The last few months I have been looking at Hermitages and caves across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, trying to find as much history as I can to see why these beautiful caves was craved, I have only travelled to particular ones in Derbyshire but Hermitages are scattered across the UK.
Thanks goes to Andrew Elton for helping me on my venture and supporting me on some of the links I believe I have made…..
HISTORY OF THE HERMITAGES
Hermitages housed religious individuals or groups between 7th to 16th centuries AD. These sites are present all over the UK, but most sites in the UK are to the North and East. Hermitages more often then not was associated with a nearby monastery and was often built for isolation, solitary lifestyle and a spiritual retreat, particularly for monks. The actual term ‘Hermitage’ came from the Greek word for desert and the hermit monks closely resembled the 3rd and 4th century hermits in Egypt and Syria.
Hermits was not always strictly enclosed to their hermitage. Sometimes they was active preachers, mediators in disputes and alm collectors. Some would also seek their solitude in other areas, being responsible for maintaining them and the hermitage being a extension onto such buildings, such as lighthouses, highways, ferries and bridges.
The hermitages had no set monastic rule, they simply were institutions that followed that particular hermit or group of hermits.
Some Hermitages would have been treated as retreat houses while some served as hospices, often being linked as some kind of hospital or leper houses.
There have been six types of Hermitages identified based on the setting and they are as follows….
- Island and Fen
- Forest and Hillside
- Highway and Bridge
Hermitages can be easily recognised, they tend to be excavated remains, place names and antiquarian drawings. Hermitages can included an oratory or chapel, cells or a group of cells within them. In bigger hermitages such areas as kitchens ovens and dovecotes can be recognised. Hermitages was generally enclosed by walls of earth and stone, moats or ditches.
Its hardly surprising that Hermitages have many ghost tales, obviously most tales of that of monks….
I have visited 3 Hermitages over the past few weeks and I have looked into the history of all three and there alleged hauntings.
Anchor church is located in between Foremark Ingleby in Derbyshire. It is believed that hermit St Hardluph craved the cave and lived here during the 6th and 7th Century during the reign of pagan Kind Penda of Mercia. At this particular spot early Christian hermits would come here as it was remote and would be a place to find peace and reflection and be relatively safe from pagan persecution. Not much else is known regarding the cave and it somewhat holds some mystery to it. An entry in the Parish register at Repton dated 1658 state’ ye foole at Anchor Church bur April 19th’ There is only speculation to who they was referring to as the ‘fool’
By the 18th Century, Sir Robert Burdett, a local gentleman, had the caves expanded at his own expense. This became somewhat of a gentlemen’s club and Burdett would host many picnic parties here.
It is also believed that a monk named Bernard in the middle ages also lived here, who is believed to have also died here whilst doing penance for his involvement in some unknown crime. The story of Bernard fits in with the alleged story further on.
So the ghost stories that are told is of a apparition of a monk, even though I have searched and searched for these sightings to be documented somewhere they are not. I personally do not live to far from the area and no many who have heard stories of people who have claimed to have seen ‘the mad monk’ or have felt uneasy while being in the cave. Could this be Bernard, St hardluph or some other unknown monk?
Another ghost who is alleged to haunt the area is that of a women, she is believed to be dressed in period clothing, wondering around crying. This sighting is from an Physic medium named Steve Watmough, who has personally stayed in the caves himself on many occasions and has claimed to hear and see this lady. He gives the name of the lady as Anne.
The reports I have heard and spoken with regarding the ghosts of Anchor church fits with a piece of history surrounding the area and another alleged ghost, that of Sir Hugo, that is supposed to haunt the area.
The Burdetts have been long associated with the Foremark area, and the Anchorage Caves. During the reign of Henry II, one Hugo De Burdett, so the story goes, lived in a castle at nearby Knowle Hill with his wife Johanne. They loved each other dearly, but the Baron of Boyvill, Hugo’s kinsman and friend, coveted the lovely Johanne for himself.
His first act was to bribe a local friar named Bernard to con Hugo into embarking on a crusade, thus leaving his wife alone and defenceless. In the Holy Land, Hugo was betrayed to the Saracens, and told that his wife was unfaithful and unwilling to pay a ransom for his return. Meanwhile, the crafty baron had informed poor innocent Johanne that her hubby was dead, and that he intended to marry her, whether she liked it or not.
But Boyvill had reckoned with Bernard the friar. Miffed because the Baron had refused to cough up any more money, he sprung Hugo from captivity and informed him that his wife was being unfaithful with his friend. Not long afterwards, the baron, out hunting in the woods around Foremark encountered the understandably angry husband, who promptly resolved the issue with the point of his sword. Having killed the baron, Hugo, mad with jealousy at her supposed deceit, turned on his wife. Drawing his sword, he severed her left hand (upon which she wore her wedding ring) with one savage blow!
Meanwhile friar Bernard, now believed to live at Anchor Church, was on his deathbed. He called for Sir Hugo, and told him the truth, giving him a parchment which revealed the whole plot against him, and the steadfastness of his wife. In tears Sir Hugo ran to his wife’s chamber and there beside the body of his beloved found the altar cloth, embroidered with her own hair which she had been making while praying for his safe return. Legend says that Sir Hugo was led by a nightingale to Ancote in Warwickshire where he built a monastery to atone for his deed. On the altar of this church was placed Johanne’s cloth, which it is said had the miraculous power to cure maladies of the hands. It is also said that Sir Hugo’s ghost haunts the area, still sorrowing for his wife.
Could Anne who Steve feels haunts the area perhaps be Johanne? looking for her husband?
Another sighting in the cave is of a hand just appearing and grabbing people.
Historians also believe that there is a possible a secret passage to Anchor church from Repton, which is 3 miles away from Anchor church, Which they believe leads to The Church of St Wystan. The Church of St Wystan is a unique Saxon crypt which is one of the most important surviving pieces of Saxon architecture in England. It dates from around 750 AD and contains the tombs of King Ethelbald of Mercia (757AD) and King Wiglaf (840AD) and also doesn’t fail on its ghost sightings. The secret passage that is believed to be linked to Anchor Church as many ghost sightings of white figures crossing the churchyard, taking the passage in order to reach Anchor Church.
This location is one of the less investigated locations out there, but the ghost sightings match many of the known locations out there. It is definitely a good location to go out to explore If you are stuck for a location to do!