View Full Version : Archived: Holy Austin's Rock, Kinver, West Mids, August 08

01-09-2008, 10:12 PM
Situated 15 miles outside Birmingham is Kinver, a large and ancient village that is home to reputedly the oldest inhabited cave dwellings in Europe. No-one is sure when they were first dug out of the soft rock, but during the eighteen hundreds reached their peak of their "success", housing at one time an astonishing 19 families. A small part of me feels a bit odd about this place. As a kid in the 1970's and early eighties you could play in all of these, climb in and out of window openings and clamber all over them. Now only the top deck remains partly open, and the bottom of the three levels either shut up, or restored to it's 1900 majesty. However, I guess that they would have been all but ruined, eroded and vandalised if changes hadn't been made.
A view looking at Holy Austin Rock. Holy Austin was likely to have been a friar, living as a hermit either here, or nearby. Note the allotments in front which you can have, just like any other village, town or city.

A view of the bottom layer from today. I spoke to a guy recently who has been down the well on a rope. It was dug, like most wells, by hand, and is 180 feet deep. The bottom 100 feet are back filled with rubbish and ran dry in the '20's or '30's with the building of the pumping station in Kinver.

A similar view in 1920 or so.

Inside the bedroom. The channel 4 programme "The 1900 House" provided a lot of information for furnishing this place. Occassionally visitors to the place remember visiting here when it was still inhabited (1950's) Tool marks are visable on the wall.

This is a painting done early last century of Mr and Mrs Fletcher in the parlour. Note that lucky Mr Fletcher gets to sit by the fire, while poor Mrs Fletcher is stuck by the door with her big hands.

Restored parlour from the door of the bedroom

The ceiling was hollowed out in here, probably to fit in a large clock

When families moved out, often remaining families would tunnel through into the empty cave, doubling their space. This coffin shape of tunnel is often seen in mines, and was chosen for its strength.

The ballroom,(named for its size, not anything else unfortunately) is where there is an exibition. Remains of a fireplace can be seen.

This was known to many as a cafe, and once the bus pulled up at the top of a nearby road, on would go the tea urn, ready for the stream of customers.

A plan from the lower level. The upper cave on the map, the Martindale house (named after Mrs Martindale) is currently shuttered up. It used to be a great place to play, but at least the erosion is stopped.

The Martindale House

The middle layer is now shut off to the public. It is nowhere near as interesting, and badly eroded. This cave was the Poor House, a one room cave owned by the church to provide refuge to those in need.

The top layer of Holy Austin Rock is now only open part of the time, but is cool. It is great because this is how many of the rock houses are in the local area (see my previous reports on Drakelow Rock Houses and the Ruins Of Crows Rock on various UE sites) It is likely that there was a well on the top deck too, but I don't know where it was. In fact, I don't know if any one knows. I guess they do.

This would have originally had a front, now eroded and vandalised. Note the original tile and brick floor.

View from the parlour through to the bedroom at the back. On the right is a passageway.

The other end of the passage way. *note to parents of five year old girls - remember to tell them there is a step up into the passageway to avoid them falling over and crying*

This whole place is covered in names and dates, scratched into the soft rock. This was the oldest one I could see

So, when was the last time the top deck was occupied? Astonishingly, about a year ago. About ten years ago (I think) they rebuilt the frontages on a ruined part of the top layer, and a National Trust warden and family moved in.
There are no rear windows. Like all residents of the rock houses over the last few centuries, they would have found this place warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Alas, they moved out due to an allergy developed by one member of the family caused by spores in the sandstone. The rest of the family remained unaffected.

This place is fantastic, and although developed, is really good. Rumour has it that none other than J.R.R. Tolkien, visited it fom nearby Birmingham and used it for inspiration for the Hobbit.
Sorry for a bit of a history lesson.:)