Derbyshire Cave House Identified As The 9th Century Home Of The King In Exile

Derbyshire Cave House Identified As The 9th Century Home Of The King In Exile

A cave house previously believed to be an 18th-century folly has been identified as one of the oldest intact domestic interiors ever found in the UK and was once, according to archaeologists, the home of an Anglo-king. Saxon in exile.

In the 18th century, the cave of Anchor’s Church in southern Derbyshire was used by local nobility as a place of celebration, and until now it was officially accepted that it dated back as far as its history.

But archaeologists now believe the cave house can be dated to 1,200 years ago, possibly inhabited by Eardwulf who was deposed as King of Northumbria in AD 806 and died in AD 830.

Edmund Simons, the project’s principal investigator, grew up in an area surrounded by cave houses. “These are very difficult things to understand and date and I have been fascinated by them all my life,” he said. “I remember losing one when I was three. “

He normally works overseas, but with an impossible trip over the past year, he decided to “have some fun and set up a project to figure out what these things are.” The project is looking at 170 sites, but this is the Anchor Church cave where “it all comes together in a way that doesn’t normally happen with these things,” Simons said.

The cave house is Grade II listed as a natural cave enlarged in the 18th century. But that can’t be the case, Simons said. “It’s not a natural cave, I can’t think of a natural process that makes walls, doors and windows, let alone pillars. Everything in the cave – the narrowness of the windows, for example – evoked Saxon architecture.

The team believe the caves were altered in the 18th century, including widening the openings for well-dressed women to pass through. Photograph: c / o Royal University of Agriculture

A local legend links the site to Saint Hardulph, former King Eardwulf, and Simons thinks it is true. He is convinced that Eardwulf lived there as a hermit, where his enemies could watch over him, in caves that were built or enlarged to house him.

The word “hermit” can conjure up images of a bearded and ragged old man eating nuts and fruit alone. In fact, says Simons, “he is someone who would have had disciples with him and who would have been revered as a saint, probably as a saint during his lifetime. It no longer has its large party room, but it’s a pretty good blunder.

Hardulph was buried at Breedon on the Hill in Leicestershire, five miles from the caves.

The find makes it “possibly the oldest intact domestic interior in the UK,” Simons said. “We have churches of this kind of date, but we don’t have a place where people sleep and eat and pray, all that sort of thing. Here we have one. It is quite remarkable. “

Simons said cave dwellings have often been overlooked by historians, but that they “may be the only intact domestic buildings to survive the Saxon period. This project has so far identified more than 20 other sites in the West Midlands that may date from the 5th century.

The team believe the caves were altered in the 18th century when it was recorded that Sir Robert Burdett « had it fitted out so that he and his friends could dine in his cool and romantic cells”. This included widening the openings for well-dressed women to pass.

Simons led a team of archaeologists from the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Wessex Archeology. The findings are documented in a study published in the Proceedings of the Speleological Society at the University of Bristol.


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