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News Summer 2004

A TALE OF TWO CASTLES – CARDIGAN AND CARMARTHEN

The 15th century gatehouse at Carmarthen Castle

Dyfed Archaeological Trust are currently involved in archaeological work at two of the most important castles in southwest Wales. The two castles lie at the heart of the county towns of Cardigan and Carmarthen.

It is hoped that a major conservation project will soon get under way at Cardigan Castle and to assist in this cause, the castle will shortly feature in the new BBC2 series of Restoration. The first stone castle was built in the 1100s by Rhys ap Gruffudd (The Lord Rhys). He celebrated its completion by staging a festival of poetry and music, which is regarded as the first Eisteddfod. In 2003, Ceredigion County Council asked Dyfed Archaeological Trust to undertake an excavation to the rear of Green Villa cottages, near to the present castle entrance. The investigation revealed substantial masonry remains of what appeared to be part of the medieval entrance structure to the castle.

Meanwhile, at Carmarthen Castle, Dyfed Archaeological Trust has been assisting with a long-term enhancement project designed to bring the castle back into the heart of the community. The project is being run by Carmarthenshire County Council with the support of Cadw and the Heritage Lottery Fund. During the summer of 2003, an excavation was undertaken just outside the magnificent, twin-towered gatehouse that represented the main entry into the castle from the town. The excavation revealed evidence of the bridge that originally crossed a wide defensive ditch that separated the gatehouse from Nott Square. We were able to show that this bridge was later replaced by a stone-built causeway. Eventually, the ditch filled with rubbish and was built over during the nineteenth century.

Part of the ditch was also excavated. Although the bottom was not reached, it was shown to be at least 4 metres deep. A number of important finds dating to the 15th century were retrieved from the ditch-fill, including an assemblage of leather shoes and wooden bowls.

 

Project contacts:
Cardigan Castle - Ken Murphy - k.murphy@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk
Carmarthen Castle - Ken Murphy - k.murphy@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk

RECENT DISCOVERIES

The Bronze Age ring ditches at Llandysul
from the air

 

The medieval dovecote foundations
excavated at Newton

A BRONZE AGE BURIAL GROUND AND PREHISTORIC FARM AT LLANDYSUL

During the summer of 2003, the excavation of two sites during the construction of a new business park at Llandysul, revealed important prehistoric remains. One site consisted of three ring-ditches, thought to be the remains of Bronze Age burial mounds. They were actually first noticed by a sharp-eyed construction worker while he was removing the topsoil by machine. The second site was a settlement site surrounded by a wooden palisade or fence. The remains were slight consisting of shallow post-holes, pits and trenches. However, 5000 year old pottery dating from the early Neolithic was found in some of the pits. A series of radiocarbon dates indicate a long sequence of occupation stretching from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. The excavation was funded by the Welsh Development Agency.

 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES AT WATERSTON, PEMBROKESHIRE

During early 2003, Dyfed Archaeological Trust carried out an excavation in the area around the medieval and later settlement of Newton, at Waterston near Milford Haven. The project was undertaken prior to the construction of two massive storage tanks for Liquid Natural Gas by Petroplus Ltd. The discoveries included the remains of a Bronze Age roundhouse, two corn dryers dating to AD 720-960 and a large dwelling and a dovecote dating to the early 1500s.

 

A MEDIEVAL WOODEN TRACKWAY NEAR TALYBONT

In March this year, Dyfed Archaeological Trust made the dramatic discovery of a wooden trackway that crosses the marshland of Cors Fochno (Borth Bog). The trackway has now been radiocarbon dated to the 10th or early 11th century AD and it seems to be heading towards the medieval church at Llangynfelyn. A major excavation is now planned for this summer with the support of funding from Cadw and involving students from the University of Birmingham. The results of the excavations will be reported through our website and future editions of the newsletter.

For more information see the Dig Diary



PENTIR PUMLUMON: A COMMUNITY PROJECT

An artists reconstruction of how the Counting House would have looked in the late 19th century. Lead miners came to the Counting House to recieve their weekly pay. (Artist: Richard Jones of Dyfed Archaeological Trust)

 

A photograph of the old Lisburne mines Counting House, Pontrhydygroes, Ceredigion in 2003.

Over the past year, Dyfed Archaeological Trust have been involved in a project to help improve people’s understanding and enjoyment of mid and north Ceredigion. Pentir Pumlumon tourism business forum devised a project involving professionals and communities to produce 19 heritage information panels for nine community areas. The project was funded by the Welsh Development Agency, Countryside Council for Wales and Ceredigion County Council.

Dyfed Archaeological Trust used a methodology they have been developing over the past few years of community or heritage “audits”. For each of the nine communities a working bilingual report was created, based on the information in the Historic Environment Record. The reports included a chronological summary of the area and a mapped gazetteer of sites contained in the HER, each with a short description.


These were distributed in advance of a community evening where, after a short presentation by Dyfed Archaeological Trust staff, people were encouraged to provide further information on the history and archaeology of their community. Dyfed Archaeological Trust also asked for their views on what was important for visitors and the next generation to know about their area.

This information was fed back into the HER and it was used as the basis for the information panels, both the text and images. The panels were formally launched in Llanafan where they were displayed together for a weekend before the process of putting them in place was undertaken.

Jenny Hall, March, 2004

 

Project contact: Phillip Wait - p.wait@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk

 

DESERTED RURAL SETTLEMENTS

An upland DRS site in Ceredigion

This year marks the end of an 8-year study of deserted settlement sites in the southwest Wales countryside. The “Deserted Rural Settlements”(DRS) project was grant-aided by Cadw, and was part of a pan-Wales study. Its aim was to attempt to better understand the large number of deserted huts and homes that can be found in the countryside. Over 1000 sites were visited and assessed and the details entered into the regional Historic Environment Record.

Although some old farmsteads and cottages were visited, the project mostly looked at three particular site types; long huts, longhouses and platforms. Each of these is thought to represent the remains of dwellings that were occupied during the medieval or post-medieval period. However, very few have been excavated and even today there is very little known about individual sites.

DRS sites include dwellings that were used for a variety of purposes. Many upland sites were undoubtedly used as hafotai or summer-houses by medieval herdsmen and their families. There are other sites that can be identified as the more recent homes of shepherding families that lived on the mountain pastures all year-round, even in the most remote and difficult terrain. In the upland environment abandoned settlements usually survive fairly well, as ruins, and are easily spotted in the landscape. DRS sites are therefore a very important element in the archaeological resource of the uplands.

Within the farmed, lowland landscape, the project has identified many dozens of cottages that housed agricultural labouring families during the 18th and 19th centuries. In many cases, there is no longer any visible trace of these dwellings. Even some large farmstead and mansions have disappeared over the centuries. However, these sites sometime survive as archaeological features below ground, preserving important evidence of the domestic and economic life of previous generations.

The project has also been responsible for a significant increase in a number of DRS sites that are now protected as Scheduled Ancient Monuments, recognising the importance of preserving the best examples of each site type for future generations to appreciate and learn from. However, future work is needed, especially through excavation, in order to further enhance our knowledge of these important sites.

Cadw have now published a guide to the Deserted Rural Settlements project, called “Caring for Lost Farmsteads” and a few are still available through Dyfed Archaeological Trust (see HER contact details). A more detailed account dealing with the overall DRS project is also due for publication later in 2004, details of which can be obtained directly from Cadw.


Paul Sambrook, March 2004


Project contact: Gwilym Hughes

 

1000th TIR GOFAL FARM

A traditional farm building being restored as part of the Tir Gofal scheme

Dyfed Archaeological Trust has now provided archaeological advice to 1000 farms throughout southwest Wales as part of the Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme.

The scheme is run by the Countryside Council for Wales and aims to encourage agricultural practices that promote the conservation of the ‘historic’ and ‘natural’ environment. Dyfed Archaeological Trust provides management advice on the historic environment of every farm that joins the scheme, using information from the regional Historic Environment Record and historic maps. In addition, over 200 of the farms have so far been visited by an archaeologist from Dyfed Archaeological Trust to identify further areas where the archaeology could be effectively protected or enhanced.

Tir Gofal allows the opportunity to visit large areas of countryside that have not been surveyed before, providing new information on previously known sites and identifying hundreds more for the first time. In one case, an area of parkland decorated with specimen trees was found to be designed to represent the battle positions of troops during a campaign in India! Importantly, the farmers and landowners share their own knowledge of the farm’s landscape and its history. As well as specific archaeological sites, we also look at extensive landscape features such as field patterns and types of field boundaries, features that give a locality its distinct character. We also provide advice on restoration projects for traditional buildings or other features.

In the long-term Tir Gofal will help to preserve individual archaeological sites and landscape character and it will also dramatically enhance our knowledge of the historic landscape of Wales.

Project Contact: Alice Pyper - a.pyper@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk

 

NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGY DAY

This annual event falls on Saturday, July 17th and, as in previous years, Dyfed Archaeological Trust will be holding a series of activities in conjunction with Carmarthen Museum, Abergwili, Carmarthen. Details will be posted on the Dyfed Archaeological Trust website prior to the date and will also be available from Gavin Evans at Carmarthen Museum (01267 231691). An event is also being planned for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Visitor Centre at St. David’s. This will include guided walks around the archaeology of St David’s Head.

Contact: Marion Page – m.page@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk

 

The HER

The regional Historic Environment Record for Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire is held by Dyfed Archaeological Trust. The HER now holds over 37,500 records and is a valuable source of information about the past landscapes of the region. We welcome enquires from anyone wishing to find out more about the archaeology of the area.

Contact: Marion Manwaring - m.page@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk

 

KEEP IN TOUCH

Dyfed Archaeological Trust is keen to foster links with members of the public and community groups. You may have an interest in our work, as an amateur archaeologist or historian or as someone who is interested in the past of your community. Perhaps you work for an organisation that may have an interest in fostering links with Dyfed Archaeological Trust.

Contact: Marion Page – m.page@dyfedarchaeology.org.uk

 

 

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