People seem to either love or to dislike caves. We’ve used them as homes and for storage. Used natural ones and we’ve made new ones. Some people find them foreboding. Perhaps it’s the darkness or the stories of supernatural beings and devilish goings on. It might stem from some prehistoric memory of trying to use a cave and finding it occupied by an annoyed bear. I like caves and the recent warm weather reminds that caves near the Earth’s surface are usually cooler than the outside environment. Here we have three quite different sandstone caves.
This first is a small cave originally on two levels. Much smaller now than it was when Mad Allen made it his home in the nineteenth century, due to the collapse of the roof.
Since the advent of wikipedia the cave is often associated with John Harris who also made a cave his home. This seems to be because Harris was said to have moved to “Allenscomb’s Cave”. There are no records of the cave at Bickerton Hill having that name, indeed the earliest records of it having a name are two hundred years after Harris’ time. Very little seems to be known about Allen except that he lived here and when the cave is first named it is as a result of his occupation.
The second cave is man-made.
The sandstone was extracted from Beech quarry by the stall and pillar method. Much of the stone is likely to have been used in the building of Trentham ‘New’ Hall. Estate documents record payments for stone to be carried from Beech to the Hall in 1633 and then small quantities in the next few years. An unconfirmed rumour suggests the caves were used to store munitions in WWII but there is no actual evidence to support this. The caves were certainly used by the Home Guard. Today they are used by the local youths for parties. These youths will tell you stories of a coven that meets there and that there is a pentagram on the floor.
The last of todays caves are natural but were exposed by quarrying activity.
Probably the most interesting of this small set as it’s unusual to have such easy access to sandstone caves that were shaped by an underground river. The shapes are reminiscent of those you’d see in limestone caves. I’ve no idea if anyone has ever lived in these but the cattle, normally in the field below, make use of them for shelter. There is much evidence of the local youths using them for parties but much less litter and obscene graffiti on the walls.
A few years ago two lads went to explore the caves and found the decayed remains of a local man who had been missing for some time. The cause of death was never ascertained due to the condition of the remains.