Mad Allen’s Cave.
Out of the many interesting places I have attempted to locate this surely ranks as one of the most difficult, and for that reason I will give you the directions of how to find it before I give any details regarding the cave itself. The cave is located by the village of Bickerton and is close to the edge of the county of Cheshire, you can find the village by following the A 534 road from Nantwich, about 15 miles before you reach the town of Wrexham you will see the sign post for Bickerton. Follow this road and after about a quarter of a mile you will see Bickerton Village Hall, turn right here onto reading room lane, follow this lane for about a quarter of a mile and you will see a public footpath on your left which is quite overgrown. Follow this footpath for a couple of hundred yards up onto Bickerton hill and you will enter a wood, turn to your left and follow the path for 200-300yards until you come to a Sycamore tree which has lost one of its main branches.
Turn right when you reach this tree and start climbing up the hill, it will take you through a sandy rabbit warren and then the going gets tough, you will be climbing up through bracken and trees, however after a short while you will come to a sandstone cliff and it is here that you will find the cave. I struggled for over an hour looking for it as there are no sign posts and no worn paths leading to it.
Mad Allen’s Cave or Mad Allen’s Hole as it is known locally was once the home of a John Harris according to a pamphlet that has been discovered. According to this document he was born on July 20th 1710 in the town of Handley and it states that when his Father died he inherited estates in Tattenhall, Broxton and Handley. Although a wealthy man he turned his back on the lifestyle he could afford because his parents had forbidden him to marry the woman that he loved, a girl from Handley named Ann Egerton. Because of this he decided to never marry and to become a recluse and this is how he ended up living in a cave. Initially he took up residence in a cave in nearby Carden Park estate, however there is evidence to support the fact that he left this cave in 1760 and took up residence in Allenscomb Cave here on Bickerton hill which later became known as Mad Allen’s Cave.
John Harris seemed to have the ability to blend in with his surroundings as he remained hidden for many years and was not discovered until 1809. It is said that four young men were gathering firewood for bonfire night on the 5th of November in 1809 when they encountered what they described as a wild hairy man, they fled to the nearby village of Harthill where they recounted their story stating that they had seen this wild man entereing the rock face. The young men returned with others to the spot where they had seen John Harris enter the rock face and found him sitting next to a fire, after their initial shock at finding Harris who was now 99 years old he proceeded to tell them his life story and how he had ended up living in the cave.
The cave appears to have two levels, the photograph on the left shows a sandstone platform which separates the cave and gives it an upper and lower living area. The sides of the cave are quite smooth and it is assumed that John Harris must have accessed the lower cave using some sort of ladder, I didn’t risk entering the cave myself in case I couldn’t climb out again. At some time in the past there would have been a large overhang of sandstone outside the cave entrance, however over the years this has collapsed and now partially blocks the entrance to the cave as can be seen in the photograph above.
So if your feeling energetic and if we ever get a sunny day again, why not follow in my footsteps and re-discover a piece of prime Cheshire real estate and pay a visit to Mad Allen’s cave!