King Arthur's Cave

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This article is about the cave in Herefordshire. Not to be confused with Merlin's Cave, near Boscastle, Cornwall
King Arthur's Cave
King Arthur's Cave - geograph.org.uk - 88587.jpg
The entrance to King Arthur's Cave
Location Lord's Wood, The Doward, Symonds Yat, England
Coordinates 51°50′14″N 2°39′42″W / 51.83722°N 2.66167°W / 51.83722; -2.66167Coordinates: 51°50′14″N 2°39′42″W / 51.83722°N 2.66167°W / 51.83722; -2.66167

King Arthur's Cave is a limestone cave at the foot of a low cliff at the north-western end of Lord's Wood in The Doward, near Symonds Yat, Herefordshire, about four miles northeast of Monmouth, in the Wye Valley. The cave entrance lies about 285 feet above the River Wye on a hill,[1] with a double interconnected entrance and two main chambers. It is protected as a nature reserve under the Herefordshire Nature Trust. There is evidence that the cave was occupied by man during the Upper Palaeolithic era, and flint tools and woolly mammoth bones have been unearthed within and around the caves.[2][3]

Background[edit]

It is uncertain exactly how the cave got its name. A skeleton of a "giant human" was discovered in the cave in 1695, but was lost when a local surgeon named Mr. Pye took the skeleton to sea on a voyage to Jamaica and his ship sank.[citation needed] The cave is shrouded in local superstition and is believed to have had a part in the early legend of King Vortigern, a native British king who fought against the invading Anglo Saxons.[4] Vortigern is said to have made his last stand against Aurelius at nearby Ganarew. Lawman mentions a castle on Cloard Hill in the district of Hergin, and has Vortigern dying after the castle was besieged and fired by Aurelius and Uther.[5] Helen Hill Miller in her 1969 The Realms of Arthur, suggests a military use for the cave, arguing that the cave's "recesses penetrate very far into the hill, and could hide a substantial force".[6] The cave has a parallel with Cadbury Castle in that it is a cave within a hillfort.

Excavations[edit]

In 1871 the caves were excavated by Reverend W. S. Symond, after he learned that some miners had raided them. He unearthed hyaena, lion, brown bear, red deer, rhinoceros, Irish Elk, reindeer, and horse bones dated to the Late Pleistocene.[1][4] The evidence of hyaena is particularly prominent and many of the bones showed signs of being crunched by them.[7] He also found flint implements from the Upper Palaeolithic and fragments of Neolithic pottery.[4] Members of the Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club also explored the caves, under the supervision of the Reverend Symonds, which led to further remarkable discoveries.[1]

They initially inspected one of the Doward caves, situated about 200 yards from King Arthur's Cave. Before the excavations commenced this cave was so nearly closed up with refuse matter, which had apparently been washed there, that it was a difficult undertaking to obtain an entry. On removing the debris, a stalactitic floor, about six inches in thickness, was found, under which were discovered the bones of fowls, sheep and pigs. About five feet below this layer was discovered a large forearm bone of an elephant, embedded in clay and vegetable matter. The head of a Roman ox was also found next to the remains of beavers, but no pebbles were found. In a cave situated between this cave and King Arthur's, a Roman ox jaw was brought to the surface, the teeth of which were in a very fine state of preservation. The party, after inspecting the various parts of the caves where these remains had been found, next visited King Arthur's Cave, which consists of two caves or holes, with a long passage, one of which the club named The Bear's Den, and the other The Lion's Cave. In the former, after excavating 22 feet below the surface, the bones of beaver, badger, roe deer, wolf, and reindeer were found. Proceeding farther inwards, for which purpose the cave was lighted up with candles, Reverend Symonds made a most remarkable discovery. An excavation of about 10 feet in depth had been made in the floor of the cave, in which was found a formation being of river sand and pebbles, situated between two stalactitic floors. Resting upon the first floor, or upper formation, mixed with earth, were found the bones of extinct animals.[1]

Between 1925 and 1927 the University of Bristol Spelæological Society (UBSS) excavated here,[8] and in 1926 Garrod dated his findings in the upper cave to the Upper Palaeolithic and those from the lower cave to the Middle Palaeolithic. The society returned in 1955 but found nothing new.[4] In 1989, the caves and the Upper Wye Gorge of some 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) was designated a SSSI.[9]

Structure[edit]

The cave is said to "consist of a broad entrance platform, a double interconnected entrance and two main chambers", about 300 feet above the River Wye.[4] One of the chambers is large and circular in shape, about 25 feet in diameter.[10] The main chambers obtained the names Bear's Den and Lion's Cave due to the paleontological items found there.[1] There are also several other open rooms to the cave.

References[edit]

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: E.W. Allen's The Antiquarian, 1871
  1. ^ a b c d e The Antiquarian. E.W. Allen. 1871. p. 164. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "KING ARTHUR'S CAVE – THE DOWARD". Wyenot.com. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Painter, K. S. (1964). The Severn Basin. Cory, Adams & Mackay. pp. 14–19. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Oldham, Tony; Jones, Keith (2003). "King Arthur's Cave, Caves of the South Eastern Outcrop,". Showcaves.com. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Caer Guorthegirn", by Robert Vermaat, at vortigernstudies.org.uk
  6. ^ Helen Hill Miller, The Realms of Arthur, 1970, Philip Davies, ISBN 9780432093955, ISBN 0432093958
  7. ^ England, Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, Hereford,; Jack, G. H. (1880). Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. pp. 15–20. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Grahame Clark (1979). The Mesolithic Age in Britain. AMS Press. p. 38. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "King Arthur's Cave". Herefordshire Nature Trust. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "Arthur's Cave near Monmouth, South Wales". Legend of King Arthur. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 

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