LONDON (AFP) - Potholers have discovered the country's deepest cave beneath a hillside in central England, using an account by an 18th-century underground explorer, which only recently resurfaced.
The spectacular hole -- named Titan by those who found it -- is some 140 metres (460 feet) deep, stretching further underground than the height of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
"It's like the inside of a cathedral -- just magnificently beautiful," said Morland Sanders, who was the first non-potholer to abseil down the shaft.
"It's an incredible place, awesome," he told The Guardian newspaper Tuesday.
Local potholer Dave Nixon found an underground entrance into the cavern, in the Peak District in Derbyshire, after discovering an account by an obscure 18th-century academic in the University of Cambridge library.
In a paper written in 1793, James Plumtree described a network of caves found after descending into a lead mine near a local fissure known for centuries as the Devil's Arsehole.
But a rockfall had apparently blocked access to the caverns, and it took potholers three years to hack their way through.
"It wasn't a matter of stumbling, it was a lot of research and a lot of hard work," Nixon told the BBC, which has made a television documentary about the discovery.
After having broken through underground it became obvious that the cavern stetched upwards to near the surface, and a man-made shaft was dug from the hillside into the gaping hole.
The new entrance from ground level can be used by abseilers to reach the bottom of the cave, saving a five-hour underground journey.
Titan is nearly 60 metres (200 feet) deeper than the previous record holder, Gaping Gyhll in the Yorkshire Dales in northern England.