As part of the Festival of Archaeology Week we are delighted to have a team from Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust on site making exciting investigations at Penderel’s Cave. You can find the cave on Capability Brown’s Shrewsbury Walk to the west of the House. The excavations are taking place between the 25th and 31st July and visitors to the estate are more than welcome to come along and take a look at the dig underway.
Penderel’s Cave is a feature in the pleasure grounds laid out by Capability Brown, which date back to the 1760’s. Brown was commissioned to create two such areas on the estate, Temple Wood and Shrewsbury Walk. The cave is situated in the western pleasure ground, Shrewsbury Walk.
Inside the cave are traces of mineral and shells, suggesting that the cave was a grotto of some sort, a popular garden feature during the late eighteenth century. The rear of the cave is hollowed from the sandstone that lies beneath the Park, whereas the front section is made up of a random rubble rock construction. At the entrance to the cave there is evidence of iron bars having formerly closed off the entrance, possibly being the remains of a gate.
Hermits and hermitages were popular features on country estates like Weston in the eighteenth century. It has been suggested that one of the Penderel family lived inside the cave. A family story also links the Cave to the Penderel family – supposedly kinsmen of the Penderels of nearby Boscobel House – who aided King Charles || in his flight following the Battle of Worcester in 1651 when members of the Penderel family concealed the monarch in an oak tree. However, where Penderel of Weston is concerned, there is as yet no firm evidence for his existence within the cave that bears his name.
If Penderel’s Cave does date from the eighteenth century landscaping works created under the aegis of Capability Brown, then the man who commissioned it was Sir Henry Bridgeman, 5th Bt. and later 1st Baron of Bradford (1723-1800). Sir Henry enjoyed spending his wealth, having said to have spent over £12,000 on Weston Park – then a huge sum.
We hope that this week’s work will perhaps give insights into the history of Penderel’s Cave, its original form, its setting, whether it was approached by paths or steps and perhaps about the planting that might have existed around it. Inside are what appear to be post rebates and so the works this week might tell us more about how the interior functioned as well as about the way the cave was closed off, perhaps with a metal gate or grille.
The dig will hopefully result in successfully learning more about the history of the estate, as well as informing the future conservation and perhaps even restoration of the structure. This will become a part of the Weston Park Foundation’s ongoing rolling 25 year management plan that assists with the conservation of the Capability Brown landscape.
Come and take a look at the dig taking place at Penderel’s Cave between the 25th and 31st July and be a part of this exciting week in Weston’s history.