The rock-cut Hermitage at Bridgnorth lies on a steep hill just south of the Wolverhampton road and less than a mile east of the town. The Hermitage lies in ruins now, destroyed by the passage of time and, it is said, by the fires of its temporary occupants, the homeless poor.
However what remains is still impressive. The Chapel is still extant, although the front end is now gone, and the stairs, which used to ascent to the upper chamber, are still there, but go nowhere as the upper chamber has disappeared.
The Hermitage was so-called because it was here that Aethelward or Aethelard, a Mercian prince, retired here for a short time as a hermit before his brief reign. In 924ce he came here to reside in solitude and contemplation. He was interested in literary matters as well as ancient customs and was a grandson of Alfred the Great, which meant that he had Welsh blood as this royal line had intermarried with the Welsh and Cornish royal families. Three of his sisters became nuns and his aunt was none other than Queen Ethelfleda, whose ability to repel the fearsome Danes renders impotent many a modern male ego! Indeed it was Ethelfleda who established a Burgh at Bridgnorth with a castle at Old-Bury on Panpudding Hill (Panpunten in Welsh). the Hermitage therefore has strong royal links and, given Aethelward’s study of traditional lore, it would seem that it attracted someone with an interest in the main study of all folklore, that is magic.
The rest of this article by Chris Jenkins, which was published in White Dragon at Beltane 1997, can be read on the White Dragon website.