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Friday, 31 May 2013

Picture the Plane at Hay!





The finished product: A pictured –up ’plane!
Amidst the bright sunshine, the Royal Commission joined other heritage bodies at the Hanes Cymru stand at Hay this year where children’s activities ran daily. The Royal Commission’s innovative contribution―Picture the Plane!― was a huge success where everyone had the opportunity to discover Wales’ rich heritage from the air with the Royal Commission’s collection of aerial photographs ( all available on Coflein) , a large pot of glue and a four-foot wooden ’plane! Throughout Saturday, visitors to the stand busily cut and glued over 700 images to cover the wooden plane and the final result was quite impressive.

Robert, a London primary school bear will have lots to report when he returns after half-term!





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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Exciting rediscovery of lost medieval carved stone!





Whilst enjoying a bank holiday stroll, Royal Commission staff member Nikki Vousden and Dr Roderick Bale (archaeologist at University of Wales TSD Lampeter) came across a long-lost medieval inscribed stone in a stream in Silian!

Nikki and the rediscovered stone at the find spot
The find spot is just south-west of St Sulien’s Church, Silian (NPRN 402554), home to two further medieval inscribed stones. The church site, thought to have been of high-status, has been in use for at least 1500 years. Although the current church building dates from 1873, it is thought to stand on medieval foundations and has an early-fifth/sixth-century inscribed stone built into its south wall.

The lost stone was first noted by Nash-Williams in The Early Christian Monuments of Wales; a cast of its inscribed face was made for the National Museum of Wales. It was tentatively ascribed to Silian because of the label on a photograph, also at the National Museum of Wales. The stone is referred to as ‘Silian 3’ in Nancy Edwards’ Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales, Volume II, and its decoration is thought to be ninth/tenth century in date

The ‘Silian 3’ stone
The stone measures 70cm x 38cm and decoration is visible on around a third of its face. The pattern includes a linear Latin cross with a lozenge shaped ring at its upper end. There are only two other definite examples of crosses in lozenge shaped rings in Wales: ‘Llandanwg 5’ from St Tanwg’s Church, Llandanwg (NPRN 439010, ‘Llanllawer 3’ from St David’s Church, Llanllawer (NPRN 308778), and ‘Llandecwyn 1’, from St Tecwyn’s Church, Llandecwyn (NPRN 43903).

How the Silian 3 stone ended up in the steam is a mystery, especially as someone obviously once knew of its significance and took a cast. We are currently awaiting information as to the provenance of the cast and associated photograph, and will provide an update when this becomes available. Amazingly, the stone lay hidden in the stream until one day the water on its wet surface helped highlight the incised pattern and it was spotted!

Details of all four churches and their associated stones can be found on the Royal Commissions’s searchable online database, Coflein. The stone is now being kept in St Sulien’s Church, Silian. If you would like to see it in context, Nikki will be at the church on Friday 7 June from 10am until 2pm. All welcome.


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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Consolidation Work at one of Ceredigion's Oldest Houses





Y Neuadd, late Tudor House at Llanon, Ceredigion.

Over the next couple of weeks consolidation work will continue at Y Neuadd, the late Tudor House at Llanon. Richard Suggett, architectural historian and senior investigator of the Royal Commission's survey team, suggests the three-unit house, built of stone with lateral chimney dates between 1550-1575, making it one of Ceredigion's oldest houses.

The extensive work at the site has seen the removal of vegetation and nearly 70 tonnes of rubble, overseen by Dyfed Archaeological Trust, making the surviving features clearly visible. These include a cross-passage doorway, lamp bracket, lateral fireplace (refaced at rear), and window openings.

The 27 July sees a Community Excavation Open Day, 11am-4pm. The Royal Commission will be joining Dyfed Archaeological Trust and the Ceredigion Museum for an Open Day at Y Neuadd Tudor House, and Museum Cottage, Llanon. There will be a variety of activities based on the community excavations and events will include a talk on the site by Richard Suggett.

Blocked sixteenth-century lateral fireplace.
Site details: Y Neuadd www.coflein.gov.uk

Online Images (9)
Associated Collection Records (15)

Coflein is the NMRW's public online database, searchable geographically through Ordnance Survey maps or by text queries.  

Article by Charles Green, Graphics Officer, Public Engagement Team.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Exploring the Archaeology of Cardigan Island





This recent Royal Commission aerial photograph taken in April 2013 clearly shows the visible archaeology that is indicative of past habitation and farming. (Crown Copyright. RCAHMW, 2013).

Royal Commission Investigators have just returned from a visit to explore the archaeology of Cardigan Island. The island lies just off the Ceredigion coast, adjacent to the estuary of the river Teifi and is owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. Access to the island is restricted and we were very grateful to be given a place on the boat chartered for the annual egg count of the breeding sea birds and geese.

Landing on the Island. (Crown Copyright. RCAHMW, 2013)

Landing on the island is tricky, and involved a rocky scramble onto the main grassland plateau which at this time of year is covered in extensive patches of bluebells. There are also clusters of tree mallow, not to mention the inhabitants, lots of nesting birds, particularly gulls and geese. It proved to be a noisy day!

Like many of the islands around the coast of Wales, a lack of modern development on Cardigan has preserved the archaeology and aerial photographs clearly indicate evidence of past habitation and farming. Much of the island is covered by ridge and furrow, indicating that at one time, most likely during the medieval period, arable farming was undertaken. However, the nature of these remains suggest this was never long established and it’s more likely that a pastoral economy predominated with the livestock watered by a number of small ponds in the centre of the island.

Two enclosed settlements, most likely later prehistoric in date, indicate that the island was also once settled. The smaller of the two enclosures contains evidence of five circular huts, whilst the much larger enclosure on the north side of the island, has one clear hut circle together with a large rectangular platform, possibly relating to a later phase of use. One unenclosed circular hut platform was also identified against which an earthwork bank dividing the whole island had been constructed.

The archaeology on the ground. GPS survey of the boundary bank dividing the island. (Crown Copyright. RCAHMW, 2013)

The results of our field visit will now be collated into a survey report and the National Monuments Record enhanced with detailed descriptions and photography of the archaeology.

Article by Louise Barker, Head of Recording and Investigation Team

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Dambusters at the Elan Valley: the story of Nant-y- Gro Dam!





Dambusters: Aerial view of Nant-y-Gro in the Elan Valley (NPRN:408280)

Tonight, the night of the 16 - 17 of May 2013,  marks the 70th anniversary of the celebrated “Dambusters Raid” by aircraft from 617 Squadron led by Guy Gibson, when 19 Lancaster bombers took off from a runway in Lincolnshire in eastern England, each carrying a purpose built weapon - the bouncing bomb - and dropped them in Nazi Germany's industrial heartland. This triumph was later immortalised in the 1954 film, Dambusters.

The idea for the Dambusters raid originated in 1940, when aeronautical designer Dr Barnes Wallis calculated the explosive power required to breach the Ruhr dams and discovered that no existing bomber could carry a large enough bomb. However, Wallis realised that smaller bombs accurately positioned at the foot of the dam could have the same effect. To make this possible, Wallis designed the "bouncing bomb" that would skip across the water and hit the dam. The bomb needed to be dropped at the right speed, at the right distance from the dam and at the right height above the water.

 Unknown to many people today mid-Wales played a crucial part in the development of Barns Wallis’ ingenious “Bouncing Bomb”.


An aerial view clearly shows part of the 60ft wide breach in the former dam (NPRN:408280)
In July 1942 the prototype charge was proof-tested at a small dam in the Elan Valley, where 280lbs of high-explosive destroyed the central portion of the masonry dam. The experiment was a complete success. The evocative and sobering remains of the bombed dam may still be seen today. The Nant-y-Gro Dam (NPRN 408280) is located at SN92196348, and is protected as one of Cadw’s Scheduled Ancient Monuments.




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Learning About The Upland Heritage of Gwynedd





Delegates ascending the magnificent incline at Gorseddau slate quarry to inspect its upper workings.

The Archaeology in the Uplands event held on 10th-11th May in Snowdonia was a resounding success for all concerned. Organised jointly between the Royal Commission, the Snowdonia National Park Authority and the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, the event featured a packed dayschool on Friday 10th May at Plas Tanybwlch followed by a guided walk to the slate quarrying landscape of Gorseddau on the Saturday.

On Friday over 60 delegates joined Royal Commission staff at Plas Tanybwlch for a dayschool opened by Councillor Caerwyn Roberts OBE, Chairman of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, followed by an address by Dr David Gwyn. The day began with reports of the most recent surveys completed for the Uplands Archaeology Initiative in north, mid and south Wales, before a series of afternoon talks from specialists from Wales, England and Scotland about various aspects of the archaeology, history, paleoenvironment and management of the upland heritage of north-west Wales.

On the following day, two minibuses of delegates accompanied Royal Commission archaeologists to the slate quarrying landscape around Gorseddau quarry above Porthmadog, in the expert company of Dr David Gwyn of Govannon Consultancy who lead the tour. Despite a few rain showers there was plenty of sunshine and an excellent day was enjoyed by all learning about the history, worker’s lives, transport networks and fluctuating business fortunes of Gorseddau quarry, the abandoned industrial village of nearby Treforys, and the unique Ynysypandy slate mill.

David Gwyn explaining the archaeology and history of Ynysypandy slate mill.
The massive corbelled wall protecting the line of the slate tramway at Gorseddau from the slate tips above.


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Monday, 13 May 2013

A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales, Volume lll: North Wales






Published by University of Wales Press, April 2013.

By Nancy Edwards

This volume, the final of three, focuses on the inscribed stones and stone sculpture of North Wales c. AD 400-1150. It provides fresh insights and new interpretations of over 150 monuments, many of which have been found since V. E. Nash-Williams's Early Christian Monuments of Wales was published in 1950. The introductory discussion analyses the historical and archaeological context of the monuments, earlier research, geology, their form and function, ornament and iconography, and the language and lettering of the inscriptions, as well as their cultural connections, dating and chronology. The well-illustrated catalogue provides more detailed descriptions and analyses of individual monuments.

The Royal Commission has contributed many striking photographs and illustrations. Techniques used to record these stones photographically included night photography using a generator to power studio lights positioned to provide oblique lighting. The illustrative work within the book derives from rubbings produced in the field, which provided an accurate record of each monument including the inscriptions and letter-forms.

The project was led by Professor Nancy Edwards of Bangor University.

Article by: Charles Green, Graphics Officer, Public Engagement Team.


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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Ceredigion Helps Celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the First Fresh Water Supply in London





The Cwmsymlog Chimney. Built in 1855 and restored 2006 by Trefeurig Community Council with a grant from the Spirit of the Mines regeneration project.
© Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Four hundred years ago this year, a Welsh entrepreneur Hugh Myddelton from Denbigh completed the construction of the New River, which brought fresh drinking water from Hertfordshire to north London. As a reward for this work he was granted the leases on a number of mines in Ceredigion. These mines were so rich in silver that bullion was transported to the Tower of London to be minted into coins.

On May the 25 and 26 the Metal Links Project, a European funded project to reconnect people with their mining heritage, and the Welsh Mines Preservation Trust will be providing free guided tours of Cwmsymlog, Berth Llwyd (now known as Bronfloyd), Goginan and other mine sites that were once owned by Sir Hugh Myddelton. Samantha Jones, Community Archaeologist for the Metal Links Project said, “It is odd to think today that this beautiful part of rural Ceredigion has a connection with the hustle and bustle of London. This event will mark that connection and engage people with an element of their past they may not be aware of, that Ceredigion was an industrial landscape”.

Saturday 25th will also see a short memorial prayer said in the ruins of a chapel (Capel Myddelton) that bears his name at Cwmsymlog mine. The service will pay respects to Sir Hugh and the miners that worked there. Sir Hugh built the chapel for his miners soon after he acquired the mine. For a few minutes at 12pm the chapel will be brought back to life. All are welcome to join us.

At 7pm on Saturday 25 at the church hall Llanbadarn Fawr there will be a series of short talks by local archaeologists and enthusiasts on the life of Sir Hugh and on the mines he owned. All are welcome.

All events over the weekend are free. Walks will be starting at 10am from Cwmsymlog (SN700 837) where there will be a free shuttle bus to ferry walkers between sites. Please bring a packed lunch and wear sensible footwear and appropriate clothing.

For further details contact Samantha Jones, samantha.jones@rcahmw.gov.uk or call 01970 621203.

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