King Alfred’s Cave

Hi my name is Alex Vasey. As part of my Duke of Edinburgh bronze award, I am required to learn a new skill, so have decided that my skill should be journalism/blogging. I have taken my topic to be our village history and I am researching sites and buildings, interviewing villagers, then writing a report and creating a webpage. This is my first post and it’s about the Cave. I have more pieces in the pipeline but if anyone has any ideas that they would like me to research, please just get in touch (you can leave a comment at the bottom!).


The Cave is one of the most historical sites around North Yorkshire. It can be found in Chafer Wood to the north of the small village of Ebberston. The cave was erected in 1790 to mark the place where King Alfred had rested after his death in 705 AD.

King Alfred's Cave taken by Alex Vasey taken in 2019
King Alfred’s Cave taken by Alex Vasey in 2019


The story behind the Cave begins with Alfred King of Northumbria in 705 AD who supposedly fought his father in a great battle in the fields between Ebberston and Allerston. The story goes that King Alfred was pierced with an arrow and, when the battle ended, was carried up to a cave to rest where he later died. Alfred was then taken to Little Driffield where he was buried. Much later on in 1790 the stone cave was erected in Chafer Wood to mark the place where Alfred rested. The field that the battle was fought in is known to the local villagers as the Bloody Field and the stream that flowed through the field is known as the Bloody Beck due to the blood of the long lost warriors.


The Cave can still be found today in Chafer Wood which is a popular walking destination due to its history and local wildlife.


After researching the story behind the Cave and discovering the legend of King Alfred and how he died, I decided it would be good to find out what the Cave means to residents of Ebberston now. To do this I asked village pastor and a well-known figure around the village, Helen Leng, of what she thought about the Cave and the area around it.


What does the Cave mean to you as a resident of Ebberston?

I think of the Cave as part of the village really, aside from the fact it is one of the historical landmarks surrounding Ebberston. I also think the nature and wildlife surrounding the Cave is important and when I walk up there with my dog I often look out for the variety of plant life. See https://www.ywt.org.uk/nature-reserves/chafer-wood-nature-reserve


Why do you think the Cave means a lot to the village?


I believe the viewpoint over the village and the vale from the Cave plays a huge part in the Cave being linked to Ebberston. I also think however the local history and in particular King Alfred’s story is why the Cave is important to the village. They share the same history.

Would you be interested in learning more about the Cave’s history?


Personally I would. I think many people just read the plaque in the Cave and assume that’s it. But I would like to know more and I am sure other people would like to find out more about the story of King Alfred and why the Cave was erected.


Finally do you think there should be more tourism surrounding the Cave?


Yes I would. I think most villagers know the brief history of the Cave but tourists who come caravanning and stay in the holiday cottages have no idea the cave exists! So I think maybe some leaflets or an information board and a more detailed sign about the Cave would be a good idea.

The plaque that can be found in the Cave
taken by Alex Vasey in 2019

King Alfreds Cave
taken by Alex Vasey in 2019
The view from the Cave
taken by Alex Vasey in 2019

Further reading

Pastscape

https://justbod.blogspot.com/2016/04/ebberston-curious-carved-sword-bloody.html

https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/NRY/Ebberston

http://nymcc.org.uk/king-alfreds-cave/

https://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/news/village-reveals-its-secrets-1-5866348

11 thoughts on “King Alfred’s Cave

  1. My great grandfather Edward Arthur Dale owned a grocery store in Ebberston in the 1930’s. Is the store still there? My Son will be visiting Scarborough in September and was going to stop by.

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    1. Hi Judy. I know the building but it stopped being a shop in 1980s and is now a domestic dwelling. Do you have any pics or other info about Ebberston and the shop? I would find that very interesting and would love to see them (you can email info@ebberston.net). Thanks. Judith

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  2. Hi Alex, excellent feature, well done. The pictures bring the story to life for anyone visiting the site which commemorates a major Dark Age event within the old kingdom of Northumbria.

    David G

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  3. Very interesting about the king’s cave but I’m sure that the king’s actual name was King Aldfrith of Northumbria who reigned from 685 A.D.to 704, following the death of his half-brother Ecgfrith in battle in Scotland. Aldfrith seems to have died from natural causes.
    I’m puzzled as to why no historians have corrected this naming error, which no doubt arose from confusion with King Alfred of Wessex (the Great) who reigned from 871 A.D. to 899.

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  4. Hi my name is Chris Rock and I am current chair for the Yorkshire Region of the Battlefields Trust. Can I use your excellent pictures on Ebberston, Alfred’s Cave (or Ilfrid’s Hole) as seen on this website? I want to reproduce it fo our May regional newsletter for our members. Of course I will give the images your reference. Keep up the good work, regards Chris.

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    1. Hello Chris
      I’ve just spoken to Alex and that would be fine. The attribution should be to Alex Vasey. Would be good if you could let us know when it’s published and we can link to it.
      Judith

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      1. Hi, thanks to you all for that, I will send you a copy of the email when its mailed out. cheers and stay safe all, I will come and visit the site when we are allowed to move round again!
        Chris

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  5. Hi Alex. After discovering this today. I googled it and found your amazing article. Thank you so much from your old primary school teacher. Ian Taylor

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    1. Hi Sir great to hear from you! if your interested I have also published a old village school blog and more recently a lockdown blog.
      Thanks for your comment
      Alex

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  6. Great work Alex and very interesting.

    The Anglo Saxon Chronicle (ASC) tells us that King Aldfrith/Aelfred (lots of different spellings around then) died of a long illness and was buried at Driffield in 705 There is no reference to a battle at this time.

    However his Father King Oswiu of Northumbria (642-670) has another son called Alhfrith (note the similar spelling) who he does install as client King of Deira (the Southern part of Northumbria) in 655. The ASC tell us that Oswiu and his son Alhfrith fall out around the time of the Synod of Whitby in 664 and the historian Bede tells us that Alhfrith attacks his Father in battle, but then mysteriously disappears from the history books. It seems likely he was defeated by King Oswiu and was killed. Bede doesn’t tell us where this battle took place.

    So could it be that there are a couple of errors which are very easily made esp in 1790 when the shelter was built. 1. Perhaps they got the wrong brother/ son of Oswiu, possibly it could be Alhfrith rather than Aldfrith/Aelfred and 2 the wrong date not 705 but even earlier sometime around 664. perhaps we will never know for sure.

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  7. Hi Alex
    I happened to google ‘King Alfred’s Cave Ebberston’ this afternoon as I am thinking of writing a piece about my childhood in Ebberston, This was in the 1950s when my family, the Bakers, lived at Cliff House (just below the cave). I very much like your piece and the great photos. it’s also so good to know that King Alfred’s Cave goes on casting its magic.

    There were lots of Vaseys in the village and I wonder what branch you are descended from! Doris Vasey worked with my mother at Cliff House and I know she had a son, Neville, but I don’t know whether Neville had children.

    Very best wishes for your journalism

    Bridget Cuffolo (formerly Charrier, formerly Baker)

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