You access the Royston Cave through a door behind the Cave Shop in Melbourn Street. Tread carefully as you descend a tunnel built in 1790 into a chamber covered with carvings which demand close inspection.
The cave was uncovered by workmen in 1742 underneath a millstone that they found in the ground. When the stone was lifted, the original entrance, a shaft of approximately two feet in diameter and 16 feet in depth, was found underneath. Beyond this the cave was half filled with earth, which when cleared revealed intriguing carvings in the dome part of the chamber.
Royston Cave is believed to be a unique example of work undertaken by the Knights Templar, whose organisation in the 13th century had fallen into disrepute, having been accused of heresy. This could have been a secret worship and meeting place and its floor plan may have been based on an Islamic shrine close to the Templar headquarters in Jerusalem.
The cave itself, which is Grade 1 listed, is approximately 17 feet in diameter and 10 feet tall. The total height of the structure, incorporating the upper bell shape, is over 25 feet. The carvings are medieval in appearance and are said to include four saints revered by the Knights Templar, the Crucifixion and the Holy Family.
Much has been made of the meaning of the carvings since the cave’s discovery and this is discussed passionately by a volunteer guide from the local history society who accompanies all visits to the site.
Don’t miss: the intriguing notches in the tunnel wall, originally used for candles.
The Royston Cave, Melbourn Street, Royston, Hertfordshire SG8 7BZ