Everyone loves a mystery …

… but let’s remember that most of them are fiction. Over the last two days, I’ve been asked to comment on news reports about a man-made network of caves at Caynton, near Beckbury in Shropshire. Because the origin of these caves is not immediately obvious, it has been suggested that they belonged to the Templars — who were not noted in their day for being subterranean.
So here’s my answer to the queries:

The Knights Templar did not own land at Caynton (where the caves are) or in the Beckbury area, where Caynton is.

There is an excellent summary of the locations where the Templars held land in Shropshire online at:  http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol2/pp85-86 ! (– this is the Victoria County History, the authoritative scholarly history of the English counties).

House of Knights Templars: Preceptory of Lydley | British …

www.british-history.ac.uk

HOUSE OF KNIGHTS TEMPLARS 14. THE PRECEPTORY OF LYDLEY. The Templars, who had acquired estates in Shropshire by 1158, owed their original endowments to William …

As you will see elsewhere on this blog, I have studied the Templars’ records for Shropshire in detail and I’ve been around their major sites in Shropshire. They did have extensive lands in Shropshire, but not in the area in question.

Shropshire is a big county (by English standards), and many religious houses held land there. The Victoria County History page for Beckford (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol10/pp240-247) reveals that Wenlock Priory held land in the area, so if anyone reading this blog is looking for religious connections for Caynton Caves, these would be the people to look at. By the twelfth century Wenlock Priory belonged to the Cluniac order, which (as many readers of this blog know) was based at the Abbey of Cluny in central-eastern France (the Victoria County History page for Wenlock Priory is at: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol2/pp38-47 — and see the Cluny Abbey webpage at: http://www.cluny-abbaye.fr/en/)

Houses of Cluniac monks: Abbey, later Priory, of Wenlock …

www.british-history.ac.uk

5. THE ABBEY, LATER PRIORY, OF WENLOCK. The only pre-Conquest religious house in Shropshire was St. Milburga’s monastery at Wenlock, and this had given way to a …

Beckbury | British History Online

www.british-history.ac.uk

BECKBURY. The small rural parish of Beckbury lies on the Shropshire–Staffordshire border c. 6 km. south of Shifnal. In the Middle Ages (perhaps from the 12th …

However, I think it is much more likely that these caves were created in the 18th or 19th century by a landowner interested in the Gothic Revival movement. There are various examples around England and Wales of underground complexes created by landowners – there’s another one at Dewstow, near Caerwent in the County of Gwent in south Wales: http://www.dewstowgardens.co.uk/

Dewstow Gardens & Grottoes

www.dewstowgardens.co.uk

Dewstow, Garden, Gardens, Grottoes, Gardens to visit. Gardens in Wales, Best British Gardens, James Pulham, Caerwent, Caldicot, Welsh Gardens, Wales Gardens, best …

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About gawainsmum

I'm an academic researching on the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller, the crusades, religion and the role of women in warfare and in religious life in medieval Europe. This blog will feature developments in my research as it progresses.
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One Response to Everyone loves a mystery …

  1. Pingback: The Knight Templar were not an underground order – knights templars estates - Cardiff University

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