The Occult Mysteries of Caynton Caves
Caynton Hall is mansion built during the late 1700s as a “gentleman's house” for a William Yonge, who inherited the land from his late sister. The estate was rich in red sandstone so with a quarry on his own land it wasn't long before the hall was complete. Today it has been converted to luxury apartments, in common with many of these old piles. So far so good, but what's mysterious about this?
In a corner of the estate, concealed in woodland, is a hole dug into the side of an earthen bank. It looks like a rabbit hole or maybe a badger sett, but pointing a torch inside reveals something quite simply spectacular. This is the infamous Caynton Caves. Touted as a “secret Templar chapel” by the popular media and Youtubers over and over again, I can confidently state that this is NOT a Templar anything, but the uses the caves have been put to over the years just may be a lot more sinister.
The caves seem to have been completely forgotten for the first half of the 20th century at least, even the owner of Caynton Hall at one time was not aware that this grotto existed on his land. However, local lore is a powerful thing and by the 1970s the word was whispered around that a strange underground place of ritual lay in the woods and various occultist groups began to creep in and out. Whatever form these earlier rites took is not known but it is said that by the mid 80s the Satanist group known as the Order of Nine Angles were creating one of their “nexions” at Caynton Caves. While today the O9A has been connected with terrorism and many other serious crimes after splintering into dozens of smaller groups worldwide, back then this was a smaller but no less sinister operation.
The caves were sealed off during the 1990s to stop any more kinds of occultists from capering down there but it wasn't long before the entrance was excavated again and various more peaceful groups began nocturnal visits. One memorable evening a group of local families who were gathered for a firework display saw black smoke pouring out of the woodland, followed by a stream of robed and hooded people emerging out into the field, coughing and spluttering as they fell to the ground. The cretinous cultists had lit a fire inside the caves, filling quickly with thick smoke which overwhelmed them! It gets more surreal - the Daily Mail even carried a story saying that two of the group had knocked on the door of Caynton Hall to ask for the robes back which they'd left in the cave!
Enough was enough, and the entrance was once more blocked with a steel grille and concrete. Yet again, the hole was breached and gangs of youths, curious explorers, various pagan covens and others returned. In 2012 a local man set up a few dozen tealights in the caves and took some atmospheric pictures which he sold to the Mail, this went viral and now the whole world knew of the “lost secret Templar place of ritual” which attracted even more unwanted visitors. Throughout all this activity, the caves remain firmly on strictly private land and the resulting litter and debris was most definitely unwanted. Thanks very much Daily Mail! For the final time the entrance was sealed....but you can guess the rest. I think the owners of the estate have given up keeping the caves closed but there are cameras and barbed wire set up now. I visited some time ago when no fence existed and the quietly curious were tolerated.
So what is this place, and what was it actually for? As stated before, despite any sensational clickbait titles or headlines you may see online, this was NOT a temple, secret or otherwise, of the Knights Templar. There is simply not one piece of evidence to even suggest it. In any case – it's too rough, a sacred religious space would at least have straight columns. It was probably carved out of the sandstone by workers on behalf of General Arthur Legge, an owner of Caynton Hall in the early 1800s. It is also suggested by parish magazines of the day that he might have actually “installed” his very own “druid” to live in the cave as a whimsical feature to show his friends. This was actually more common than you think around this time, with other house druids known to have lived at the Druids Temple in Yorkshire and on Bredon Hill in Worcestershire.
Norman style vaulted columns abound, arranged in a spiral gallery, while at one end there seems to be an arched alcove where possibly a religious image may have once been set in place. A room is set separately to one end which features a strange seat shaped stone with a demonic face leering out of it. It seems out of place with the rest of the architecture so I think this was carved by some of the later users. There is also a large stone bowl standing on another alcove which was presumably for offerings of some sort, the mind boggles at what has been placed into it over the years! It's actually a miracle that it's still down there, but I think it's heavy weight has thwarted would-be thieves. The myriad graffiti etched into the sandstone walls dates back to the early 1900s and includes all manner of bizarre and sinister symbols and pictures. There are some very old depressions in the stone which might have once held decorative objects, perhaps shaped glass or semi-precious stones, some of these are in a simple equilateral cross. My 6 foot frame didn't have to stoop at all once fully inside, while it is a very rough piece of work it's been well planned out.
I don't know what to make of Caynton Caves, it's atmosphere has been shaped by it's many secretive visitors over the decades and the activities they carried out down there. Without veering into paranormal territory too much, it wouldn't surprise me if some kind of unidentifiable presence, a “spirit of the place” had made it's home in the caves, it certainly wasn't a place I wanted to dawdle in for too long. I usually encourage readers of these articles to get out when things open up for us and visit these places but I have absolutely no idea what the situation might be at Caynton. If the way is open then please tread carefully, quietly, and treat this place with respect. It is most definitely a mystery of Mercia that will fascinate the curious for generations to come.
The entrance to the caves
Some of the rough but impressive columns
The offerings bowl - I shudder to think what has been "offered" over the years!
The strange archway which possibly once housed a religious icon
The odd "seat" stone - do you see the sinister face?
Impressive columns, but if this was really a Templar place they'd have at least been straight
A half spiral galley runs round the cave
View from just inside the caves