DCS Local Heritage Event : Visit to Royston Cave and a Walkon Royston Heath

Saturday 12th May 2018 Return to Alumni Events

The Royston Cave is a largely unknown entity and although small it is quite a fascinating man-made structure dug into the soft chalk underlying the town. It was rediscovered in 1742 as a small vertical shaft for which a young boy was &volunteered& to descend. The cave was half-filled with rubbish which was removed and the cave enlarged in the hope of finding treasure. The original bottom part of the cave was found to have lots of carvings on the wall. The present entrance was dug in 1790 by the owner of a bricklaying company whose men could nothing in the cold winter so he got them to dig a tunnel from the opposite side of the road into the only bit of the wall that had no carvings and charged visitors sixpence a time to enter. The cave is listed as grade 1 by English heritage and has been taken over by the Town Council which probably accounts for the non-pretentious, even pokey, entrance down an alley instead of the grand entrances favoured by the National Trust.

It was in the alleyway that DCS met and were introduced to the history by our guide Nicky Paton before leading us the small tunnel to the cave. There is a small platform separated from the walls by railings and a lower level of the floor. Here Nicky went around the walls taking one carving at a time and explaining about the present thinking about the subjects they depict. Most seem to have a Christian theme and many associated with the Knights Templar. There are carvings of four saints St Christopher who is thought to be carrying Christ on his shoulder and holding a staff in hand, St. Catherine holding a wheel upon which she was martyred, St. Lawrence holding a gridiron upon which he was martyred and a figure possibly St. George or St. Michael. There are several carvings representing Templars and Christ crucified, one the hand of God releasing a dove and one a pagan earth goddess or sheela-na-gig and many more. Research has indicated that all were completed by 1350 or a little later. The whole experience was like nothing else you might see and we would heartily recommend those who have not seen it to make the trip.


Nicky Paton, our guide introduces us to the cave




Possibly going to war

hand of God

The Hand of God releasing a dove


The Crucifixion

St.Michael or St.George

St Michael or St George. The sword points to Jesus and disciples

Pasque flower

A pasque flower

We travelled a short distance to Royston Heath to have lunch in the Heath restaurant before all but two of us attempted to ride our luck. Firstly it had decided to rain but only gently and it did not get any worse and secondly to try to see the last flowers of the pasque flower and to see the very first flowers of the white helleborine. Both we achieved so luck was with us and a pleasant walk ended a very worthwhile day.

Nicky was a very knowledgeable guide and many thanks are due to him for his part in the day.


White helleborine

Pictures by Terry Moore (Click on the pictures for larger versions)

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