‘Of the High Peak are seven wonders writ. Two fonts, two caves. One pallace, mount and pit.’
Peak Cavern, also known as, “the devil’s arse” is considered a ‘wonder’ by Thomas Hobbes and Charles Cotton in their poems, De mirabilibus pecci and the Wonders of the Peak, which focus on the different attractions Derbyshire has to offer.
Charles Cotton states in his poem that Peak Cavern is a ‘village underground’ – referring to the fact rope-makers lived in the cave and often were the guides showing well-to-do tourist around the caves by candle light. As a result, guided tours around the cavern today include demonstrations of traditional rope making.
Despite, the poets’ amazement at the cave’s natural attributes, both Hobbes and Cotton engage with the folklore surrounding the cave, Hobbes associating it with ‘hell’ and Cotton with ‘Satan’. This language exaggerates what was really like to visit these caves and had a lot more to do with dramatising the experience of travelling to Derbyshire.
Peak Cavern was one the places which benefited the most from the exposure Cotton and Hobbes’ poetry gave the site. It was traditional for the upper class to tour around Europe and write about their travels, but the poetry of writers such as Cotton and Hobbes began to encourage more travel within Britain too. By the 1700s the middle classes were following suit, as it became much more accessible to travel between different counties, including Derbyshire.