Barons’ Cave, Reigate

Barons’ Cave, situated underneath the grounds at which Reigate Castle once stood, is the oldest surviving medieval site in Reigate.  The exact date the caves were excavated is unknown, but the earliest reference dates from 1586 when it is described by Camden as “an extraordinary passage  with a vaulted roof hewn with great labour out of the soft stone.”   The caves were once part of the old Norman Castle, now since demolished, and are Reigate’s oldest medieval site; it is a scheduled ancient monument.  It is unsure what the purpose of the caves were, but there are a number of the theories and myths; the most prolific dating back to the time of the Magna Carter.  The story goes that the rebellious barons met in the caves to discuss details of the document before meeting with the king; however it is unknown whether there is any truth in this.  More likely, the caves were used as an escape route out of the Castle in case of siege and as a wine cellar.  Unfortunately, due to the ornate craftsman’s ship of the tunnels, doubt is cast over the ideas behind its use.

The graffiti within the tunnels dates from 1664 and covers the majority of the tunnels; tours from 1860 onwards often encouraged people to leave their mark on the walls – causing any older graffiti to be lost.  The cave is now opened a few times a year by the WCMS.

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Modified: 1st Apr 2017