The Old Grotto, Dyer's Wood


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Teignbridge (District Authority)
Denbury and Torbryan
National Grid Reference:
SX 81711 67393


A cave with Palaeolithic deposits and medieval chapel in Dyer’s Wood, 150m south of The Old Rectory.

Reasons for Designation

Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters provide some of the earliest evidence of human activity in the period from about 400,000 to 10,000 years ago. The sites, all natural topographic features, occur mainly in hard limestone in the north and west of the country, although examples also exist in the softer rocks of south-east England. Evidence for human occupation is often located near the cave entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms. The interiors sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or were places where material naturally accumulated from the outside. Because of the special conditions of deposition and preservation, organic and other fragile materials often survive well and in stratigraphic association. Caves and rock shelters are therefore of major importance for understanding this period. Due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all examples with good survival of deposits are considered to be nationally important.

A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre-Reformation period. Chapels were designed for congregational worship and were generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which was the main domain of the priest and contained the principal altar. Other chapels were built as private places of worship by hermits or manorial lords. Chapels were often abandoned as their communities and supporting finances declined or disappeared. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment.

Despite partial excavation, a cave with Palaeolithic deposits and medieval chapel in Dyer’s Wood, 150m south of The Old Rectory are a fascinating juxtaposition of one of the earliest habitation sites coupled with a medieval religious foundation. The archaeological information which these two different periods of occupation could reveal could hold fascinating keys to the role of the limestone bluff throughout an extensive timescale and the environmental, climatic changes and religious progressions through time


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 9 November 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes a cave with an external medieval chapel situated on the west side of a small limestone bluff on the western side of a south east facing valley of a tributary to the River Hems. The chapel survives as a rectangular building which measures up to 7m by 3m and is defined by 1m high walls and lies immediately outside the NNW facing cave entrance. The cave is of irregular shape with a high vaulted roof with small opening at its base to adjacent caves to the south. There are two further small caves in the bluff. The cave was named ‘The Old Grotto’ by James Lyon Widger who partially excavated a number of caves in the vicinity during 1870. Finds included Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic flints, a polished axe, antler and bone awls, an ivory pin, an Iron Age spindle whorl, up to 36 pieces of pottery and Pleistocene animal remains, although the records were somewhat unclear as to provenance. In 1955–7 it was partially re-excavated by Dr Zeuner and the rectangular building was proved to of medieval origin. It originally had a slate roof and was probably tiled. Some carved limestone had details indicative of 14th or 15th century. There was evidence for occupation in this period and it was thought to be a chapel with a hermitage.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DV 603
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:-1165385


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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