We have been unable to find an original 18th century source that identifies a name for this part of the caves other than just “the Circle”. It does appear on several map layouts that can be found on the internet but does not appear on the website of the Hellfire Caves (2009).
The only reference that we’ve been able to find is that part of the caves were designed to represent the Circular Earth and it may be that Sandwich’s sponsorship of the explorer Captain Cook may in some way be linked to this feature. It may also have a basis in 18th Century Alchemy
THE LORD SANDWICH CIRCLE
Lord Sandwich was born in 1718 and had a difficult childhood that was devoid of long-term parental affection. At an early age he was sent to boarding school and was later educated at Trinity College, Eton, but failed to achieve a degree. As a young man he travelled to Europe and the Near East in 1937. Countries visited included: France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Malta, Portugal and Spain. Already “rakish” in his behaviour, he was drawn to the ancient mysteries of the time. During his time abroad he collected many rare artefacts including coins and archaeological remains and may have become acquainted with Sir Francis Dashwood who was embarking on his third journey to Europe and the East. On his return he was duly elected to the Royal Society. It is likely that he first engaged with Sir Francis Dashwood at this time and four years later he married Dashwood’s second cousin – Lady Dorothy Fane. He clearly had powerful associates for in the same year he was appointed to the House of Lords and to the post of Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and thus the most powerful person in the British Navy. There is no doubt that he had a remarkable career from this point onwards although he has often been accused of well-meaning incompetence. (To be fair, modern historians are increasingly challenging recorded history as it does seem to have been written by people who were politically hostile to Lord Sandwich.) There is strong evidence that an early age he was indoctrinated into the Jacobite cause and had conflicting emotions regarding his role in British government. His most active period with the Friars of Sir Francis was between 1750 and 1757 after he was dismissed from his government post in 1749. (He would be reinstated later and hold several key government positions.) He was almost certainly the highest ranking of the 12 Apostles (messengers / agents).
No reference to Lord Sandwich is complete without mentioning that he was once tricked by John Wilkes into believing that a baboon was the Devil or that the fast food – The Sandwich – was named after him. We could write volumes about this man; about his successes (often discredited) and his failures (often exaggerated). There is no doubt that he developed a hatred for Wilkes that threatened the Order and their secret objective which we’ll reveal later in another section. He did use his position to persecute Wilkes and have him exiled for a pornographic work of literature called “An Essay on Women.” (Some sources claim that Wilkes actually never wrote the book at all.) Many despised Montagu for this act as they knew that he himself was a heavy drinker, a gambler and a man who had willing participated in the many sexual activities that had taken place at Medmenham Abbey and the Hellfire caves. They also knew that he had been living with his mistress Martha Fay – a much younger singer who was later murdered by a jealous clergyman who had hoped to marry her.
His naval failures during the American war of Independence are considered by many historians to have tipped the balance in favour of the colonists. Some even go so far to say that his ill-advised military tactics cost Britain the war. In his later career he shared the position of Post Master General with Sir Francis Dashwood his friend and – on many occasions – his financial patron.