In 1962 Dr Antony Sutcliffe of the Natural History Museum in London persuaded the then Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves to bid at an auction of the long-disused Higher Kiln Quarry at Buckfastleigh in Devon. The bid was successful and the quarry, adjoining fields and buildings were purchased and then leased to the Devon Trust for Nature Conservation (now the Devon Wildlife Trust) with the intention that the site would be developed as a cave studies Centre.

​The principal reason for the purchase was the presence of Joint Mitnor Cave where an excavation in the 1940s and 50s had discovered the remains of animals that lived in the area over 100,000 years ago when the climate was much warmer than it is now. This cave had been recognised as one of the most important in Europe and, because of this, the whole site was later designated as  a Site of Special Scientific interest (SSSI).

The cave studies Centre was named in honour of William Pengelly and Antony Sutcliffe recruited many volunteers (cavers, geologists, palaeontologists and others) who would later form the William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust.  You can read about William Pengelly here.

​The volunteers worked to develop and extend the buildings on the site to provide a museum, teaching facilities and residential accommodation while routes through the quarry were cleared to give better access to Joint Mitnor Cave and to the other caves that had been broken into by quarrying in the 19th century.

​The Trust is managed by a Council, formed of the trustees and a Centre Executive Committee (CEC) that is responsible for the day management of the Centre. Click here for information about the Trust management.