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


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Warwick (District Authority)
Leek Wootton and Guy's Cliffe
National Grid Reference:
SP 29267 66833, SP 29282 66798, SP 29363 66765

Reasons for Designation

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 site.

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 Reformation.

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.


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.

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:
Legacy System:


Various SMR Offices, Unpublished notes in SMR Office, Ref 2233 Warwick SMR


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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