|Location:||7km north of Kidderminster. Signposted from Kinver High Street.|
Lower Rock Houses:
MAR to NOV Thu-Fri 14-16, Sat-Sun, Hol 11-16.
Tea room: MAT to NOV Thu-Sun, Hol 11-16.
|Classification:||Cave House Triassic sandstones|
|Accessibility:||Lower houses are wheelchair accessible|
Sabine Baring-Gould (1911):
Cliff Castles and Cave Dwellings of Europe,
Seeley & Co Ltd, London, 1911
D.M. Bills, W.R. Griffiths (): Kinver Rock Houses, edited and produced by Harold Parsons, published by ELDA PUBLICATIONS, Kinver
|Address:||Holy Austin Rock House, Compton Road, Kinver, near Stourbridge, DY7 6DL, Tel: 01384-872553. E-mail:|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1777||first written mention.|
|1955||last inhabitants left.|
|1967||tea room in upper cave closed.|
|1960s||purchased by the National Trust.|
|MAR-2012||renovated house opened to the public.|
The Rock Houses were built along Kinver Edge, an outcrop of sandstone between Kinver and Wolverley, which was ideal to dig caves into the rather soft rock. The houses were built since the 18th century. Each had a bedroom and a separate living area, the rooms have an average size of 9m². None had electricity, running water, or toilets. At the peak the complex housed eleven families in cave homes dug in three levels into the rock face.
The reason why the people lived underground is not completely clear. Probably it was related to the growth of the nearby Hyde Iron Works. The increasing number of workers caused a shortage of housing. And it was rather easy and fast to build such an house, as no rocks were needed, just a pick and a shovel to dig. With the closing of the iron works in 1880 an increasing amount of houses were abandoned.
The caves were still used during World War II, but in the 1950s, when life became better, the last two families left. A few years later the site was purchased by the National Trust. It seems they left the place unchanged for almost half a century.
Three houses of the lowest level were restored and opened to the public in the 1990s. Later one home of the top tier was restored, originally run as a tea-room by the Reeve family, it is again used as a tea room. The latest addition was the restauration of the Martindale Caves with the characteristic porch. The front wall was needed to close the cave against the outside, so actually the house once had one single wall with windows and the door. The place in front looked like any other British house, with porch, a small roof above the front dor, and a garden. This porch was depicted on some postcards from the 1930s, which were the only source after which the porch was reconstructed.
The houses were first mentioned in a description from 1777, at this time a family already lived in such a house. Much is unknown, and mixes with local lore. So there is a story about an Augustine monk who had his hermitage here, at the place today called Holy Austin's Rock. The cave houses are mentioned by Sabine Baring-Gould in his book Cliff Castles and Cave Dwellings of Europe. He also wrote a novel named Bladys of The Stewponey which takes place here and at the Kynaston's Cave. A movie from this story was filmed at the original places in 1919. The movie does not exist any more, some scenes are preserved by the National Film Archive.
The cave houses are located in the middle of the forest along the escarpment of lower Triassic sandstones. There are several groups of houses, beneath Kinver Edge there are Nanny's Rock, Crow's Rock, Miller Lane, and Gibraltar. The Kinver Ende houses have a car park nearby, which is signposted. Another possibility is to start at the National Trust parking lot at the Compton Road, 200m west of Kinver. The walk to the outlook Nanny's Rock and back is about 4km long and offers some of the best views in Staffordshire. The trail runs on top of the westbound Kinver Edge escarpment.