Cambridge Underground 1988 pp 19-23

The Life and Work of C.F.D.Long

Chris Densham

Christopher Francis Drake Long was born in York in 1902 and led a short but eventful life. At Lancing College, Sussex, he was a contemporary of Evelyn Waugh, who remembers him in a school debate in 1920: "the motion was 'This house approves of mixed bathing', but they digressed about brothels and syphilis and eunuchs and abortion ad nauseam. C.F.D.Long proved a most morbid little tick with an immense knowledge on the technicalities of sex." He was remembered at Lancing fifty years later as being "inert, emotionally disturbed, unhappy, rebellious, and cyclothymic".

Long visited the Cheddar show caves with a friend while still at school, and, upon seeing people paying to see the caves, determined to find a cave of his own and open it up to the public to make money. In 1920 he went to Derbyshire caves with his lifelong friend J.H. Churchill (life not being very long for Long!). Here he taught himself techniques of caving, surveying and photography, going as far as developing photographic plates underground in Blue John Mine. He even tried climbing down the 200 feet pitch of Eldon Hole on an emergency fire escape, but fortunately poor weather stopped them.

In 1921 Long went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, to read medicine, and his friend J.H.Churchill went to Trinity College to read engineering. Here he almost immediately set up the first caving club in Cambridge, the 'Troglodytes', the predecessor to the Cambridge University Caving Club. The Troglodytes suffered, as does the CUCC, from being hundreds of miles from the nearest caves, so the inventive Long forced his members to train by crawling through the drains of Cambridge. This tradition continues today, though for possibly different reasons than merely training (see article on Reeking Hole).

In his first Christmas vacation, Long made a solo visit to what was then known of Stump Cross Caves, a show cave between Grassington and Pately bridge, and in a few hours was convinced that he could make the cave 'go'. In the Easter vac, he returned with the Troglodytes, the party consisting of Long, Churchill, G.E.Barton (Caius), Eric C.Sugden (Sydney Sussex) and D.Barnsley (St.John's, Oxford). They suffered from the age-old reluctance of students to part unnecessarily with their money and created the 'Ark', a huge box containing sixteen hundredweight of food and caving gear. This travelled free with the group up from York as 'personal luggage' on the train. It was carried a respectable distance from the station before wheels were fixed to it thus turning it into a vehicle, which would have cost a fee to travel on the train from the N.Eastern Railway company.

The five dragged the Ark to the entrance of Stump Cross, and began a remarkable 168 hour caving trip with an uncomfortable but very economic night sleeping in the cave. The team 'penetrated' 240 feet of passage including at least 30 feet of digging through clay before Long came across a drafting hole which was followed by 1500 feet of large and well decorated passage. A party from Leeds University then arrived, and apparently without much difficulty managed to persuade the Cambridge party to make a "return to the fleshpots" of a nearby village. This proved too much for the stamina of at least two of them, and signalled the end of cave exploration for that vacation.

When Summer came Christopher Long returned to Yorkshire to continue pushing Stump Cross with the help of Churchill, Barton, L.H.Collins, J.W.Putrell of Sheffield, 'the Grand Old Man of Derbyshire Potholing' and R.F.A.Flintoff. He surmounted an 11" by 7" squeeze and then three of them nearly came to grief in a forty feet deep rift. According to the Caian of 1922, '...the somewhat excessive weight of one member of the party tried a wedged rock beyond its limits of endurance, with the result that it split, and man and rock went hurtling down on two of the party vertically below. By a miracle all three escaped and only one, who received the greater half of the rock, sustained any injuries ... the name of Calamity Canyon stands as a reminder." This is now known as the Dissected Area.

Towards the end of July 1922, using a cottage at Greenhow as a base, Long, together with some 'volunteers' from Leeds University, spent six weeks on the painstaking task of surveying the new system. These were "weeks of heart-rending toil where progress was desperately slow, and the conditions of work often excruciating. Frequently it involved standing in water some six degrees above freezing point for hour after weary hour. With one's head and back bent forward by the low roof, and with the water up to one's waist, one held chain, compass, candle and note-book, took offsets and bearings, and entered them as one stumbled forward."

Long, with his eye on the prospect of a lucrative show cave, kept a high profile with the press, giving many interviews to 'The Yorkshire Post' on the latest developments in Stump Cross, and on one occasion, he took a reporter on a tour of the cave. Having eventually roused Long from his bed early in the afternoon with much hammering on the front door, the reporter goes on to say: "Speleologists do not wash much, perhaps once a week, and they do not shave, and it was a curious figure which unbarred the door for me - arms yellow, legs yellow, face yellow; and I venture to state that the striped rug which he wore draped about his shoulders was a covering for a body which was yellow from top to bottom. A few hours later I knew what the yellow was, and I also knew what a monstous amount of soap and hot water was needed to rid the skin of its clay integument."

After a ten month period of no caving, Long and Churchill moved to Ingleton and on the ninth of August, 1923, discovered the resurgence of what is now known as White Scar Cave. They negotiated a long, low wet crawl which they resolved to blast open. Work progressed well, amid much flowery press coverage from the Yorkshire Post, until their money ran out and Long suddenly died on the eighth of September 1924. He appeared to have suffered from manic depression all his life, and according to the Coroner's Inquest (reported in the Craven Herald), died of an overdose of chloral hydrate, which he used as a sleeping draught. No evidence was found to show whether it was taken accidentally or with the intention of causing death, but the country undoubtedly lost one of its most outstanding cavers.

The Work of C.F.D.Long

Unfortunately, according to S.A.Craven (C.P.C.), after his death most of Long's papers were burnt by the wife of one of his colleagues. However, his surveys of Stump Cross survive and are in the possession of CUCC; an idea of the quality of his work is given over the next few pages. The whole of the cave known at that time is detailed over a number of pages of surveys, of which the one of the Dissected Area (Calamity Canyon) is shown. The numbers correspond to a key of names given by Long et al. The surveys were produced in three colours, so some of the information is lost in the black aud white photocopy, but it is still possible to appreciate the care to which Long went to accurately depict the type of passage he was in.

The cave passage is shown only in plan view, with changes in level represented by letters to signify an "aven", "canyon" or "swallet" (there are no indications of exactly how Long used these terms). There are no clues to any vertical distances or cross sections. Instead, much effort was spent in trying to represent the shape of the passage on a 2D survey. Different colours and different types of line differentiate between a 'scar in rock' and a 'scar in silt', and between a 'contour in silt' and a 'contour in stalagmite'; still and flowing water are also differentiated.

Long appears to have entirely taught himself this advanced standard of cave surveying; although the Caian makes reference to the party from Leeds University following a surveying course at the village of Hebden, it is not known if this had any relevance to cave surveying. Also included is a copy of the complete survey of Stump Cross at that time, compared with the relevant parts of a modern survey, reproduced with the kind permission of G.M.Davies and the Dalesman Printing Company.


The Caian (1922) pp 29-34
Yorkshire Post (19 April 1922) p 6
Yorkshire Evening Post (22 September 1922)
Yorkshire Post (24 August 1923)
Craven Herald (12 September 1924)
S.A.Craven (1975) J.Craven Pothole Club 5 (3), 1975, pp 128-131
N.Reckert (1972) Cambridge Underground pp 35-40

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