I attempted to find Anchor Church which is close to the village of Ingleby in the county of Derbyshire on the 11-8-2011, I parked up in the village of Ingleby and asked for directions to the church, I was told that the route from the village was underwater and flooded so they re-directed me to the church at Foremark a short way off. I parked close to the track which leads to the church at Foremark, I then crossed the road and followed the track which leads down to the river trent, from there I followed the river which eventually led me to the hollowed sandstone cliffs which are known as Anchor church.
The sandstone outcrop would at one time in the past have been on the edge of the river, and it was through the action of the constantly flowing water that the caves were formed. However over the years the caves have been extended through human intervention and windows and doorways have been added over time. The sandstone outcrop is thought to date back to the Triassic period and the name Anchor Church is thought to be derived from the term Anchorite (from the Greek ἀναχωρέω anachōreō, “to withdraw” or “to depart into the rural countryside”). Also the Anchorite monk who prayed here back in the 6th and 7th century would have had to have food brought to him as an Anchorite monk would have been anchored at one spot and would not have wanted to leave. This monk would later have become St Hardulph and the church at nearby Breedon-on-hill is dedicated to him.
The cave was renovated in the 18th century by Sir Francis Burdett and used for picnics beside the river, the rock walls would have made it an ideal cool place to shelter from the heat of the summer sunshine, it would have benefitted in those days with a door and it is believed that the doorways would have been enlarged into the arch shapes that can still be seen.
It is also believed that the Burdett family from nearby Foremarke Hall added a series of steps leading up to the caves.
In the middle ages the cave was occupied by a monk named Bernard who was thought to have commited some sort of crime, he lived a solitary existence here doing penance for his sins until his eventual death here at Anchor Church many years ago.
William Woolley, writing around 1715, said; “About half a mile eastward (from Foremark Hall), upon the side of the Trent, is a large cave dug out of a rock in the form of a chapel, called Anker church. It has been, as tradition informs us, an anchorite’s cell and it really is a most solitary, pleasant place”. D P Davies, in 1811, described the caves: “Several excavations, or cells, which communicate with each other and give a probability to the tradition of its having been the residence of an anchorite; whence it has derived the name of Anchor Church.”
Photographs by Gary Tacagni.