"In addition to the above there were seven or eight pounds' weight [3.5 - 4.0 kg] of bones which were too fragmentary to be recognised.
"The cavity in which the find was made was small, three to four feet [0.9 - 1.2 metre] square, and it lay fifty to sixty feet [15 - 18 metres] below the grass surface and five to six feet [1.5 - 1.8 metres] above high-water mark.
"Communicating with the cavity from the surface was a distinct fault or cleft in the rock, through which these relics of a far distant past must have been washed.

(signed) "Robert Burnard"
The location of Messrs. Sparrow's Carpenter Rock Quarry and the position of "Burnard's Cattedown Bone Cave" within it, can be found in Section 1.  The location is still in existence and is further detailed in its modern context in Section 17.0. of the Cattedown Bone Caves Webpages.
We are of the opinion that the fossil finds detailed above have now become mixed up with much of the surviving material from "Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave", as presently curated by the Plymouth City Museum and as detailed in the Worth Catalogue. The reason for this is as follows.
An inspection of the Accession Cards held by the Plymouth City Museum on 20 May 2003 led to the discovery of those which exactly correspond to the above list of fossils. Hand-written details on the Accession Cards indicate that the fossil bones listed above, from "Burnard's Cattedown Bone Cave", were donated to the City Museum by Lewis Sparrow on 6th February 1899 at the same time that Burnard himself donated a substantial quantity of his personal Bone Collection derived from "Worth's Cattedown Bone Cave" in 1886-87. The Accession Numbers of the Lewis Sparrow donation [1346 - 1356] numerically follow on from those of Burnard's donation [1272-1345], and in storing the two donations together they have subsequently become intermixed.
Additionally, the dates on the Accession Cards of both donations are hand-written thus " 6. II. 99. ". We are assuming that the " II. " equates to the month of "February" and not "November". An inspection of the Museum's "Accessions Register" in due course, should clarify this point.

A catalogue of the Lewis Sparrow donation, derived from "Burnard's Cattedown Bone Cave" situated within Messrs. Sparrow's Carpenter Rock Quarry, can be found in Section 6.0. of the Cattedown Bone Caves Webpages.


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