Royston Cave

Useful Information

Joseph Beldam (1884): The Origins and Use of the Royston Cave, Plate I: engravings. Public Domain.
Location: In Royston, 40 km N of London. In the center at Melbourn Street, just a few steps from the town centre.
Open: Easter-September Sat, Sun and Bank Holiday Mon afternoon.
Classification: artificial cave in chalk.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: H=7.7 m, Diameter=5.5 m.
Guided tours:
Bibliography: Joseph Beldam (1884): The Origins and Use of the Royston Cave
Sylvia F Beamon (1992): Royston Cave Used by Saints or Sinners?, Local Historical Influences of the Temple and Hospitaller Movements. Courney Publications, Ashwell, Hants 314 pp, illus..
Harriet Crawford (1979): Subterranean Britain, Aspects of Underground Archaeology. John Baker, London, 201 pp numerous illus. pp 173-178
Address: Royston Town Council, Roystan, SG8 7BZ, Tel: +44-01763-245484.
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.


1742 rediscovered.
1744 Royston visited by William Stukely. He wrote the treatise titled Origines Roystoniae in which he put forward his theories as to the origin and purpose of the bizarre structure.
1790 current entrance constructed.
1852 publication by Joseph Beldam, explaining the cave as a Romano-British shaft, later modified to become a Roman clumbarium, a shaft-grave.


Joseph Beldam (1884): The Origins and Use of the Royston Cave, Plate II: engravings. Public Domain.
Joseph Beldam (1884): The Origins and Use of the Royston Cave, Plate III: plan of the cave. Public Domain.

Royston Cave is a circular, bell-shaped chamber with a circumferential octagonal podium. The origin of this chamber is unknown. This cave is unique in Britain - if not the world - for its numerous medieval carvings on the walls. They are mostly of pagan origin, but some of the figures are thought to be those of St. Catherine, St. Lawrence and St. Christopher.

It is speculated that it may have been used by the Knights Templar before their Proscription by Pope Clement V in the 1312. The sect held a weekly market at Royston between 1199 and 1254 and travelled there from their headquarters at Baldock, some 15 kilometers south. They would have required a cool store for their produce and a chapel for their devotions, and a theory speculates that the cave was divided into two floors by a wooden floor. Two figures close together near the damaged section may be all that remains of a known Templar sign, two knights riding the same horse. However, there is no evidence, the engraving was altered during a mid 20th century "renovation" and the wooden floor theory is based on a single post hole.

Although the origin of the cave is unknown, the story of the rediscovery is very well known. In August 1742 a workmen dug a hole in the Butter Market in order to get decent footings for a new bench for the patrons and traders. He discovered a buried millstone and dug around the curious stone to get the object out of the way. So he found a shaft leading downwards into the chalk.

At the discovery the cavity was more than half-filled with earth. The rumour was, that there must be a treasure buried beneath the soil inside the cave. Several cartloads of soil were removed, until bedrock was reached. The soil was discarded as worthless, it did not contain anything more than a few old bones and fragments of pottery. This is rather unfortunate, as todays archaeology could be able to solve some of the secrets of this place!

The location of the cave is also very interesting: Melbourn Street, once called Icknield Way or Via Icenia, was first used during the Iron Age, possibly 2000 years ago by an ancient tribe of Celts called the Iceni. The most famous Iceni was Queen Boudicca (died 60 AD). At a later date the Icknield way was romanised by Caesar. It runs from near Falmouth towards East Anglia - the modern day A505 between Royston and Baldock, follows the route of the Icknield way.