Lying a quarter of a mile under West Wycombe Hill, these ancient caves are said to have been extended in the 1750’s by Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd Baronet and founder of the infamous Hellfire Club. Locals were employed to hand-carve the caves as many harvests had failed and there were no jobs in the area. Francis Dashwood wanted to be different, no-one else had ventured underground. The caves and tunnels still bear remnants of the fact they were made by candle light and simple tools. Pick axe marks still remain on the walls.
This remarkable underground network soon became the meeting place for the Hellfire Club. The caves and tunnels consist of the glorious Banquet Hall, Franklin’s Cave, Miner’s Cave and the Inner Temple and are reportedly haunted by a number of ghosts of which sightings are recorded regularly. Visited by ‘Most Haunted’ and ‘Ghost Hunters’, and featured on Great British Ghosts in January 2012, Hellfire Caves are steeped in history and hauntings.
The caves were refurbished in the late 1940’s to early 1950’s by the 11th Baronet, Francis Dashwood. The most famous ghosts are notably Benjamin Franklin who was a predominant visitor to the caves in the 1750’s, Paul Whitehead who was a keeper of the Hellfire Club and ‘Sukie’ a 16 year old maid. Paul Whitehead’s ghost has been seen by staff and visitors wearing old-fashioned clothes and wandering the caves. It is said that when he died his heart was placed in a marble urn at his request and displayed in the caves.
Sukie, meanwhile, was a 16 year old maid who was much admired by many local men. She started dating an aristocrat who then sent her a message asking her to meet him in the caves wearing a wedding dress. It turned out to be a hoax by three of the village boys who ended up killing her with stones. Staff and visitors have reported seeing her in her wedding dress wandering the caves and the inn nearby.