Archaeologists identify ninth century Anglo-Saxon cave house

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near-complete Anglo-Saxon dwelling and oratory believed to date from the early ninth century, has been discovered in Derbyshire.

The caves, which were cut out of the soft sandstone rock, had long been considered to be 18th century follies.

However, the new study demonstrates the caves are more likely to be early Medieval in date.

Archaeologists from the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) newly-formed Cultural Heritage Institute, working with colleagues from Wessex Archaeology, conducted a detailed survey of the grade II listed Anchor Church Caves between Foremark and Ingleby in south Derbyshire.

The interior shows early doors and pillars which survived walls being partially knocked through in the 18th century (Edmund Simons

Edmund Simons, principal investigator of the project and a research fellow at the RAU, said: “Our findings demonstrate that this odd little rock-cut building in Derbyshire is more likely from the 9th century than from the 18th century as everyone had originally thought.

“This makes it probably the oldest intact domestic interior in the UK – with doors, floor, roof, windows etc – and, what’s more, it may well have been lived in by a king who became a saint.

“Using detailed measurements, a drone survey, and a study of architectural details, it was possible to reconstruct the original plan of three rooms and easterly facing oratory, or chapel, with three apses.”

Researchers say the narrow doorways and windows of the rooms in the dwellings closely resemble Saxon architecture.

While a rock-cut pillar is similar to those found in the Saxon crypt at nearby Repton which is believed to have been completed by the Mercian King Wiglaf who reigned as King of Mercia – a kingdom in the English Midlands from the sixth century to the 10th century – from 827 until his death in 839.

Caves, such as the Anchor Church Caves, are often associated with anonymous medieval hermits or anchorites.

However, the researchers say in this case there is a legendary association between the Anchor Church Caves and Saint Hardulph.

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