King Arthur's Cave, Great Doward


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010289

Date first listed: 01-Sep-1952

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Sep-1992


Ordnance survey map of King Arthur's Cave, Great Doward
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Ganarew

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Whitchurch

National Grid Reference: SO 54573 15580

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.

King Arthur's Cave is one of only five English caves with evidence of both Early and Late Upper Palaeolithic occupation.


King Arthur's Cave is formed in carboniferous limestone and is situated on the south facing slope of Doward Hill, which rises above the River Wye. The cave consists of two chambers, approximately 10m long and ranging from 2m to 4m high, which are joined by a short lateral passage near the entrance. Outside the entrance is a wide platform which is composed of intact archaeological talus deposits underlying excavation tip. Artefacts and faunal remains have been recovered from the cave and entrance areas. They include Early and Late Upper Palaeolithic implements and animal remains such as hyena, horse and red deer. Two hearths have been identified in the lateral passage near the entrance, one of which was dated to about 12,120 years ago. Mesolithic artefacts, including a drilled pig's tooth, have also been found near the entrance. King Arthur's Cave was first investigated in the 19th century when most of the interior deposits were removed. Further excavations and survey work were carried out in the entrance area in the 1950s and more recently a mapped survey was undertaken of the exposed sections outside the entrance. The monument includes all remaining deposits within the cave and those extending 12m either side of the entrance and to a distance of 25m north and west of the entrance to include the outside platform area.

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


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

Legacy System number: 13691

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hedges, et al, 'Archaeometry' in Radiocarbon Dates From The Oxford AMS System, , Vol. 31, 2, (1989)
Symonds, P B, 'Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalist's Field Club' in King Arthur's Cave, (1933)
Symonds, P B, 'Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalist's Field Club' in King Arthur's Cave on the Great Doward, (1924)

End of official listing