Rumour, mystery and wild allegations of drunkenness and debauchery surround the history of the 'Hell-Fire' caves - a labyrinth of caverns and tunnels, which runs a quarter of a mile into the hill at West Wycombe Estate.
The caves were excavated in the 1750s for the 2nd Baronet Sir Francis Dashwood of West Wycombe Park, but opinion differs as to the reason why.
The late 1840s had seen a series of poor harvests in the area, and the construction of a new road provided many under-employed farm labourers with work.
Sir Francis ordered his agent to employ as many men as wanted jobs at a shilling a day - a sign of considerable public spirit for a man of his age. In 1747 he had introduced a poor-relief Bill into the Commons recommending the relief of unemployment by such public works, but his contemporaries had taken little notice of it.