Humphrey Kynaston's Cave

Kynaston Chirk - Humpreys Kinneston's Cave

Useful Information

Location: 20 km north west of Shrewsbury, just north of the A5 trunk road at Nesscliffe or Neslie. Nesscliffe Hill Country Park. NGR SJ 388 192 on 1:50,000 OS map.
Open: no restricts, cave closed but visible. [2006]
Fee: free. [2006]
Classification: sandstone cave, artificial, SubterraneaCave Castle.
Light: none, bring torch.
Dimension: Ar=8m².
Guided tours:
Bibliography: Elizabeth Isabella Spence (1822): Old Stories, 2 Vols. Longman & Co. ISBN 3-628-51135-6
Sabine Baring Gould (1911): Cliff Castles and Cave Dwellings of Europe, pp 269-276 illus.
Lady Charlotte Guest (1877): The Mabinogion, The Dream Of Rhonabwy, p. 319. Worldonline
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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20-DEC-1491 At the assizes held at Stretton a verdict of wilful murder was returned on Humphrey Kynaston, Thomas Kynaston, and Robert Hopton.
1491 declared an outlaw by King Henry VII.
1518 King Henry VII pardoned his crimes.
1534 Humphrey Kynaston dies.
1564 an inscription H K 1564 is interpreted that Humphrey Kynaston lied in the cave at this time.


Humphrey Kynaston's Cave is a small sandstone cave in a soft red sandstone which was formerly used as a cave dwelling. It seems the cliff face is the result of a long ago abandoned sandstone quarry, and the cave may be, at least partially, the remains of the quarrying. The entrance is about six meters up the cliff face with a staircase leading up to it, cut into the soft rocks. Long time usage abraded the steps and made them difficult to use. So a wooden staircase to the cave entrance was built.

The cave has two chambers being about four square meters big, the one on the right being a little bigger than the left one. The cave is closed by bars on the entrance, which is not a problem, as it protects the cave and still allows to see the whole cave. It is a good idea to bring an electric torch to look inside.

The cave is named after Humphrey Kynaston (*1474-✝1534), a robber and enchanter, who was a sort of Shropshire Robin Hood or Rob Roy. He was seemed guilty of murder, together with two others, and was declared an outlaw by King Henry VII in 1491. He had to take shelter in a cave in the west point of Nesscliffe Rock. He lived in one room and stabled his horse in the other, closing the entrance with an iron door which, according to legend, became the door of Shrewsbury gaol. Only two years later he was pardoned by King Henry VII.

There is an engraving in the cave, in the strong pillar dividing it into two rooms, which reads H K 1564. If one looks closely enough, the initials and the date can still be seen. This is interpreted that he built the cave himself in the year 1564, which actually does not fit with documents from that time. It seems there are different versions of the story.

One version of the story was one of two parts in the book Old Stories, by Elizabeth Isabella Spence from 1822. This is definitely a reason, why it is well known to the locals.

The interest of the tale of Sir Humphrey Kynaston, turns on the person of his wife, Isabel Griffith, a beautiful girl, the daughter of a farmer, to whom he had been united before the course of dissipation, which, by degrees, led him to a life terminating in his outlawry. On this he retires with his horse to the cave, known by the name of Kynaston's Cave, and there he resides till seized by fatal illness. To attend and endeavour to relieve him from his malady, a woman famed for her skill in simples, is here introduced to him, and proves to be Isabel his wife, whose love for him had survived all his ill-treatment, and in whose arms he dies.


The scenes ... are laid in Shropshire, at Kynaston's Cave, the present abode of an old woman, who shews it as a curiosity to the traveller, and formerly the resort of a famous outlaw, called Sir Humphrey Kynaston, a sort of Rob Roy, whose exploits were matter of much sensation and alarm when he lived, about the year 1564.

Elizabeth Isabella Spence (1822): Old Stories, Monthly Censor, JAS, 1822
WorldOld Stories, by Elizabeth Isabella Spence

...Humphrey Kynaston the Wild, who during his outlawry, in the reign of Henry VII. was the inhabitant of the cave, in the bold sandstone rock at Ness Cliff, called after him Kynaston's Cave, and concerning whose feats many an old wife's tale is still current in Shropshire.

Lady Charlotte Guest (1877): The Mabinogion, The Dream Of Rhonabwy, p. 319.
Sir Humphrey Kynaston is mentioned in the footnotes to the chapter The Dream of Rhonabwy.