Cliff House and its adjacent land were to be sold by
at an auction at the Queen's Head on 19 August 1897.
The property was then in Chancery. On the evening of
the sale little interest was shown in the house, the
first part of the property on offer. However, Lot 2
of this sale, which was for a little over 14 acres of
fields, caused a flurry of excitement. The published
sale notice described the Lot as follows: "It
is believed there are valuable minerals under the above
land. It has an exceptional value by reason of its contiguity
to Abraham's Heights, and can be used for the purpose
of providing accommodation and amusement for excursionists.
There is also an old lead mine under this lot, which
is at present in the holding of Mr. Greatorex, and shewn
by him as a Spar Cavern or disused mine".
The Spar Cavern mentioned was the Great Masson Cavern
and its entrance and exit were on the Cliff House land.
Before the auction got underway Mr. Alfred Greatorex
claimed title to the cavern, stating that his family (Job
Greatorex & Sons of Matlock Dale) had used the mine for
27 years without payment, any acknowledgement of right or
interference by the landowner. They claimed the mine, known
as Bacon Rake (sometimes Great Rake), as being theirs and
were the absolute owners of the cavern. The London solicitor
acting for the vendor said that according to his instructions
Messrs. Greatorex could not prove any evidence of title,
nor rights to show the mine under the mining laws. In the
event, the house did not sell but the land the Masson Cavern
was underneath was bid for by both Mr Key of Bonsall and
Mr. Greatorex, until
£295 when it was "knocked
to Mr. Greatorex.
At the time it was claimed that the Greatorex family
had owned the cavern for 2-300 years,
with the number of years varying in different accounts.
The title had passed to Job Greatorex from the Cardin family.
Job had married Alice, daughter of the lead miner Michael
Cardin[g] and Elizabeth (nee Turner) of Common Wood, at the
Cromford Wesleyan Chapel in 1850. Mr. Cardin was then the
deputy barmaster of the Barmote Court (see Lead
Mining). In 1870 it was sold to Mr. Greatorex and Mordecai
Cardin by Thomas Cardin[g] for £4.
Nottingham Evening Post 21 June 1935
The Masson Cavern ... is a sight well
worth visiting and can be reached from a by-lane almost
opposite Matlock Bath railway station. ...
These old workings lead to a natural cavern 100 feet
high, which glistens and reflects the light from every
angle. Spar, lead, zinc, copper and calcite transform
the place into fairyland. The crowning surprise comes
with the emergence into daylight, almost at the summit
of Masson Hill.
In addition to the tourists the cavern was visited by those
interested in caving, minerals and geology. In 1904 a group
of Sheffield and Derby
speleologists, including Messrs Puttrell Smithard and Archer
(who had been the first to climb High Tor) explored the cavern
using both long ladders and rock climbing methods. They
tested some promising openings in the side walls,
but with little result. However, they did discover a "cavelet"
at the extreme east end of the main passage and instantly
named it the Dog Tooth Chamber. It was difficult to access,
so only Puttrell Smithard and Archer ventured in.
The cavern was subsequently owned by Frank Taylor and in
1928 he and his guide, Edward Henry Smith-Wilkinson, explored
a closed part of the workings. They accessed a spectacular
large cave, having crawled on their hand and knees for about
half a mile. There was "a
naturally formed archway of dog tooth crystals that were
flashing like diamonds" - "a natural hall of mirrors".
When asked what he intended to do about his find Mr. Taylor
declared his intention of calling in a quarryman "to
blast the spar and bring it to the surface". He believed
it was too difficult and too distant to be used for showing
to the public.
It is not clear when the Masson Cavern changed hands, but
in 1950 the Masson Cavern was offered for sale as part of the
Heights of Abraham following the death of Miss Chadwick.
 "Derbyshire Times and
Chesterfield Herald", 7 August 1897 - Hodgkinson's
Sale advertisement. Cliff House and its land was being sold
by the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, Mr Justice
North, Staples & another v. Harris.
 "From reports in the "Sheffield
Independent" of 21 August 1897 and
"The Derby Mercury" of 25 August 1897.
Courier", 26 March
1904. Cave Exploration at Matlock.
 Flindall, Roger and Hayes, Andrew
(1976) "The Caverns and Mines of Matlock Bath, 1 The
Nestus Mines: Rutland and Masson Caverns", Moorland
Publishing Company. Flinders and Hayes include a quotation
that the Greatorex family claimed the title had been with them
for 200 years, which seems somewhat exaggerated as in 1827
the Bacon Rake was owned by Dr. Jonathan Gilbert and in that
year was given to Michael Cardin.
 "Derbyshire Courier",
26 March 1904. Cave Exploration at Matlock. They were shown
round by A. J. Greatorex.
 "Nottingham Evening Post" 9
 "Derby Daily Telegraph",
8 July 1950.