Descending down into the caves

Clearwell Caves are amongst the earliest and one of the last producers of ochre (natural earth pigment) in the British Isles. Ochre is thought to have been mined here for more than 7000 years (since the Middle Stone Age) although we have stone tools dated to 4,500 years ago. Ochre pigment is found as a soft deposit intermingled with harder crystalline iron ore.

Until the 1930's Forest of Dean mines were famous for good quality, rich pigments, particularly shades of red and purple. Purple ochre is an unusual natural earth pigment, similar colours are usually only available in synthetic forms. The mines at Clearwell were well known for the quality and wide range of ochre colours available. Yellow, orange, brown, red and purple ochre is still mined here; dug by hand, using simple tools much as the ancient miners would have done. After careful sieving, the ochre is either washed, or milled.

Prices: yellow, brown, red and purple ochres.

  • 15ml £4.95
  • 60ml £17.00
  • 120ml £32.00
  • 250ml £55.00

VAT @20% included, P&P is to be added at cost.

Due to the natural variations that occur with ochres, we are unable to ensure specific colours can be produced or repeated. We therefore recommend that people chose pigment by visiting our shop and buy sufficient to complete the work in hand, if a more consistent colour is required.

Descending down into the caves

Samples of ochre

Ochre colours vary from pocket to pocket, we maintain the variety and uniqueness of colour from each natural pocket where possible. This means that we cannot produce standard swatches for our pigments. Choose from the range available in the mine shop, or telephone to discuss requirements.

The use of natural ochres is ecologically sound, requires no chemical processing. Ochres are harmless to living things and will eventually return to where they originated - the Earth, with no adverse effects.

Ochre can be mixed with any artist's medium, whether oil, water based or acrylic, and is widely recognised as being one of the most light fast and permanent of pigments.

We have several documents related to our ochre available here for download:-