1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mendip Hills

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MENDIP HILLS, a range in the north of Somersetshire, England. Using the name in its widest application, the eastern boundary of the range may be taken to be formed by the upper valleys of the rivers Frome and Brue, and the depression between them. The range extends from these north-westward with a major axis of about 23 m., while the outliers of Wavering Down and Bleadon Hill continue it towards the shore of the Bristol Channel. The range is generally about 6 m. in width, and its total area about 130 sq. m. Its south-western face descends to the low “moors” or marshes drained by the Axe and other streams, the small towns of Axbridge, Cheddar and Wells lying at the foot of the hills. Towards the north-east its limits are less clearly defined, for high ground, intersected by narrow vales, extends as far as the valley of the Avon. A depression, followed by the road between Radstock and Wells, strikes across the range about its centre; the principal elevations lie west of this, and to the area thus defined the name of the Mendips is sometimes restricted. The summit of the hills is a gently swelling plateau, which extends its extreme height in the north—1068 ft. The Mendips consist principally of Carboniferous Limestone. Fine cliffs and scars occur on the flanks of the plateau, as in the gorge of Cheddar, and there is a wonderful series of caverns, the result of water action. The surface of the plateau is often broken by deep holes (“swallets”) into which streams flow. Some of the caves, such as those as Cheddar, are easy of access, and attract many visitors owing to the beauty of the stalactitic formations; others, of greater extent and grandeur, have only been explored, or partly explored, with great difficulty. Some caves have yielded large quantities of animal remains (hyaenas, bears and others) together with traces of prehistoric human occupation. Among such Wookey Hole, where the river Axe issues from the foot of a cliff, may be mentioned. Lead was worked among the Mendips at a very early period. Some of the Roman workings, especially in the neighbourhood of Charterhouse-on-Mendip, have yielded pigs of lead inscribed with the names of emperors of the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., together with an abundance of smaller objects.

See E. Baker and H. Balch, The Netherworld of Mendip (Clifton, 1907).