Troglodyte Caves

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The Golden Jubilee arch at Champion's Caves

The Troglodyte Caves at Five Oaks were not caves at all, but pleasure grounds built in a disused clay pit. They were one of the earliest, if not the first, purpose built tourist attractions in the island, opening on 23 September 1878.

Royal Family

The pictures below (click on any image to see a larger version) were taken about 1892 and show that the 'caves' had a lake and a penchant for celebrating important events related to the Royal Family. One arch commemorated Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 and another was erected somewhat belatedly in 1892 in memory of her consort, Prince Albert. The caves featured a number of busts of members of the Royal Family, including the Queen, Prince of Wales and Princess Alexander.

The 'caves' were actually officially known as Champion's Caves, after their creator John Champion, a brickmaker who lived at Aylesbury House, behind which he built the 'caves'. The area only became known as Five Oaks some time later: in Victorian times it was still La Crouaix d'Bouais.

Sculptor

Sculptor Jean Philippe Giffard, who created the famous 'devil' which was the centrepiece of the Devil's Hole caves for many years, provided decorations and furnishings for the Troglodyte Caves: According to a contemporary report "they consisted of statuary, coats of arms, busts, and decorations of all kinds of wood, stone and clay. The main attraction was a life-size statue of the Zulu chief Cetewayo... that of a man complete in every respect... and it therefore became necessary to hang a short skirt around its middle. But the word of the existence of the symbol of its manhood got around, and aroused the curiosity of the ladies, who lifted the skirt to satisfy their curiosity... It was decided to erect a cubicle with an open window to contain the chief's statue... the ladies then used their parasols to lift the skirt."

Giffard was Gardien of the prison and put up varied statuary to "cheer up the prisoners".

It is not known exactly when the Troglodyte Caves closed to the public, but they remained disused and in ruins for many years until the site was used for housing in the second half of the 20th century. In their heyday one of their biggest attractions was a skating rink.


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