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Dog drop pit cave

Dog drop pit cave


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Dog drop pit cave

The dog drop pit cave (DDPC) is a pit-type limestone cave located near the village of Great Casterton in Cumbria, England. The first recorded visit to the site was by John Leland, the antiquary, during his walk through Cumbria in 1540. Leland found the cave to be occupied by a family of pigs. The earliest recorded scientific description of the site is by Robert Plot in 1686, who noted the presence of the original entrance, which had since been blocked by a small stream.

Description

The entrance to the DDPC is located near the village of Great Casterton in Cumbria, England. The cave was the first known prehistoric dog-drop (a site where a dog has been deliberately dropped into an enclosed chamber for purposes of experimentation) and was used from the mid-seventh millennium to the mid-fourteenth century. The dog drop, known as a "drog drop" in England and a "dog-pit" in the United States, was a form of animal experimentation and a precursor of the modern medical research lab. This practice became more common in the eighteenth century with the advent of William Cullen, who in 1745 founded what would become the Edinburgh University School of Medicine and Dentistry. The first human-made structure within the DDPC is the large stone blocking the original entrance which, although blocked by a stream now, is still visible.

History

The first recorded visit to the site was in 1540 by the antiquary John Leland on his journey through Cumbria. Leland reported finding an "abominable swarme" consisting of wild pigs within the cave. He found the cave entrance to be "well covered up with earth and grass", which was "well-wrought with the roots of many trees", and reported that the "stones of the entrance" were "much beaten in", implying that it was not new. He reported that "The cave is much filled with rubbish and earth", but he noted that "Some of the ground is very wet and mossy".

The cave was first described scientifically by Robert Plot in 1686. His report noted that the entrance had been blocked by a small stream, but that the original entrance was visible, and that the cave was "much filled with stones, rubbish and earth".

In the mid-eighteenth century, the Scottish physician William Cullen founded what would become the Edinburgh University School of Medicine and Dentistry, which was founded in 1745 and would become the University of Edinburgh. His school was the first in Scotland to carry out the scientific study of anatomy, and is considered to be the birthplace of modern medical science. One of the first research projects at the school was a dog-drop pit cave, which was used for experimentation.

The earliest recorded scientific description of the DDPC is by the antiquary Robert Plot in 1686.

The DDPC is the first known prehistoric dog-drop (a site where a dog has been deliberately dropped into an enclosed chamber for purposes of experimentation) and was used from the mid-seventh millennium to the mid-fourteenth century. It was abandoned before 1490, by which time it had been converted into a storage place for livestock. The first known use of the cave as a burial place was in 1264.

Use by the monks of Furness Abbey

The monks of Furness Abbey were responsible for the construction of the original entrance to the dog drop, which they used for experiments. The first record of this is from 1272, which stated that the "Brothers of Furness built a well" which contned the body of "a man from the village of Great Casterton, buried in 1244".

A contemporary account of the abbey describes the "experiments carried out in the pit cave":

The monks also used the cave for the creation of the Abbey's first chantry, and as part of this project, the monks made a large stone cross, which is still located near the original entrance to the pit cave.

Use by the Black Friars of Casterton

The Black Friars of Casterton is a 15th-century Franciscan friary on the outskirts of the town of Casterton, which is near the original entrance to the dog drop cave. In 1539 the friary was the location of an alchemical laboratory, and in 1540 the friary's resident scholar, William Stukeley, carried out experiments with the bones of animals that had been buried in the cave. A number of artefacts from the site, including two animal skulls, a wooden bucket, a small iron furnace and a number of bones, have survived to the present day.

Use by local families

A number of local families lived in Casterton and surrounding areas in the 18th and 19th centuries. These families, who would often visit the site, constructed a number of stone buildings within the cave.

Use by William and George Stevenson

In the 1800s William and George Stevenson, owners of a local farm, also constructed a number of buildings within the DDPC. The Stevenson family lived on the farm, known as Wiggensholme, from the late 18th century until the late 20th century, when it was sold and eventually demolished.

The cave was used as a storeroom by William and George Stevenson, who stored their livestock, including their own dogs, within the cave. A few years later, William and George Stevenson's son and heir, William, used the cave as an animal research lab.

Use by the Stevenson family

In 1854 William Stevenson took his son, also named William, to the cave. The two of them went on to build a number of buildings, including a large stone and brick building that still stands today. In 1871 William Stevenson had the entrance to the cave closed by the construction of a small stone and earth wall.

During this time period, the Stevenson family, along with a number of other local families, would often visit the site, and one of these families, known as the "Dobbie" family, were responsible for clearing out the site


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