AN EXHIBITION highlighting the history of one of the most famous caves in the Yorkshire Dales has been officially opened.

Victoria Cave near Settle was discovered 175 years ago this year.

Major excavations were carried out in the 19th century but the thick clay deposits in it are still providing scientists with an amazing record of climate change across the Dales over hundreds of thousands of years.

A 130,000-year-old hippo and elephant and hyena bones were recovered by the Victorians along with evidence that it was used by the Romans, possibly as a shrine.

In fact, the cave is considered to be so important that it has been classified as a scheduled monument and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The exhibition – called ‘Victoria Cave revisited’ – is being staged in the Museum of North Craven Life in The Folly in Settle. It was opened on Friday by Carl Lis, the chairman of Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), which owns the cave.

It is part of a wider project called ‘Geo Dales’, which aims to maximise the environmental and socio-economic benefits of geodiversity in the National Park and in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The project is being run by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) and is funded by the YDNPA’s Sustainable Development Fund.

Work within the National Park includes developing a new geological trail between Winskill Stones-Victoria Cave and Attermire Scars near Langcliffe.

This will involve a number of key partnerships and community groups including Ingleborough Archaeology Group, Rockwatch Group, British Cave Research Association, North Craven Heritage, Plantlife, Natural England Cave Conservation Project, Local Field Societies and the YDNPA.

The project also involves some conservation/management work at Victoria Cave and Winskill Stones managed by YDNPA staff.

The exhibition consists of 10 panels – including one illustrating the valuable work of the Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation – and some of the artefacts found in the cave.

In addition, Tom Lord, whose grandfather rescued much of the Victorian archive and finds, will give a talk, 'Victoria Cave: a Neglected Monument of Victorian Science', on 14 July. Tickets can be purchased in advance from The Folly or by phoning 01729 822893.

Robert White, the YDNPA’s Senior Historic Environment Officer, said: “As well as showcasing some of these finds, the exhibition illustrates the continuing significance of the cave – in the nineteenth-century it attracted influential academics and explorers and triggered a lively interest in archaeology among the townspeople.“