A mysterious cave house in Derbyshire, England, that nobody knew much about turned out to have a pretty big secret. Back in the 18th century, Anchor Church cave was used as a party place by the local gentry and that was pretty much all that anyone knew about its history.
But now, based on new research, archaeologists think that the cave house dates back 1,200 years and was believed to have been inhabited by a king named Eardwulf who was exiled from Northumbria in the year 806 AD. The cave house has also been recognized as one of the oldest intact domestic interiors that have been discovered in the United Kingdom.
Edmund Simons, who is the principal investigator on the project, has had a life-long fascination with cave houses so he decided to put together the project in order to better understand these structures. While the project consisted of studying 170 different sites, it was the Anchor Church cave that provided the most surprises.
Anchor Church cave was listed as a natural cave enlarged in the 18th century, but Simons claimed that couldn’t be possible, “It’s not a natural cave, I can’t think of a natural process that makes walls, doors and windows, let alone pillars,” and that the features were consistent with Saxon architecture.
Furthermore, he is convinced that the story of King Eardwulf (also known as Saint Hardulph) living there as a hermit is true. Simons noted that the word “hermit” should be used lightly as the king would have been “...somebody who would have had disciples with him and would have been revered as holy, probably as a saint in his own lifetime. He doesn’t have his great feasting hall any more but it is quite a nice gaff.” Interestingly, the former king was buried at Breedon on the Hill in Leicestershire which is located only five miles from the caves.
Then in the 18th century, Sir Robert Burdett used the cave “... so that he and his friends could dine within its cool and romantic cells,” and the openings were widened so women in nice clothing could easily walk in.
With that being said, the Anchor Church cave is “probably the oldest intact domestic interior in the UK,” Simons stated, adding, “We have churches from this kind of date but we haven’t got anywhere where people slept and ate and prayed, all that kind of thing. Here, we’ve got one. It is quite remarkable.” Pictures of Anchor Church cave can be seen here.