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

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations…your blog is included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thank you, Chris
    Loving 'travelling' along with you..


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