Numerous incompatible suggestions have been made about the use of the cave. Soon after its discovery, William Stukeley suggested that the carvings were made by one Lady Roisia, whom he supposed to be the eponym of the town and who he believed used the Cave as her chapel, where she was subsequently interred. Arguing with Stukeley, Charles Parkin proposed that the carvings were of Anglo-Saxon date and that it had been used as a burial place for Saxon royalty. Joseph Beldam, the local antiquary, believed that it was used during the Crusades as Christian oratory, although he suggested that it was originally a Roman burial shaft. Sylvia Beamon has suggested that the Cave was used for devotions by the Knights Templar and may have been constructed in imitation of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; this is currently the most popular view of its origins. Some have seen the symbols as pagan rather than Christian, or, at least, as depicting Manichaean heretical views, a viewpoint that has found resonance with modern, erroneous, views about the beliefs of the Knights Templar. More recently, Joanna Mattingly has proposed that the carvings were made by prisoners in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.
There is a lot of archaeological evidence from Radwell, despite it being a small parish. It covers human history from the Late Neolithic (third millennium BC) onwards, allowing a general assessment of land-use over the centuries. For the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, the Roman period and the later medieval period onward, we can identify at least some of the places where people were living. There is an intriguing possibility that the medieval estate, based around Radwell Bury, was a direct successor to one of the most magnificent Roman villas known in the area.
Ickleford today seems little more than a suburb of Hitchin, separated from it by only a few dozen metres of open land. Its history is quite distinct, though. A journey through deep time into the Middle Ages takes us through the communities that have had their homes here. To understand how the present village came to be, we need also to look at its neighbour Holwell, at Pirton (of which it was once part) and further afield into both Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
5 November @ 12:01 am - 2 December @ 11:59 pm