The mysterious caves full of witches and dwarves only five miles from Ashton

Just a few miles from Ashton-in-Makerfield, there’s an underground world which is said to be inhabited by dwarves and witches. What’s more, the Crank Caverns have seen plenty of other paranormal activity.

The abandoned quarry, near Rainford in St Helens, has long drawn in visitors from far and wide. But are the folktales of an army of bearded dwarves living deep underground true?

To find out, the liverpool echo set out to explore the caverns to see if there was any substance to these legends – or if we could understand why how rumors started.

Initially it was difficult to even locate the caverns, with a gate sealing off the private road that heads towards them. After walking a short way down a country path, we were met with a large home, then to the rear of the property, the entrance to the caves – heavily marked with graffiti – stood out in the wilderness.

Approaching the entrance to the caverns, it is clear why some of these legends and myths started. The sheer depth of the caves means you can’t see more than five feet in front of you in the darkness – causing your imagination to run wild.

The site, formerly Rainford Delph Quarry, has been disused for many years and was thought to have been used as a game reserve and also an ammunition storage facility during the Second World War. Now officially closed to the public, the caves can still be accessed from a nearby footpath.

As we ventured slightly deeper, past the entrance, every sound from within seemed to be greatly amplified, leaving us on edge – I would definitely not recommend exploring Crank Caverns alone. One popular legend around the caves is a story of little boys being chased by dwarves. In the 1930’s, a group of reporters went down looking for the dwarves.

Lewis Atherton, from Exploring History UK folklore podcast, said: “There’s a story form the 1970s of three children, they’re teenagers who went through ‘the mousey’ and it’s described in the newspaper that the mousey hole went in a circle and that’s all that’s left.

“But they went down there with candles, I don’t think they had matches and if they did they only had two or three matches and cave mountain and rescue had to haul them out.”

Another myth surrounding Crank Caverns is that there could be a cathedral deep within the caves, however through research, Lewis, along with Claire Rigby from Momo’s cafe, believe this is not the case. In the podcast, Lewis said: “In a caving world, a cathedral would be the opening of a cave, of a mine. The best way to describe a cathedral in a mine is how it is described to this day – a big grand opening with big rooms and big walls.

Claire said: “If you studied caving at university, a cathedral would be classed as the largest cave out of a series of caves and caverns, and the largest cave would normally have some sort of slab and that would be where a lot of miners would sit and rest and drink and things like that.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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