About this image
It was never a church but a large cave cut out of the rock, partially cut and exposed by the River Trent, which it stands beside and part man made. The limestone outcrop once formed part of the banks of the River Trent and the caves were formed by the action of the river water on the soft rock. The course of the river has altered and left the caves opening onto a backwater pool which is still linked to the river. The caves have been extended into the hillside by early occupants, and holes cut into the rock surface to form 'windows'. It has been occupied several times since the 14th century. Its name came from the first occupant who was an anchoress or hermit who withdrew from the world to live a solitary life of prayer, hardship and silence. It was said to have been occupied by a religious hermit in the middle ages. St Hardulph of Breedon is associated with the cave. The recreation-loving Sir Francis Burdett had the cave enlarged and used it for elaborate picnics. The cave was reached by walking across fields from Foremark Hall through an area once known as Cuckoo Park. There is an ancient legend which connects Knowle Hill, Foremark and Anchor Church. When an ancestor of Sir Francis, Sir Hugo de Burdett, was returning from the Crusades he was tricked into believing that his wife Johanne had been unfaithful to him. Arriving at Knowle Hill and without asking for an explanation, strode into the turret-shaped room where his wife sat spinning and killed her. He then, with one blow, cut off her left hand which bore his wedding ring. Many years later Sir Hugo was asked to visit the dying hermit at Anchor Church. He confessed that it was he who had tricked Sir Hugo so that the Baron of Boyville, who had bribed him, could marry the dishonoured Johanne. The hermit was so guilt-stricken with what he had done that he had lived for the rest of his life at Anchor Church in penance. There the story would end but children at the Prep School still tell stories of how Johanne is seen wandering in the woods at Foremark searching for her hand. Until recently, resting on the wall of Knowle Hill cottage were stone carvings of Johanne, Sir Hugo and the traitor, Baron of Boyville.