P R O F I L E
The site of Mother Ludnam's or sometimes Ludlam's grotto or cave is within the estate of Moor Park, near Waverley Abbey, just outside Farnham. It is recorded as having been excavated as early as 1216 by Brother Symon from the Abbey. This was to supplement the water source used by the Abbey known as the Ludewell which had run dry. At the time the outcome of the efforts of Brother Symon was a new source dedicated to St Mary by the Abbey.
Mother Ludnam was a witch associated with the grotto and abbey and is thought to have lived in the cave in the 17th century. She was known as the White Witch of Waverley. There is a legend about her cauldron but this is unsubstantiated.
Sir William Temple (1628 - 1699) retired to Moor Park having gained the title of 1st Baronet as a statesman and essayist. When he purchased the estate it was known as Compton Hall. He renamed the house Moor Park after Moor Park, Hertfordshire, a house he much admired and which influenced the formal gardens he built at Farnham. He restyled the cave as a grotto with paved floor, seats and drinking cups made of iron and fastened with chains. Temple married Dorothy Osborne, daughter of Sir Peter Osborne and Dorothy Danvers, in 1655. It was a love marriage and the couple were noted for constancy during their long engagement: Dorothy resisted pressure from her family to accept any of several other more eligible suitors, including Henry Cromwell and her cousin Thomas Osborne, 1st Duke of Leeds. She died in 1695 aged 68 at Moor Park.
William Cobbett wrote of the cave in his Rural Rides, recounting his visit of 27 October 1825. From Waverley he went to Moore Park, formerly the seat of Sir William Temple. Here he looked at "Mother Ludlum's Hole"; but records that it was not the enchanting place that he once knew. The basins to catch the never-ceasing little stream were gone as were the iron cups for people to drink out of. The pavement was broken to pieces; the seats on both sides of the cave, torn up, and gone. The stream that ran down a clean paved channel was a dirty gutter.
The stonework facade was built on the grotto entrance in Victorian times. The grotto today comprises a substantial gated chamber leading to a narrow, low cave that eventually tapers out. Its overall condition is even worse that that recorded by Cobett following collapse of part of its roof during the drought of 1976. A stream still runs through the cave. The location is recalled in 1956 by Dr Bruce Osborne who authored this text. The members of the 1st Belmont Scout Troop camped at Moor Park for two weeks and recall the derelict swimming pool near the house, the waterwheel on the river and the service in the chapel at the house on Sundays. The scouts also explored the caves and Bill Kendall had the honour of getting further into the grotto cave than anyone else previously. This is supposedly verified by his initials carved in the rock, beyond any carved by other earlier explorers.
Mother Ludnam's Hole depicted in the 1770s.The site is accessible just off the junction of Camp Hill and Waverley Lane. Take the footpath by the lodge house that leads to Moor Park along the River Wey valley. The grotto or cave is about 100 metres on the right. It is kept locked and provides a home for various bat species.
On the bank above Mother Ludlam's Cave is another, smaller, cave known as Father Foote's Cave, which was rumoured to be a hermitage. A man named Foote allegedly dug the cave and took shelter there, having previously stayed at the Seven Stars Inn in Farnham for a while. He was found lying, unwell, one day by the stream. He was taken to Farnham workhouse, where he died the same day in 1840. His last words were "Take me to the cave again".
GREAT BRITISH GROTTO GRADING
Not open to the public, On private property, Physical access difficult
Grotto - just one
England - Southern
THE GROTTO GRADING FEATURES PRESENT
+Dark and mysterious chambers and cave like spaces, +External rock structures, either real or simulated, +Sacred spring or integral water feature, GRADED THREE