Elden Hole [also "Eldon" Hole] (Photo) provides a pretty representative picture of the evolution of a 'wonder'.

Known since at least the 1500's, it has always excited curiosity. Initially this took an exploratory, if you will, "scientific" form. The Earl of Leicester (Biography) initiated a long tradition of gentlemen doing their wonder/death-trap exploration vicariously, through humble people who expect nothing. He apparently lowered "a man" down to the bottom of the Hole, only to retrieve him in shock, and to die a short while after*.

However, the cave's apparently bottomless nature marked it out as a "wonder". It was obviously regarded as such by at least 1586, when it is mentioned by Camden*: Darbyshire) - though he only brings it up to mention that, while it is a wonder, it's not as strange as some suggest. Despite this, such wonders rapidly moved onto the general tourist circuit.

Thomas Hobbs' (Biography) 1626 trip around the Peak area inspired him to produce his long poem De Mirabilibus Pecci (1636*) which includes the hole, apparently in scurrilous terms*, and may have led to him appearing as Accident in Ben Jonson's 1633 play 'The King's Entertainment at Welbeck.' The character notes "Elden, bottomlesse, like Hell"*, suggesting that even those in London were familiar with it.

A little later, Celia Fiennes' (Biography) 1697 tour diary* shows even the most rationally minded about the hole could still be drawn into its folklore, for after a long exposition on how deep the hole may be, she suggests it is impossible for a wall to remain around it, and animals are dragged into it against their nature. Even the usually cynical Daniel DeFoe (Biography) still quoted it as being a Wonder in 1724, and relates the, doubtless common, belief that it may go to the centre of the earth - offering as proof that "Mr Cotton... let down eight hundred fathoms of line into a word, he sounded about a mile perpendicular."* Karl Philipp Moritz (Biography) visited in 1782, and commented on a local story that a goose was once thrown into it, and emerged at Peak Cavern - entirely defeathered*.

The hole remained on the tourist circuit even after John Lloyd Esq., F.R.S. made his 1770* (1713?*) descent into it to measure its true depth. Doubtless it did so until the people of Britain could afford to go and see something rarer than a hole in the ground - the beaches of southern Spain, perhaps. Eldon Hole has now retreated into quieter obscurity, visited largely by cavers wanting a nice abseil and prusik trip. If the wonders in our collection are anything to go by, it should be considering itself fortunate in that...