About this image
This is one of England's oldest show caves, for it was opened to the public in 1812, when it was known as Nestor Mine. Since then various reconstruction work and improvements have been made and the old mine then became known as Great Rutland Cavern, after the Duke of Rutland of nearby Haddon Hall.
Originally it was lit by candles and Bengal lights. These were later replaced by gas, and today further modernisation has taken place and the cave is now electrically illuminated.
This is an extremely pleasant cave in view of the nature of its paths, which are practically level. An artificial passage 240 feet long leads into a vast chamber 300 feet long and 120 feet high. It is claimed that the Romans worked these mines, and that in this vast hall, overseers held sway over the work of slaves - ancient Britons - whose task it was to mine the lead for their Roman masters. Proof of this is inconclusive, but it all adds to the mystery and intrigue surrounding these vast caverns.
Visitors are also invited to dip their fingers into Jacob's Wishing Well, a small pool under a rock overhang, for it is said that by doing this and wishing, the wish will come true.
A recent innovation is the Son et Lumiere display in the Roman Hall. The lights in the show cave are dimmed and high above a pageant is acted out. A 17th century lead miner tells of the hardship and dangers in working the mine, then in a passage on the right, another character appears and explains the hazards of washing the lead ore. It culminates with a vivid mock-display of fire setting complete with 'smoke' which was so realistic that some of the younger members of our party were terrified and had to be escorted from the area!
One of the most noteworthy formations in the cave is a huge pillar, which looks as if it is dividing and holding up the end of the cave. This is called the Old Oak Tree, and makes a most impressive end to a memorable trip. (Information from www.showcaves.com)