An exiled English king who became a hermit saint could have been the first resident of a 1,200-year-old cave house, archaeologists believe

·2 min read
Picture of 8th century cave uncovered to be the hide out of an exiled king
Picture of 8th century cave uncovered to be the hide out of an exiled king Royal Agricultural University
  • A cave house has been uncovered in England, thought to have housed an exiled king .

  • The building was thought to be a party destination for the 18th-century elite, but a much older history is unfolding.

  • These finds are by archaeologists from the Royal Agricultural University and Wessex University.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

An ancient cave house beside a river has been revealed to be the home of a deposed English king who became a hermit in the East Midlands of medieval England.

For a long time, the caves in Foremark and Ingleby in South Derbyshire were considered to be a folly dating back to the 18th century, when the building was used for parties by the English upper classes.

But a new study has uncovered that they are far more likely to be dated back to the 9th century Dark Ages.

Edmund Simons, principal investigator of the project and a research fellow at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), said in a press release: "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."

Local legends link the caves to Saint Hardulph - a fragment of a 16th-century book states that at 'that time Saint Hardulph has a cell in a cliff a little from the Trent' and local folklore identifies these caves as those occupied by Hardulph, also known as Eardwulf the king of Northumbria from 796 to 806.

The new study strongly links the saint - who was sent into exile after he was defeated in battle and removed from the throne - to the ancient cave house.

"The architectural similarities with Saxon buildings, and the documented association with Hardulph/Eardwulf, make a convincing case that these caves were constructed, or enlarged, to house the exiled king," said Simons.

Picture of 8th century cave uncovered to be the hide out of an exiled king
Picture of 8th century cave uncovered to be the hide out of an exiled king Royal Agricultural University

"It was not unusual for deposed or retired royalty to take up a religious life during this period, gaining sanctity and in some cases canonization. Living in a cave as a hermit would have been one way this could have been achieved," said Simons.

The landmark discovery has been lead by archaeologists from the Royal Agricultural University's newly-formed Cultural Heritage Institute in conjunction with Wessex Archaeology.

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