Humanitarian as his motives may have been, it would have been cheaper and easier to use the hillside as a quarry than to laboriously scrape out 500m of tunnels linking some seven or eight chambers. And why finish it with a Gothic entrance?
|Entrance to the Hellfire Caves, West Wycombe|
|The Hellfire Caves|
500m of tunnels laboriously hacked out by hand
The association of the Hellfire Club with the Hellfire Caves is problematic. It is believed that one or two meetings may have taken place there but much of the association with the caves was made later and probably to promote tourism. But the question remains: ‘Why build the tunnels and the entrance?
We could also see West Wycombe Park, the home of Sir Francis Dashwood.
|West Wycombe Park|
|The Dashwood Mausoleum, West Wycombe Hill|
St Lawrence's Church behind the mausoleum was built, also by Sir Francis Dashwood, in 1761 though there had been religious buildings on the site since the 7th century. Questions were asked at the time why he should build a church at the top of the hill for the benefit of a village at the bottom of the hill, but it still functions as an Anglican Church, even though a more convenient alternative was built in the village in 1875. The golden ball, 8ft in diameter, can seat six, though it is currently closed and I was disappointed to see it was in such poor condition.
|The George and Dragon, West Wycombe|
I also have a feeling that houses should have a front and a back and the main entrance, whether you are important enough to use it or not, should be at the front. The entrance to West Wycombe Park feels like it is round the back, though which is back and which front is open to debate.
|Lynne sits in the entrance, West Wycombe Park|
There is some corner cutting: the marble walls of the entrance hall are marble effect wallpaper and, as at Stowe House, the ‘marble’ columns are scagliola.
|Temple of Music, West Wycombe Park|
…. and the Temple of Venus. I can only speculate about what Sir Francis intended to do in the cavern beneath the Temple, but it is a dark and dank space, so I expect he did it somewhere else.
Stowe, with which it is contemporary. The house is much smaller, the gardens have fewer pseudo-classical monuments and the view of the house across the lake is barely Championship compared with Premier League Stowe
|Fun guy - Sir Francis Dashwood in Hellfire Cub Regalia|
by Adrien Carpentiers