ROYSTON CAVE Melbourn Street, Royston, Hertfordshire, SG8 7BZ.


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Discovery of the Cave

Original Entrance Original Entrance

The Cave was discovered by accident in August of 1742 by workmen erecting a bench in a butter market in the Mercat House, which has since been demolished. A millstone was found in the ground, which when lifted disclosed a vertical, well-like shaft, about 2 feet (0.6 m) diameter and 16 feet (4.8 m) deep. Toeholds had been cut in the chalk on opposite sides to form steps. A small boy was "volunteered" to make the first descent. It was found that the Cave was more than half filled with earth and "debris".

Present day visitors to the Cave will notice that the dome of the Cave has been bricked over and that there is a grille, in the pavement above, through which light penetrates. When the Cave was discovered, however, the dome above was complete and partly tiled. It was said to have been within a foot (30 cm) of the surface of the road. Also noted was the existence of what is now called the East Shaft, an opening then almost closed by several courses of clunch blocks painted red to look like bricks. Only two and in some places three courses now remain. It is believed to have been a chimney or an air vent.

In the expectation of finding buried treasure the shaft was enlarged and the Cave was emptied quickly, uncovering the carvings in the lower part of the chamber. There was no scientific archaeological investigation made at the time but according to the Rev. G. North who visited the Cave shortly after its discovery the contents included, apart from earth, some decayed bones and a skull, fragments of a small drinking cup and a small unmarked piece of brass. The millstone, which covered the entrance, is now in two pieces, one forming the last step of the present entrance, the other lying alongside. The original entrance is closed and now lies under the road.

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