The Incredible Discovery Of Royston Cave

By | November 28, 2022

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Religious and secular relief carvings dating from circa 1310 include a sheela-na-gig figure, St. Katherine, and scenes from the life of Christ. (Homer Sykes/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Located north of London in the English town of Royston is a strange and mysterious manmade cave that was hidden from the town's residents for hundreds of years. Sometime in the 12th century, a trading outpost sprang up in Royston. Much later, workers in the marketplace happened upon the entrance to the cave.

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Plate I from The Origins And Use Of The Royston Cave, 1884. (Joseph Beldam/Wikimedia Commons)

Royston Cave

The town of Royston is located along the Ickneild Way, now called Melbourn Street, an ancient road that wound to Salisbury Plain—you know, the place where Stonehenge sits—and was used by prehistoric tribes, Roman invaders, and even the Knights Templar. In August 1742, a worker was hired to install a bench in the town's butter market on this street and found a round millstone beneath the ground. When he moved it, he found a 30-foot shaft that led to a cave whose walls were covered in ornate carvings of religious scenes. The townspeople were certain the cave must have concealed a great treasure, but they found little more than a few pottery shards and some bones.