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Guy's Cave hermitage and other rock cut chambers at Guy's Cliffe

A Scheduled Monument in Warwick, Warwickshire

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Latitude: 52.2985 / 52°17'54"N

Longitude: -1.572 / 1°34'19"W

OS Eastings: 429282.471

OS Northings: 266797.5027

OS Grid: SP292667

Mapcode National: GBR 5LY.Z88

Mapcode Global: VHBXH.PHS9

Entry Name: Guy's Cave hermitage and other rock cut chambers at Guy's Cliffe

Scheduled Date: 13 October 1951

Last Amended: 24 November 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019129

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30053

County: Warwickshire

Civil Parish: Warwick

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Warwickshire

Church of England Parish: Leek Wootton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Coventry


The monument includes the standing and buried remains and rock cut features
of Guy's Cave hermitage and chapel at Guy's Cliffe, as well as caves and rock
cut features associated with the later use of the site, within three separate
areas of protection. Guy's Cave is sited in the sandstone cliffs overlooking
the River Avon, 1.5km north east of the centre of Warwick and 700m south west
of Old Milverton Church.

The medieval historian Rous believed that St Dubricius chose to make a holy
place at the site and asserts that it was a hermitage from Saxon times, being
associated with the tenth century Guy of Warwick. During the 12th century the
hermitage became the property of St Sepulchre's Priory in Warwick, and a
hermit was resident here in 1334. The property passed to the Earl of Warwick
in 1422 who established a chantry in 1423. During the 18th century a mansion
was constructed to the north of the cliff around a courtyard, being extended
in the 19th century. The mansion, which is Listed Grade II, fell into ruins
during the 1950s and has been partially refurbished since 1971. The ruins of
the mansion and those portions which remain in use, known in part, as the
Masonic Lodge and the Priests House are excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath them is included. Lying parallel to the chapel and mansion
is a cliff face into which a series of chambers are cut, forming the south
range of the courtyard.

Within the first area of protection is The Chapel of St Mary Magdalene
formerly known as Guy's Cliff Chapel, which is Listed Grade II*. The chapel is
largely 15th century incorporating 18th and 19th century restorations in
Gothic style. As it was established on a religious site of some antiquity it
may include masonry of earlier features including an earlier chapel. The
Chapel of St Mary Magdalene is oriented north east to south west, with two
side aisles running the length of the rib-vaulted building. The south west
tower is believed to date from 1449, and has a ground floor porch with
partially rock cut foundations. On the interior south east wall is a larger-
than-life scale deep relief carving of a human figure, reputedly Guy of
Warwick, carved into the natural rock. The carving is believed to be of 14th
to 15th century date and depicts an armoured male with a shield but missing
the sword and right arm. The chapel was refurbished during the 18th and 19th
centuries and has been restored since 1971. There are blocked stone mullioned
Gothic windows on the north elevation. Guy's Cave, a small cave measuring 4m
by 2m is sited 7.5m to the east of the chapel. The cave is reputed to be the
site of the hermitage of Guy of Warwick. It is entered through an oval opening
in the north face of the cliff, 0.75m above ground level, and overlooking the
riverside. The eroded remains of an inscription, reputedly in Anglo-Saxon of a
Mercian dialect, reading, `cast out, thou Christ, from thy servant this
burden, Guy' can be seen on the south wall of the cave facing the opening. In
the western corner of the cave is an infilled doorway which led to a rock cut
chamber containing two wells. The wells are believed to have originally formed
part of the hermitage. The well chamber, now accessed externally from the
north, was formerly linked to the cave via a second cave and some steps which
were destroyed in a rock fall. It was adapted to act as the power house and to
provide water for the mansion and traces of the pumping and filtration system
survived in 1990.

A large blocked arched doorway in the eastern edge of the northern cliff face,
formerly led into the rock cut stables. The stables are rectangular rock cut
chambers measuring approximately 16m north to south by 13m east to west and
include the remains of four stalls created by free standing piers and wooden
stable fittings. The vaulted ceiling is reinforced with brick and timber. The
main west entrance is through a two storey, arched, open fronted vestibule
leading from the main courtyard. The slots for a timber floor providing the
now destroyed second floor to the porticus can be seen in the rock face, and
the remains of an external stone staircase leading to this survive on the west
face of the cliff, just north of the entrance. A terrace later constructed on
the cliff above Guy's Cave has a late 18th century stone balustrade. Also on
the cliff top immediately above the stables and overlooking the terrace are
the remains of a further building which includes several courses of roughly
faced sandstone blocks of two walls linked at right angles. One wall faces
west and overlooks the main courtyard, the other faces north and overlooks the
terrace and the river. These features are thought to be associated with the
medieval religious use of the site and may have been reused or acted as garden
features during the 18th and 19th century. A formal garden walk, called `Fair
Felice's Walk' was located in this area and associated with romantic legends
concerning the death of a Lady Felice who was said to have committed suicide
by leaping from the cliff.

A number of further chambers are cut into the north facing cliff at courtyard
level. These occupy the whole of the cliff face from the corner near the
stables, as far as the west end of the cliff, lying parallel to the chapel
and mansion and forming the south range of the courtyard. The chambers fall
into two parts, the westernmost group of eight barrel vaulted chambers, also
known as `the Cloisters', include eight symmetrical, high arched chambers,
cut approximately 2.5m to 3m deep into the rock face. The vaulting is
partially constructed from cut stone, and the open fronted chambers are faced
with rusticated stone blocks.

The easternmost group includes five chambers roughly hewn from the rock face
and varying in size and appearance. These have been adapted for use as
domestic offices associated with the mansion. Moving from east to west, the
first chamber, entered through a roughly arched coaching doorway, is barrel
vaulted and is 20m deep. The second chamber, also entered through a large
roughly arched doorway, formerly acted as a store room, being linked to the
kitchens in the north range by a railway for trucks set into the courtyard.
The third chamber has a rough arched doorway, is 9m deep, barrel vaulted with
an arched recess in the rear and two stone mullioned windows. It has been
adapted to act as the boiler room. The fourth chamber is reached by a flight
of ashlar stone steps and has a stone mullioned window. It has been stabilised
by the insertion of a 19th century iron masonry tie. The fifth chamber is
approximately 5m deep and includes evidence of a former inserted floor level.
Inside there is a recess on either side of the entrance and evidence of a
former chimney flue to the rear. There are scars made by former lean-to
buildings against the rock face between the third and fourth chamber.

Within the second area of protection, 20m west of the chapel, are the remains
of a rock hewn ice house located beneath the undercroft of the service range
of the mansion, in the north range of the courtyard. This rock hewn chamber
has a partly brick lined shaft, brick vaults and floors, with a brick lined
soakaway in the floor. There is now no permanent access.

The third area of protection includes the remains of the rock hewn chamber,
also known as the boat house, located 55m east of the chapel along the base of
the cliff to the east of Guy's Cave. The structure is of two bays with two
aisles and eight lateral bays divided by rock hewn monolithic pillars
measuring approximately 0.75m wide. The entrance and bays have round headed
arches. The chamber is approximately 9m wide by 12m deep, with an earth floor.
It is believed to be associated with the 18th century estate and may have
reused the site of earlier quarrying.

Guy's Cliffe House, all 19th century and modern door frames, doors and gates,
all modern surfaces and post and wire fences are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath all these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Following St Augustine's re-establishment of Christianity in AD 597,
monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular medieval
life in the British Isles. Although most monasticism centred on communities,
some men and women chose to live solitary lives of contemplation and
simplified religious observance, akin to those of the Christian fathers and
early British saints. They lived in what we now refer to as hermitages,
occupying secluded sites such as isolated islands and caves in river banks,
marshy areas or forests. The hermits lived off alms or under the patronage of
the nobility who established hermits to pray for the souls and well-being of
their families. Hermitages were generally simple, comprising a dwelling area,
an oratory or room set aside for private prayer, and perhaps a small chapel.
Hermitages fell out of favour with the general dissolution of religious
establishments in the middle of the 16th century. Around 500 hermitages are
known from documents but the locations of very few have been identified and
this is therefore a rare monument type. All examples which exhibit surviving
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Guy's Cave hermitage at Guy's Cliffe represents a well preserved example of an
early rock cut hermitage site, which continued in use for a variety of
religious purposes beyond the Reformation. The hermitage originated in the
Anglo-Saxon period, and it remained important at least until the 13th century,
when it belonged to St Sepulchre's Priory. In addition to the original small
cave, a number of other rock cut caves and features survive. These have been
altered throughout the history of the site and demonstrate the changing use of
the site. During the 14th and 15th century the main fabric of the chapel was
erected, although it is believed to include earlier features. The post-
Dissolution conversion of the site and its use as a high status domestic
residence, continuing into the 20th century, demonstrates the continued
importance of both the dramatic location and the historic associations of the

The standing fabric of the hermitage, the chapel and associated rock cut
features are expected to illuminate both the construction and development of
the hermitage throughout its history. They will provide information relating
to the dates of any developments at the site and as well as evidence for
changing ritual and religious practices, from the Anglo-Saxon period until the

Buried remains, including artefacts and environmental deposits, will include
information about the daily activities, range of contacts and the status of
the occupants of both the hermitage and later the mansion.

The area around the riverside remains waterlogged and will be expected to
preserve environmental deposits. These will include information about the
diet, standard of living, and the natural environment surrounding the
hermitage and the mansion during their occupation.

Source: Historic England


Various SMR Offices, Unpublished notes in SMR Office, Ref 2233 Warwick SMR

Source: Historic England

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