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Celebrating Hampshire's Historians

Cave, Charles (‘Charlie’) John Phillip

1871 - 1950

Captain Charles Cave FRAS, FSA was a man of many parts - an officer during WWI, a notable meteorologist, astronomer and a church historian. Much of his work stemmed from his interest in and technical skills with early telephotography. His term in the Meteorological Section of the Royal Engineers led him to take many photographs of clouds, giving him the skills later in life to take more than 8,000 photographs of the roof carvings of medieval churches and cathedrals, including Winchester Cathedral. He also measured the orientation of a large number of churches and discovered that only 103 of 642 were strictly east-west (which is perhaps not surprising in view of the crudity of early compasses). Archives of his documents and photographs can be found at the Society of Antiquaries, the National Monuments Records and the Conway Library of the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.

At the age of 27 he inherited Ditcham Park, Buriton, near Petersfield (now a school), where he carried out experiments with balloons to measure humidity and temperature in the upper atmosphere. From 1909 he was active locally in Petersfield in the Red Cross and other charitable work, together with his wife Wihelmina (‘Mimi’).

His work on the roof bosses of Winchester Cathedral was published in academic journals (Archaeologia, Antiquaries Journal) and in book form, and has attracted later studies, published in the Winchester Cathedral Record, where some of his photos can be found.



Charles Cave

Courtesy of Buriton Heritage Archive

Contribution to county’s history

Heraldic analysis of the roof bosses of Winchester Cathedral, which he photographed, has helped to date some of the work, as well as being of interest in its own right.

Relevant published works

  • Cave, C, 1940, Telephotography and Spotlights as Aids to the Study of Antiquities, Presidential Address to HFC April 30th 1940

  • Cave, JCP and Gordon, Edward, 1976, The Roof Bosses of Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Friends of Winchester Cathedral

  • Carpenter Turner, WJ, The Presbytery, Winchester Cathedral Record, 1950, No. 19: 4-8

  • Wagstaff, P, The royal bosses on the Presbytery roof, Winchester Cathedral Record, 2005, No. 74: 17-26

Critical Comments

He used his technical skills to record aspects of ecclesiastical history and thereby provided material for further interpretation by scholars.

Other Comments

He is an excellent example of how skills from some non-historical activity can be harnessed in understanding the past.


Barry Shurlock, 25 July 2022


Winchester Cathedral, roof bosses, telephotography

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