Anchor Church | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Anchor Church

Derby, England, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

29 Jan 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Anchor Church

Anchor Church is a series of caves close to the village of Ingleby in Derbyshire. The caves have been occupied on and off likely since the 9th century, and today provide a quirky visit to those walking the Derbyshire countryside.

Anchor Church history

Anchor Church is thought to have derived its name from an Anchorite hermit, St Hardulph, who lived and prayed there in the Anglo-Saxon period. The word anchorite itself is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to depart into the countryside’.

By the 18th and 19th centuries St Hardulph’s residency had become part of the folklore of the area, with William Woolley describing Anchor Church in 1715 as a ‘most solitary, pleasant place’. However, research in 2021 revealed that is it in fact highly likely that St Hardulph lived there in the 9th century, and that he was not just a saintly hermit but the exiled Anglo-Saxon King Eardwulf.

Eardwulf was deposed from the Northumbrian throne in 806, and lived the remainder of his life as a hermit in the caves of Anchor Church with a group of followers, before his death and burial 5 miles away at Breedon on the Hill in 830. This discovery would make it the oldest intact domestic interior found in Britain.

Local legend tells of another religious inhabitant of the caves. In the later Middle Ages, a deceptive monk named Bernard supposedly occupied them in solitary penance for his sins. He had been paid by the Baron of Boyvill to inform local lord Sir Hugo de Burdett that his wife had been unfaithful to him, as Boyvill himself wished to marry her.

When Burdett heard of this, he flew into a rage, killing Boyvill and cutting off his wife’s hand where her wedding ring was placed. The monk, realising the magnitude of his deceit, fled to Anchor Church in shame where he later died.

Whether Hugo de Burdett is indeed linked to the caves, it is known that in the 18th and 19th centuries the Burdett family of Formarke Hall occupied them for leisurely pursuits.

They enlarged them, fitting a door and steps to the entrance in 1845. By that time Anchor Church was part of the romantic landscape of Formarke, and used a summerhouse by Sir Francis Burdett, who with his family and guests would hold picnics as they admired the views over the Trent Valley.

Anchor Church today 

Today Anchor Church no longer has the Burdett’s fitted door and cosy furnishings, however it remains reminiscent of what may have at the most been an ancient home, and at the very least the site of some rather quirky gatherings!

With carved out holes for the door and windows, and a number of adjoining rooms carved through the rock, it is a hidden gem that provides an intriguing visit to those exploring the Derbyshire countryside’s many curiosities. 

Getting to Anchor Church 

Anchor Church is situated in the village of Ingleby, just south of the Peak District, which can be reached from Repton on the B5008 or Swarkestone on the A514.

There is street parking in the village, and a signposted footpath off Main St leads you to the caves. The nearest train station is Derby which is a 20 minute drive away, and a number of bus services run in the area dropping off at Ash Farm bus stop.

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