No quick fix in battle to preserve Royston Cave

CONSERVATORS fighting to save carvings at Royston cave have warned there will be no quick fix to damage caused to the historic site. Staff from Tobit Curteis Associates have spent the last 18 months studying the cave, beneath Melbourn Street. The friend

CONSERVATORS fighting to save carvings at Royston cave have warned there will be "no quick fix" to damage caused to the historic site.

Staff from Tobit Curteis Associates have spent the last 18 months studying the cave, beneath Melbourn Street.

The friends of the cave, together with representatives of Royston Town Council, met with conservator Tobit Curteis last week, and it was resolved to try a number of measures to stem the damage, which is being caused by water particles and minute chalk-eating worms that live in the cave.

Mr Curteis said: "The problems at the Royston cave are very, very complicated. I've worked at historic sites all over the world and this is the most complex situation I've ever seen. It's a unique place and presents unique problems.


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"There will always be deterioration at places like the cave, there's no way to stop it. But the current rate of deterioration is unacceptable and we have several potential solutions."

Moisture is entering the cave from a number of sources, including seepage from mains water pipes, and James Robinson, cave manager, said: "We're looking at several different solutions, such as putting casing around the pipes and blocking places where the water can get in. The problem is that we won't know what is going to be affective until we actually try it, so there is an element of trial and error."

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English Heritage has pledged grant money to fund the work, and Mr Curteis added: "We'll also be doing some traditional conservation on the carvings that have already been damaged."

And he warned: "There won't be a quick fix. If you just go ahead and carry out work too quickly you can cause more damage, so we will have to take things slowly."

The cave, which is thought to date back to the 14th century, features an extensive range of wall carvings representing the crucifixion, the holy family and several saints. It is believed it may have been used as a temple by the mysterious Knights Templar order.

*Subterranea Britannica, the historical society founded by Royston resident and cave expert Sylvia Beamon, will be meeting at the cave on Sunday (February 21) to celebrate signing up its 1000th member. Anyone interested in the society's work should meet by the cave entrance at 11.20am.

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