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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
25th May 1905 Born today: Binnie Barnes, London, actress (Adv of Marco Polo, Diamond Jim)
25th May 1878 Gilbert/Sullivans opera HMS Pinafore, premieres in London
Jack Cade's Cavern
The location of the last known entrance to Jack Cade's Caverns.
Location: 77 Maidenstone Hill, Greenwich, London
Description: There are cavern's underneath this area, very old and very colourful caverns. They were created by chalk quarriors, or limeburners who in the 17th century dug out enormous quantities of the chalk. So much so that one William Steers, in 1677, was fined the large amount of 40 for undermining the Kings Highway (Blackheath Hill) and causing wagons to overturn.
In 1780, a builder uncovered the vertical entrance, and realising he had stumbled on a goldmine (almost) he built a cottage at the entrance and cut 40 steps into the side of the cave. He then charged sixpence for admission and the caverns soon became a fashionable curiosity.
However, business came to an abrupt halt after a 19-year-old girl, Lucy Talbot, was overcome by noxious fumes in the well chamber and was carried fainting into the open air where she died shortly afterwards.
Because of this sad event a ventilation shaft was cut by the proprietor and a pair of bellows installed which circulated fresh air.
Things picked up again, a chandelier was hung from the roof, a bar was built in the largest cavern and it was used for drinking parties. There were lurid stories of unclothed lady dancers and, human nature being what it is, these gatherings rapidly got out of hand. Outraged authorities filled in the entrance in 1854.
They were opened up again from the garden of this house in 1938 by sinking a shaft, with the thought of locating a massive air raid shelter. It didnt happen in the end.
Now in April 2002, the appearance of a mysterious crater in a carriageway in Blackheath Hill caused traffic chaos. It's thought this was caused partially by the original cavern system. See photo below.