Llangwm, Pembrokeshire Excavation Dig
Dyfed Archaeological Trust has been commissioned by
Heritage Llangwm to carry out an archaeological investigation
at Great Nash near Llangwm. The house at Great Nash
was the family seat of the De La Roche family, who
were descended from an important Flemish family who were
allowed to occupy lands in west Pembrokeshire by Henry
I in the early 12th century, not that the native Welsh
inhabitants were consulted on this.
The Heritage Llangwm Project has grown out of the need
to conduct essential repairs to St. Jerome's Church in
Llangwm. In addition to this work the project aims
to research more into the De La Roche family, the Flemish
occupation and their cultural influences. The results
of the project will be used to provide information on this
little known, but very important part of Pembrokeshire's
Dyfed Archaeological trust has been working with volunteers
to undertake a geophysical survey of the walled garden
at Great Nash House and targeted trenching to hopefully
discover more about its medieval past. Our greatest
hope is that we find material which can be directly related
to Flanders, hopefully in the form of imported pottery – our
Heritage Llangwm Project Website - http://www.heritagellangwm.org.uk/index.html
11th to 15th April: Geophysical survey within the walled garden
and field to the south
The first week at Great Nash was started with clearance of the
walled garden, moving brambles, broken branches and spoil heaps.
This enabled a larger area of the walled garden to be surveyed.
Clearing the garden, with Rob showing off one
of our first finds – a complete Denby ware saucer c.1970
The geophysical survey was undertaken using a gradiometer, which
measures very slight fluctuations in the magnetic field below ground
which can indicate the presence of archaeological features such
as pits, ditches or walls. The surveys are undertaken over a measured
grid so that the results can be plotted on a map and allow interpretation
of the results. We were able to train volunteers to lay out grids
and use the gradiometer.
Using the gradiometer within the walled garden
Gradiometer survey of the field to the south,
with Great Nash house behind
The results of the survey in the field have shown the former extent
of the walled garden, which was formerly over twice the size it
is now. Other field boundaries corresponding with 19th century
mapping were also identified. A large north to south aligned linear
feature (possible ditch) was also seen running through the site
which is not shown on any other maps; this extends into the walled
garden area. In both the walled garden and field a number of pits
The plot of the walled garden survey has enabled us to identify
areas for trial trenching.
Throughout the week we have been picking up small sherds of medieval
pottery from the field to the south of the walled garden, which
Geophysical survey results
18th and 19th April: Opening the trenches
The second week started with the hand excavation of two trenches
targeting ditches and pits identified on the geophysical survey.
The trenches were de-turfed and then our volunteers were introduced
to the mattock and shovel. Good progress was made over the two
days to remove a thick layer of garden soil from the trenches onto
the possible archaeological levels below. Lots of finds have been
recovered, mostly of modern date, but with a good number of medieval
pottery sherds too.
Heather and Mike begin de-turfing Trench 2
Dilys removes the last turf from Trench 1
Today we have been hand cleaning the trenches, with many of our
volunteers learning the art of trowelling. Both the trenches are
starting to show features: a possible pit with large sherds of
later medieval pottery in Trench 1 and a probable ditch with lots
of small bits of stone in Trench 2. Not content, we decide to open
a smaller third trench – which unfortunately seems to be
covered in a far deeper topsoil than the other trenches.
Kim, Jacqui, Mike and Heather trowelling Trench
Today we have realised that the archaeology in
the western half of Trench 1 is far shallower than that in the
eastern halves. A good number of sherds of medieval pottery were
recovered from the western half of the trench and other features
identified, including the remains of a stone wall. In the eastern
half yet more garden soil needs to be removed before we hit the
We have identified a pit in Trench 2 and the remains of a former
apple tree. The suspected stone filled ditch has proved more difficult
to define and work continues here.
During the morning we had a visit from Cleddau Reach School who
were told about the work we were doing and given the opportunity
to try their hand at field-walking, trowelling and searching spoil
heaps for finds. They seemed to enjoy their visit and may have
encouraged budding archaeologists of the future. In the afternoon
Llangwm History Society were given a guided tour of the site.
Mike, Rob W, Heather, Jen, Jane, Fiona, Rob L
and Alice hard at work in Trench 1
Heather starts to uncover the wall
Guided tour of the site by the Llangwm History Society
Our first day of drizzly weather, although I am very grateful
that this did not put off any of our volunteers. More pottery has
been recovered from Trench 1, including a number of conjoined pieces
seeming to be part of a medieval jar. A small pit with an animal
burial in has also been excavated, probably not of any great date
and presumably a pet of a former owner of Great Nash. Hard work
in the eastern end of the trench is getting us closer down to the
archaeology which we will hopefully complete tomorrow.
The pit in Trench 2 has been completed and a posthole identified.
The ditch is no longer stone filled, and is likely to represent
a field boundary pre-dating the walled garden.
Also braving the weather in the morning were pupils from Hook
School, who were given a site tour and told about the work of the
archaeologists, and they undertook field-walking. We avoided trowelling
today due to the wet ground conditions to avoid them getting too
muddy, although their extreme enthusiasm for looking for finds
in the spoil heaps meant that many of them left site covered in
mud anyway! More archaeologists of the future?
At lunchtime we were visited by the local MP for
Preseli Pembrokeshire, Stephen Crabb (Secretary of State for Work
and Pensions) who was doing a tour of the Heritage Llangwm project,
including the Tapestry and the works at St Jerome’s Church.
He was most impressed with the extent of community engagement that
the project has encouraged.
Rob carefully cleaning around the medieval pottery
prior to lifting
Stephen Crabb MP with Pam Hunt and Liz Rawlings
of Heritage Llangwm at the site
23rd and 24th
Work on Saturday included the excavation of a pit containing the
burial of two small mammals, perhaps the pets of former owners
of Great Nash house. Our youngest volunteer, Dylan, was lucky
enough to find a large rim of a medieval cooking pot during his
Although Sunday was our day of rest, the site director could not
resist spending the afternoon at the site with his son Oscar to
make the most of the good weather. Work was concentrated
on ground reduction at the eastern end of Trench 1 where a depth
of garden soil still needed to be removed to get to the archaeological
levels below. Two features were revealed.
Pit containing the buried remains of two small
Oscar digging down in the eastern end of Trench
The two features in the eastern end of Trench 1 were excavated,
and both contained medieval pottery. A possible continuation
of the short stretch of wall at the western end of Trench 1 may
now be visible in the form of a robber trench, where good building
stone has been taken away for use elsewhere, but the foundation
In Trench 2, the western half has now been completed and recorded. In
the eastern half we have now confirmed the presence of a pair of
ditches which seem to correspond with the feature recorded by the
geophysical survey running northwards from the field to the south.
Eileen, Liz, Jen, Rob, Dorothy and David hard
Jim and Jude discuss the stratigraphy in Trench
A good day, despite the wind and cold, but at least the rain kept
away. The site is drawing to an end and we have completed
excavating the majority of features and areas in Trench 1. Or
so we thought.
Our wall has now been uncovered across the whole trench, with
a possible neater outer face to the west, possibly indicating it
was the outer wall of a building. Clay layers to the east
could indicate the remains of very rough earth floors, suggesting
an out building to an earlier phase of Great Nash House. Medieval
pottery has been recovered from the soils covering the wall.
A small test slot was excavated through a layer of soil, presumed
to be natural ground, near the centre of the trench. This
would appear to be a build up of hill-wash (or colluvium) which
built up well before the medieval period. A number of struck
flints were recovered from the layer. It would seem our medieval
site overlies a much earlier prehistoric one! We will not disturb
any more of this earlier site and leave it preserved underground.
The base of a medieval cooking pot was recovered from the ditch
being excavated in Trench 2, with more of the feature yet to be
excavated. Hopefully more pottery will be found when we complete
Jude, Liz and Rob uncover the wall
Graham with the pot base found in Trench 2
A few of the flints found within the lower layers
in Trench 1
As the site draws to a close we are doing more recording than
excavating. Some of the volunteers have learnt the joys of
planning, section drawing and levels. We have excavated a
small amount more of the hill-wash layer containing the flints,
to get an idea of its depth. All of the soil has been sieved
and we now have 60 struck flints, likely to be of Mesolithic date. We
have completed the clean of the wall and also continued to excavate
the ditch in Trench 2, with yet more pottery found possibly all
from the same vessel.
Jon tries to keep positive whilst sieving. Thankfully
he did find a flint a few minutes later.
The wall in Trench 1
It has been slightly unfair that the coldest weather comes when
we have the least physical tasks to do. We are very grateful
that our volunteers persevered through the cold to draw almost
all of the sections and plans we needed to complete the site today. All
went very well, until it was time to leave when we found that we
had misplaced our van keys. Alice and I had a frantic, but
unsuccessful search of the site and spoil heaps. We were eventually
rescued and got the spare set of keys, but ended up being a much
longer day on-site than was intended (and apologies to everyone
at the event I missed at Dol-Y-Bont, Borth in the evening).
John and Lesley recording in Trench 1
Fiona and Jen recording in trench 2
The final day on-site was meant to be a quick finish off and clear
up. As ever we had underestimated the amount of work left! Although
a long day, this may have been due to the very pleasant and long
lunch we had with Liz Rawlings. With all context sheets done,
section and plans drawn, and a final clean up and photo of the
area of flints (final count – 70), it was time to pack up the equipment
and site tent. We did this in record time as we could see
a very large and dark rain cloud approaching.
Overall the site has been an immense success and we hope that
all of our volunteers enjoyed the experience and learnt a bit more
about the archaeological process. Not only have we obtained
lots of information on the medieval use of the site but also stumbled
across a very important Mesolithic site lying underneath!
Many thanks from Alice and I to the following for their hard work
and commitment to the project: Barbara, David A, David M, David
S, David Sc, Dilys, Dorothy, Dylan, Eileen, Emma, Fiona C, Fiona
H, Gail, Geoff, Graham, Heather, Jacqui, Jane, Jen, John, Jon,
Jude, Kim H, Kim S, Lesley, Liz, Llinos, Margaret, Maureen, Mike,
Oscar, Patrick, Richard, Rob L, Rob W, Sian and Tony (apologies
if I have missed anyone). A big thank you to Liz and Pam
of Heritage Llangwm for organising the project and allowing us
to be involved; and especially to Will Scale and his family for
allowing us to undertake the work at Great Nash (and his dog Ben
for being a regular companion on-site).
A final view of Trench 1
The site tent and van before packing