Caynton Caves: a Mid-19th Century Grotto

UPDATE October 2021 – full source added.

For some reason the media (and social media) have gone nuts today over ‘Templar’ caves in Shropshire, due to a series of photographs by the talented but historically misinformed photographer Michael Scott. The “caves” on the Caynton Hall estate are actually a Victorian grotto carved into a disused quarry. Confirmation of this was located by a Harry Thornton was able to find a ‘smoking gun’ source written within 30-odd years of the caves’ construction. Thornton initially wrote to a local paper about his find in 2012, before supplying the complete quote and reference to the Shropshire record office. describing a visit by a church choir in July 1883, following the wedding of the daughter of the site’s owner, General Legge;

“[The grotto] is situated in a romantic looking dell in the grounds, and has been hewn out of solid rock by General Legge himself. Lighted by lamps placed here and there in niches it looked exceedingly pretty, but the effect was enhanced when the General proceeded to light different coloured limelights, and all were loud in their exclamations of admiration and delight.”

We might expect Legge’s daughter to know the true origin of the grotto. Even if Legge only added to earlier features, the place can have nothing whatever to do with the Knights Templar. BSH rule of thumb; if someone says something or someone is connected with the KT, it/they almost certainly aren’t.

Wikipedia had it right in 2017 (but has since been edited to be more equivocal);

“Claims of a Templar connection are without foundation. There are no records of any Templar holdings in vicinity of the caves and the nearest house of the Order was the preceptory of Lidley some 25 miles to the west. Nor is there anything structurally or in the iconography that points to a Templar association.”

The suggestions of ‘druids and pagans’ using the site ‘later’ may well be correct, but if so they were Neo-Pagans, with no direct connection to their ancient inspiration (and apparently no awareness of their own local history).