The initial discovery was made by rail workers from Osborne carrying out repair works on behalf of Network Rail, after which the cave was investigated by a team from Archaeology South-East (ASE, the commercial branch of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology). This was no small task, as the site is located on the side of a steep railway cutting, so ASE’s historic buildings team was required to abseil down in order to carry out recording.
The shallow sandstone cave survives up to head height, but it may be only part of a much larger space that has been destroyed by the construction of the railway, which cut through the hill in the early 1840s. Even so, seven or eight niches up to 0.7m high have survived, including a principal Gothic niche decorated with inscribed dots, with a Calvary cross engraved nearby. Evidence of writing and other markings were also found across the cave’s ceiling.
It is also possible, though, that it has earlier origins, as St Catherine’s hill was known as Drakehill, ‘Hill of the Dragon’, before the establishment of the chapel, and it has been suggested that the site was an area of cult activity prior to the 14th century.
Read the full story at Current Archaeology