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Anchor Church is a series of rock-cut dwellings in a sandstone cliff next to a backwater of the River Trent near Ingleby, Derbyshire.
In the summer of 2020, Professor Ed Simons of the Royal Agricultural University was able to establish that the long-held local belief that they were the site of a 9th century monastic cell was correct, and in fact represent the earliest intact domestic dwelling from the Anglo-Saxon period in the UK. The caves were likely constructed (or possibly enlarged) for the deposed Northumbrian King Eardwulf, who died around 830CE.
We have been working with students from the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History to uncover the long history of Anchor Church.
A video of the restoration of Anchor Church, undertaken on TTTV's behalf by specialist conservators ASBC Heritage & Conservation Specialists in August 2023. The work was part-funded by an Historic England regional capacity building grant.
In 2021 the site was badly defaced by vandals using spray paint.
In July 2023 the Transforming the Trent Valley (TTTV) Partnership led a project to have the paint graffiti removed. Specialist conservators were brought in who carefully removed the graffiti without damage to the fabric of the sandstone caves themselves. The project was coordinated and overseen by Dr Mark Knight, Cultural Heritage Officer for TTTV.
This successful outcome is the culmination of almost two years of work finding the funding, a specialist team with the knowledge and equipment to perform the task, and liaising with planning officers, Universities, and archaeologists to ensure the right outcome was achieved. We are now working with Historic England, the landowner, local police and volunteers to monitor the site and report antisocial behaviour to try and prevent further occurrences of vandalism.
Here is a link to the BBC news report on the graffiti removal work. Disclaimer: TTTV is not responsible for the content of external sites.
The image shows inside the Anchor Church caves looking east towards the alcoves where heavy graffiti has been removed. The east of the structure would have been the chapel, where services and worship were held. The archway to the left foreground of the image is an 18th century fireplace and later than the original Anglo-Saxon structure.
Many thanks to Paul L.G. Morris for creating the before and after comparisons.
Image 1 credit: Martin Robinson; image 2 credit: Paul L.G. Morris
Composite image of Anchor Church created by Paul L.G. Morris, 2023.
Original photographer unknown. This image from the Knight family collection and thought to date to circa 1890-1900 and be one of a pair that were used in a stereoscope.
The caves as they appear to us today have been much modified over the centuries. Although it is possible that caves had been cut into the sandstone cliff at an earlier date, the earliest evidence we now have points to an early 9th century origin. This fits with the local folklore, which tells us that the site was used by the exiled Eardwulf of Northumbria, or St Hardulph as we know him. There are some remaining features from this period still visible in the monument, the small interior arched doorways to the west of the building: the recesses for the door jambs, hinges and bolts, for example. The largest piece of Anglian architecture within the structure are the eastern chapel features and the pilaster cap on the easternmost internal arch. The larger internal apertures were probably created in the later 18th century when the site was used by the Burdett family as a rustic picnicking site. The western doorway would have been enlarged to suit the gentlewomen’s dresses from the period, and internal walls demolished to create larger internal spaces. The external windows were enlarged at this time to allow more light in. The brickwork along the window sills also dates to this time, along with the internal hearth and chimney.
Early photographs show that the eastern entrance did not exist until the 20th century, and that a sandstone block kerb ran along the edge of the backwater, creating a landing stage to allow small boats and punts to moor alongside the church. By comparing the photographs we can see that the window apertures have been enlarged over the course of the 20th century, making them much larger. The original early medieval windows would have been even smaller still; just enough to allow in some light but small enough to keep out as much wind and weather as possible.
Anchor Church is a listed building and protected by law. Damage to this monument, including lighting fires, barbecues, graffiti or other harm is illegal and offences may be liable to prosecution. To report an incident please call 101 or follow this link.
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