BACK TO THE STONE AGE; PROPERTY UPDATE an Historic Cave House Is Up for Sale in Worcestershire. It Was an 'Affordable' Home of Its Time, Carved out of the Rock - with No Need for a Mortgage, Marsya Lennox Reports

The Birmingham Post (England), June 15, 2007 | Go to article overview

BACK TO THE STONE AGE; PROPERTY UPDATE an Historic Cave House Is Up for Sale in Worcestershire. It Was an 'Affordable' Home of Its Time, Carved out of the Rock - with No Need for a Mortgage, Marsya Lennox Reports


Byline: Marsya Lennox reports

There are no mod cons, not even running water - though you could catch the rain in a bucket where one of the old chimneys has collapsed.

The property is called Rock Cottage, it is one of a fascinating Midland collection of historic cave dwellings and, it stands quite alone in the summer marketplace, due for sale by auction next month.

The location is Sladd Lane, Wolverley, close to Kidderminster on the southern reach of Kinver Edge, known for its sandstone cliff scenery.

It is by no means unique in Britain. Nottingham is well known for its domestic cave homes, as is Bridgnorth and other sandstone areas where people found good shelter in the easily-hollowed rock faces.

In legend they are the retreat of holy men, hermits - and witches - the ultimate badge of poverty, rude homes that could be had for free.

In prehistory, they made perfect sense.

You could watch the enemy approach - and disappear into the earth when danger threatened.

But, unknown to many, is the fact that people still made their homes in caves - within living memory - right up until the 1950s.

Romantics will tell you that they could be warm in winter - and cool in summer. But those who experienced cave life sometimes tell different tales - of bundling up with extra clothing in winter, the lack of facilities - and the limited space.

Practicalities aside, anyone who remembers inhabited caves turns instantly nostalgic for simpler times - and the stoicism of the people who made the best of primitive living space.

As modern tourist attractions, their worth is obvious. They may not have the ancient cave paintings of the Neanderthal dwellings so famous in France, but England's own cave dwellings tell a more recent story.

There are memories of teas being served to curious passers-by from Wolverley's last inhabited cave homes, among others.

And just down the lane, the amazing cave complex at Drakelow is seen as a nationally important reminder of a "forgotten chapter of England's history".

Though their history stretches back to medieval times and beyond, they were the basis of a whole community as recently as the 1940s.

It is known that iron workers made their homes in them during the Industrial Revolution.

And 18th century maps even show the cave house gardens, tended by people struggling to cope after enclosure of adjoining common land.

Local benefactors helped out in the mid 19th century building a school at Drakelow to serve the cave dwellers. There was later a chapel where the non-conformists ministered to the locals, notably the preacher Richard Baxter, commemorated with an obelisk.

And in wartime, caves were very useful, exploited and extended to create the underground Rover factory in the 1940s and later, an emergency control centre for the Ministry of Defence, who finally abandoned the area, as late as the 1980s.

A dedicated body, the Drakelow Preservation Trust was formed only last year to campaign for the preservation of the surviving parts of the site.

They believe it could be a brilliant educational resource and a major tourist attraction with the right support.

But cave homes in private hands - and coming to the market - are a bit of a rarity.

One nearby Wolverley cave, sold seven years ago, went for more than three times its initial pounds 10,000 estimate.

Relatives of a former occupant had hoped to secure it for the family but were outbid.

And obviously "unfit for human habitation", such properties have limited appeal for property speculators.

But what price might one pay for a folly - a unique share in that forgotten past? And Rock Cottage is due to go under the hammer with a pre-auction guide price of pounds 25,000.

The auctioneers, Halls in Kidderminster, are confident that the unique nature of the property will excite bidders. …

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BACK TO THE STONE AGE; PROPERTY UPDATE an Historic Cave House Is Up for Sale in Worcestershire. It Was an 'Affordable' Home of Its Time, Carved out of the Rock - with No Need for a Mortgage, Marsya Lennox Reports
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