Wednesday 22 May 2019

Hellfire on a sunny day

A gothic facade, chalk tunnels and a mausoleum
Entrance to the caves

Such was the vision that greeted us on arriving at West Wycombe on this sunny May morning. We descended into the chalk tunnels to learn of their history and the characters involved.  Long winding passages led us downward with side passages revealing the history of the excavations funded by the Baronet of Dashwood to build a road to High Wycombe back in 1750 after the failure of local harvests in the three preceding years.
Chalk was chipped and then taken by wheelbarrow through these narrow passages up to the surface. The men were paid a shilling a day. It is unclear why  the chalk was mined in this manner with the creation of the long passages and culminating in a grand central hall. It seems that he was working to create a new phenomenon underground while others built their follies above ground.

The Hell-fire club from which the caves take their name had been established by Sir Francis Dashwood firstly with the name of the Knights of Sir Francis but as the meetings became more ribald through the years, the underground chambers were more suitable for secrecy than an above ground venue.

High above the caves the Dashwood Mausoleum stands atop the hill. The hexagonal structure is open air with iron gates barring entrance to mere mortals. The scale of the structure dwarfs us as we trudge uphill.
  This enormous structure is made of walls covered in flint and internally there are arches and niches to contain urns and busts of the deceased. 


The tower of the church of St Lawrence rises behind the Mausoleum and is topped with a golden orb which can be seen as one approaches the town.
A graveyard full of ancient markers surrounds the church. 

On descent into the village we see that here is a medieval centre not adapted to tourists as it retains it charms of old.

An enjoyable day out shared with family - my husband, daughter and son-in-law.

Further details about West Wycombe attractions 
Wikipedia Hellfire Caves
Dashwood Mausoleum

Saturday 11 May 2019

A pathway to indexing

Local History Preserved

Volunteers at Cooroy Noosa Genealogical & Historical Group have created a new index. Over the last 20 years the members of the Group have collected and collated a wide range of historical documents, photos and newspaper clippings about the residents and events in the local Cooroy region and its surrounding districts in the Noosa Shire, Queensland.

These collections are housed in folders which until now have been of limited use except for those with amazing local knowledge. The scope of the collection covers the early days of the region up to and including local living legends from the last twenty years. It has been the long term intention of the group to provide a comprehensive index to these materials and now that the new Heritage Centre has been planned, paid for from extensive fundraising efforts, built and occupied for two years, the time for this undertaking has come.

Driven by stalwarts of the group, Bev Warner and Margaret Rickard, a planning meeting was held, the data fields decided and templates developed. I held an introductory session to indexing which was well attended by a representative body of members. A core group of six volunteers have commenced this task. We view this task as an ongoing one which may take several years to complete given the size of the collection.

In order to provide ongoing funding for the group it has been decided to publish a limited selection of the data to the public website so that further information about the resources can be sought through the group’s research services, or by visiting the centre for full access to the records indexed. The data fields include:

  • Surname
  • First name/Initial
  • Date
  • Business/ Organisation
  • Town/Location
  • Subject/Occasion
  • Media
  • Notes
  • Source
  • Shelf location
The data provided on the web includes these three fields:
  • Surname
  • First name/Initial
  • Subject

Indexers have been provided with a range of templates in versions of Word, Excel, Writer and Calc along with a Google Form for those who may choose to enter data directly online. Not all fields will have data for each item.  Data is compiled into a master spreadsheet and stored in the Group's Google Drive and is also housed on local external hard drives.

In only one month of indexing almost 700 items have been added. These include newspapers articles that are not on Trove, local ephemera such as business receipts from the 1930s and much more. As more folders are indexed the data will be progressively updated. This new index is a valuable addition to the Group's research capabilities and will be a treasure trove of information for future historians and genealogists. If you had ancestors or relatives in this area, take a look at our newly minted local resources index or visit the Heritage Centre in Cooroy to learn more.

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