New evidence could date historic Royston Cave to the mid-14th century

17:53 24 July 2014

Royston Cave could date back to the mid-14th century

Royston Cave could date back to the mid-14th century

Archant

Royston’s historic cave could have much more recent origins than previously thought, according to a new study.

The history of the cave and its unique medieval carvings has been shrouded in mystery since it was rediscovered in 1742. Popular theories include it being used as an early Masonic Lodge or a meeting place for the Knights Templar in the 13th century.

But cave manager James Robinson has revealed that one expert believes it may have much more recent roots.

He said: “Philip Lankester, retired curator of the Royal Armouries, carried out research into the arms, armour and costume shown in the cave in order to try and establish the period when the figures were carved.

“He found that some of the costumes showed similarities with images on the tomb of Edward III, as well as tomb effigies of William of Hatfield and William of Windsor, and some of the garments and headdresses he observed were fashionable between about 1360 and 1390.

“He also identified a number of medieval style shields and swords and identified a diagonal sword, close to the horse figure, as possibly dating from 1350 or later.

“Overall, in his opinion, based on the stylistic evidence, the carvings are likely to date to the second half of the 14th century, although, because of the unclear history of the cave, a much later date cannot be entirely ruled out.”

The cave, which can be reached via the entrance in Melbourn Street, is now open for the summer.

Mr Robinson said: “While this new evidence doesn’t unlock the mystery of the cave, it does offer valuable food for thought. It creates an opportunity for research into which groups or individuals might have used the cave from 1350 onwards.”

Royston Cave is open from 2.30pm to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays until the end of September. In August, only it also opens on Wednesday for the same times.

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