On 28th July 2014 fifty two past and present members and friends assembled at Baskerville Hall Hotel at Clyro for a weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Croydon Caving Club. After a gathering in the bar on Friday night some early arrivals spent Saturday exploring the cafes of Hay on Wye while others walked to Cwmau Farm, a nearby National Trust property.
The main celebration was held in the Music Room at Baskerville Hall on Saturday night starting with a rare showing of the 1970 club film “Going Down in the World”. It was shot in and around Ystradfellte with underground sequences in Bridge Cave and we were all able to marvel at the youth of the participants and the fetching caving fashions of the day. It was filmed in ‘super8’ with underground lighting provided by running a power cable to flood lights in the cave from a generator on the surface. Even though the sound and image quality was poor by today’s standards, the film was a great achievement in its day. There was also a scrolling display of photos of people and events from the past projected on the wall throughout the evening.
After a buffet meal our diminutive wooden caving friend ‘Malcolm’ gave an after dinner talk with some cheeky comment on the assembled guests before our special guest, Dick Brice entertained us with some amusing stories and songs from the Forest of Dean. Martin Hatton lead a toast to the Club but the planned for grand birthday cake cutting ceremony didn't take place because everyone ate it before we got round to it! Events continued into the early hours with lots of talking, copious quantities of alcohol and an enthusiastically contested squeeze-box competition. The weekend was rounded off on Sunday when many of us took a walk up onto Hay Bluff before returning for tea at Baskerville Hall.
Clyro Court (the proper name for Baskerville Hall) was built in 1839 by Thomas Mynors Baskerville for his second wife, Elizabeth. This impressive neo-Jacobean mansion is grade II* listed retaining many fine architectural features and is set in parkland with spectacular views to the Black Mountains. Arthur Conan Doyle was a family friend and often came to stay and is said that it was during these visits that he learnt of the local legend of the hounds of the Baskervilles and translated it into probably the most famous case for his celebrated detective Sherlock Holmes. However, at the request of his friends he set the book in Devon "to ward off tourists". Since the Second World War the house has been used as a school, then a hotel and health farm, until 1984 when the present owner, David Hodby took over and undertook extensive restoration work. Croydon CCs connection with Baskerville Hall goes back a long way and its current owner was himself a past member. It has hosted various Club social events over the years, notably our Millennium celebration. One of our trustees, Colin Grange has maintained the heating system for many years.
The weekend was an excellent opportunity or the younger generations of the Club to engage with some of our past members. Thanks to everyone who came along to make the weekend the success it was and special thanks to those who contributed to the entertainment and organisation.
P.S. Graham Denton is currently working on restoring “Going Down in the World” using some unused clips and other copies that have recently come to light. We look forward to being able to view an improved version in the future.