A cave home that was originally believed to be an 18th-century folly has been discovered as one of the UK’s oldest preserved household interiors and was likely the home of an exiled Anglo-Saxon king, researchers speculate.

Anchor Church cave in south Derbyshire was utilized as a party venue by local gentry in the 18th century, and it was previously assumed that this was the cave’s only history.

However, researchers now believe the cave-dwelling dates back 1,200 years, and that Eardwulf, who was overthrown as king of Northumbria in AD806 and died in AD830, lived there.

Edmund Simons, the project’s lead investigator, grew up in a cave house-filled area.

“I can’t think of a natural mechanism that creates walls, doors, and windows, let alone pillars, thus it’s not a natural cave.” Everything about the cave, including the narrowness of the windows, suggested it was built in the Saxon style.

Simons believes that a local legend connects the place to Saint Hardulph, formerly King Eardwulf. He believes Eardwulf lived there as a recluse, in tunnels that were built or extended specifically for him, where his enemies could keep a watch on him.

“They’re quite tough to comprehend and date, and I’ve always been captivated by them,” he remarked. “When I was three, I remember falling off one.”

He usually works abroad, but due to the inability to travel in the last year, he decided to “indulge me and put together a project to figure out what the hell these things are.”

The initiative is looking at 170 sites, but Simons said that “everything just fit together in a manner that it doesn’t often happen with all these things” at Anchor Church cave.

As a natural cave that was extended in the 18th century, the cave-dwelling is Grade II listed. That, however, cannot be the case, according to Simons.

“I can’t think of a natural mechanism that creates walls, doors, and windows, let alone pillars, thus it’s not a natural cave.” Everything about the cave, including the narrowness of the windows, suggested it was built in the Saxon style.

Simons believes that a local legend connects the place to Saint Hardulph, formerly King Eardwulf. He believes Eardwulf lived there as a recluse, in tunnels that were built or extended specifically for him, where his enemies could keep a watch on him.

The name “hermit” may bring up pictures of a bearded, scruffy elderly man who lives alone and eats nuts and fruit. “This is someone who would have had disciples and would have been recognized as holy, maybe as a saint in his lifetime,” Simons said. He no longer has his grand dining hall, but it is still a fine gaff.”

Hardulph was buried five miles from the caverns in Breedon on the Hill, Leicestershire.

According to Simons, the discovery makes it “possibly the oldest preserved household interior in the UK.” “We have churches from this era, but we don’t have somewhere where people slept, ate, and worshiped, or anything like that.” We’ve got one right here. It’s extraordinary.”

According to Simons, historians have often neglected cave houses, yet they “may be the only entire domestic buildings to have remained from the Saxon period.” More than 20 more sites in the West Midlands have been discovered as possibly dating from the fifth century as part of this project.”

The caverns were allegedly remodeled in the 18th century when Sir Robert Burdett “had it fixed up so that he and his friends might dine within its cool and romantic chambers,” according to the team. This included enlarging passageways to allow well-dressed females to pass through.

Simons led a team of archaeologists from RAU and Wessex Archaeology. Research published in the Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society documents the findings.