Unlike the East and West Caves in Tunnel Road, this Cave is not lit.
Visitors are provided with a lantern for the tour to see their way.
Join us for a great and atmospheric journey through Reigate's past.
There have been many ideas put forward to explain why the cave was
dug. It is very unlikely that it was the castle dungeon. The quality of
workmanship also rules out the idea that it was just the castle cellar,
or a sand mine. The through passage could have been dug as a sally port,
which is an escape tunnel to allow the besieged inhabitants to surprise
their attackers, or to escape unnoticed. This does not explain why the
large side passage was dug.
The effort and skill used to dig The Barons’ Cave, and the size of
its galleries, suggest that it was a special and important feature of
the castle. The story which gave rise to the name "Barons’ Cave" is that
the barons met there to draw up the Magna Carta in 1215, before making
King John sign it. Unfortunately, this is a romantic story that is
certainly not true.
Nobody knows how exactly old the Barons' Cave is. The oldest
reference to it dates from 1586 when Camden describes "an extraordinary
passage with a vaulted roof hewn with great labour out of the soft
stone." Doors and windows with a similar profile to the cave passages
were being built from about 1200 onwards, but we must be careful before
drawing any conclusions from this.
In the centuries that followed the cave was almost certainly
accessed for sand with the rough side passage probably dug in the 19th
century by sand diggers, who were also active elsewhere in Reigate at
that time. Throughout the cave, the work of sand diggers can be seen.
Many alcoves have been dug into the otherwise well-shaped walls.
The walls of the cave have attracted graffiti artists. Apart from
the many initials, names and dates from 1644 onwards, a number of other
carvings have been made. The most notable of these are a series of large
heads, each one unique, and possibly meant to depict real people. There
are also a number of horses' heads and a bull's head to be found in the
The cave has a long history as a local curiosity. The earliest
account of guided tours found so far dates from 1860, when a lady from a
nearby cottage had to be summoned to conduct curious visitors around
the cave. Visits continued until the 1970s, with the Castle Grounds'
gardener acting as guide. In 1991, the Wealden Cave and Mine Society
reopened the caves for the public after a period of restoration.