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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

First World War Heritage Event

On 14 May Royal Commission Community Archaeologists, in partnership with Borth Community Council, ran an initial event to kick-start a series of First World War commemoration events in Borth.

The community of Borth had been asked to bring along any information, photographs and memories they had relating to the First World War. For the event the Commission provided an exhibition of material that we had started collecting, together with information from our archives, including aerial photographs and the 1905 Ordnance Survey map, which highlighted how the town had changed.

For the exhibition, a community member had given us permission to use his information, compiled from the 1911 census, and we were also given permission to use information from the West Wales Memorial Project. This website has detailed information on each person commemorated on all the war memorials in West Wales; including the three in Borth.

Community members looking at old photographs of Borth.
We had also been given material to scan by a community member in relation to Howard Lloyd Roberts. Howard Lloyd Roberts was born in Borth but went to work in London as a journalist; he later returned to Borth and volunteered for military service. He produced many sketches and caricatures at this time, which were published and were enjoyed by his comrades.

Trench Cartoon by Howard Lloyd Roberts.
The community archaeologists were also on hand to scan and photograph new material and record any new information.

Community Archaeologist scanning material.
One community member brought in a large amount of material relating to Arthur Footitt who is commemorated on the Borth War Memorial.

Arthur Footitt.
First World War medal belonging to Arthur Footitt.
This marked the start of a series of First World War commemoration events in Borth. The next event will be on August 4th in Borth community hall. There will be an exhibition of all the material collected, with afternoon tea and music.

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Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Royal Commission returns to Hay Castle for Hay Festival 2014

Hay Castle, with the thirteenth-century castle (left) and adjoining seventeenth-century mansion (right)
Hay Castle (NPRN: 25593) sits at the heart of Hay-on-Wye, home to the annual Hay Literary Festival. The 10-day festival, now in its 27th year, attracts writers, artists and performers from all over the world. This year it runs from 22 May─1 June.

In 2011, Hay Castle, a Grade I listed building, passed into the ownership of a registered charity, the Hay Castle Trust. The Trust, working with Cadw and the Brecon Beacons National Park, aims to ensure the permanent preservation of the site. The community-based project involves a process of rediscovery, conservation and restoration, with the aim of regenerating the castle into a centre for culture, arts,crafts and education. The Hay Castle Trust will be running tours of the castle throughout this year’s festival. Royal Commission Senior Investigator, Richard Suggett, will be leading tours (now fully booked) on Friday 23 May and Saturday 31 May.

Situated on the Welsh/English border, Hay Castle is unusual in that it has been continuously occupied for the last 800 years. Constructed in the twelfth century and occupied into the twentieth century, the castle is considered to be potentially the most important multi-period site on the Welsh side of the border. The medieval castle survives, with its thirteenth-century gateway and early timber gates still intact. The timber gates, with their original cross-bracing, are one of only three to four surviving examples in Britain.

Hay Castle’s thirteenth-century gateway with early timber gates

 Castle House, a seventeenth-century Jacobean mansion, was built alongside the castle’s keep. Recent tree-ring dating by the Royal Commission has established the exact date of the three-storey house as 1636. Despite two twentieth-century fires, its basic structure has remained intact.

Castle House and the castle’s four-storey keep

As the process of rediscovery continues, it is becoming apparent that the castle contains many highly significant and possibly unique architectural components. The walls are to be consolidated, with the aim being to repair rather than to replace. It is heartening to see the castle’s important historical features cared for in this way, with the building and grounds well on the way to becoming a focal point for the local community once again.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Uplands Dayschool 2014 at Sennybridge Training Area, Powys

This year’s Royal Commission Uplands Archaeology Forum and Dayschool, on the theme of Upland Military Landscapes in Wales, was held at Sennybridge Training Area in Powys, in collaboration with the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). The requisitioning of the upland landscape of Mynydd Epynt, or the Sennybridge Training Area, and its military stewardship since the second world war, unwittingly preserved a massive block of upland Wales against the effects of post-war and recent farming methods and upland improvement, making the range a haven for preserved landscape archaeology. For this reason it was fitting to hold our 2014 dayschool and fieldtrip in this remarkable upland landscape.
Delegates outside the Epynt Visitor Centre with Major Eddie Mahoney, Commandant of Sennybridge Training Area.
The event was held over two days. On Friday 9th May we held our dayschool of talks at the Red Kite Centre in Sennybridge Camp. The day was opened by Colonel Richard Howard-Gash, Commander Wales and West, and Major (retired) Eddie Mahoney, Commandant of Sennybridge Camp, who briefed 50 assembled delegates on the requirements of the training estate. The programme began with a talk by Richard Osgood, the Senior Archaeologist for the DIO, about archaeological priorities for the UK training estate. This was followed by papers from the past year’s archaeological walkover surveys funded by the Royal Commission’s Uplands Archaeology Initiative. Over lunch delegates had a rare opportunity to view preserved Prisoner of War (PoW) alpine scenes painted on the Cookhouse walls in the mid 1940s.
Delegates admiring in-situ Prisoner of War alpine murals on the walls of the Cookhouse at Sennybridge Camp.
The afternoon saw a splendid range of talks on the theme of Upland Military Landscapes in Wales with papers by Dr Bob Silvester and Jeff Spencer (CPAT), Jon Berry (Cadw), archaeologist Dr Stephen Briggs, military historian Mark Kahn, and Dr Bob Johnston from the University of Sheffield. On the following day, two minibuses of delegates braved the sunshine and showers on Mynydd Epynt to see how the military stewardship of this block of upland moorland has preserved prehistoric, medieval and twentieth-century sites.

Experiencing typical Epynt weather on the Saturday field trip at Hirllwyn enclosure, a scheduled ancient monument protected from military activity by a ‘no digging’ star.
By kind permission of the Commandant, we were able to visit famous sites of the Epynt, like the enigmatic defended enclosure at Clawdd British, together with relatively recent discoveries of national importance like Pant y Blodau medieval deserted settlement, and twentieth-century military monuments including drainage culverts built by German and Italian Prisoner of War. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the restricted German training village or FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Areas), an urban training facility, guided by Mark Kahn.

Visiting the restricted FIBUA village (Fighting in Built Up Areas), a purpose-built training facility for urban combat, modelled on a German village.

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Monday, 19 May 2014

From 2014 to 1525 – could you live in The Court?

This time last year production company Boom Pictures Cymru were looking for a group of people to take up the challenge of living in a Welsh Manor House (Y Plas) for three weeks in conditions as they would have been in 1910. Their time in Y Plas was documented and broadcast on S4C's living history series Y Plas last September.

The series returns in 2014 but the challenge has changed. This year, the production company are looking for people who are ready to take up the challenge of living in The Court – Y Llys.
The successful families and individuals will leave the comfort of their everyday lives and step back in time to the year 1525 to live in a Tudor court in Tretŵr court, near Crickhowell in southern Powys.

This is the time of Henry VIII, the time when noblemen led decadent lives feasting, being entertained by poets and singers, hunting and jousting. In the Tudor Age it was common for the noblemen and their servants to live and eat together, and don't forget this was before cutlery was invented!

Living in Y Llys will mean dressing, working, eating and spending leisure time exactly as the Tudors would have done in 1525, with cameras following every step of the way for the S4C living history series Y Llys, which will be broadcast on the Channel this autumn.

The production company are looking for 20 people to take part, and they will live in the court for three weeks during the autumn period this year.

The closing date for applications is Sunday 1 June. For more information and to apply contact Boom Pictures Cymru on yllys@yllys.co.uk / 02920 671545

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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Wales Festival of Architecture: The Creative Space, 15 May - 17 May

Pant-yr-ynn slate mill, NPRN: 28260. This is one of hundreds of drawings by Falcon Hildred deposited in the National Monuments Record and now available on Coflein
Later this week, the Royal Commission will be contributing to this year’s Wales Festival of Architecture, a joint venture between the Royal Society of Architects in Wales and the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. A Royal Commission exhibition on the artwork of the highly accomplished, industrial-landscape artist, Falcon Hildred, will run until 28 May 2014: Worktown: The drawings of Falcon Hildred. In addition, architectural historian Richard Suggett will be leading a tour of the award-winning Arts Centre and its surroundings at 2pm, Saturday 17 May. To coincide with the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’s birth, there will be a general theme of The Creative Space at this year’s festival, with emphasis on exploring the process of creativity. Other highlights include the festival launch: An Evening of Ideas; Spring School Inspiration Hour: Making History at St Fagans, and The Afternoon Play: Under Plywood, an irreverent review of the regeneration of our “ugly lovely towns”, presented by the Welsh Architects Theatre Studio.

Visitors to the festival will also be offered the opportunity to spend some creative time in a replica of Dylan Thomas’s iconic writing shed as it makes a special visit to the festival on its tour of the UK. Inside the shed, in honour of Dylan’s love of words, there will be the chance to invent your own perfect word and see it published in a Dictionary for Dylan.

For further details, please contact Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

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Friday, 9 May 2014

National Monuments Record of Wales Archives and Library Bulletin - April 2014

Welcome to the latest edition of the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW) Archives and Library Bulletin http://www.rcahmw.gov.uk/HI/ENG/Our+Services/Donate+Records/Recent+Acquisitions/. The archival items, library books and journal articles are all available to view in our public reading room. The archival material is also available to view on Coflein www.coflein.gov.uk

We are open to the public at the following times:
Monday – Friday 09.30 – 16.00, Wednesday 10.30 – 16.30.
An appointment is advisable.

If you have any comments or enquiries, please feel free to contact us:

NMRW Library and Enquiry Service
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
Crown Building, Plas Crug
Ceredigion, SY23 1NJ

Telephone:  +44 (0)1970 621200
Fax: +44 (0)1970 627701
E-mail: nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk
Website: www.rcahmw.gov.uk
Blog: www.heritageofwalesnews.blogspot.co.uk

By Lynne Moore

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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Exploring Fan Llia to Fan Dringarth with the Big Welsh Walk 2014!

Throughout May, Ramblers Cymru is holding its annual event, the Big Welsh Walk. The event aims to encourage people to get out and about walking, with a programme of group-walks around Wales. Last Saturday (3 May) the Royal Commission provided the historical expertise for an 8.5-mile walk on the Brecon uplands planned by Cadw. 25 walkers and 4 Royal Commission staff members assembled near a Roman camp on the slopes of Fan Llia, some 400m above sea level. We were led on the walk by David Leighton, the Royal Commission’s Uplands Project coordinator. This long-running project aims to survey and record archaeology on all moorland over 244m above sea level. Although some 2380 square km have been surveyed to date, this area has yet to be covered. The 8.5-mile circular walk revealed the extent and variety of archaeology existing in upland areas such as this, from prehistoric cairns through to nineteenth-century sheep folds!

The walk proceeded along the western side of Fan Llia, where we saw a group of circular and oval platforms representing the remains of a prehistoric settlement which could date to as early as 2000 BC. This is an exciting site, as there are few examples of platform groups such as this in Wales: they are better-known in the north of Britain where the majority of those excavated are Bronze Age in date.

A short distance to the north-east lie the remains of a Bronze Age burial cairn. Its centre has been robbed out and a slab on the edge of the mound is thought to have been the capstone.

David Leighton explains how the burial chamber would have looked, with upright stones defining a stone-lined burial pit and supporting a larger capstone.
We continued north, crossing the Afon Llia at Rhyd Uchaf, a ford over the Sarn Helen, an old Roman (and post-medieval turnpike) road. We then headed towards Maen Llia (NPRN 84541), one of the largest standing stones in Wales.
Walkers fording the Afon LLia on line of the Roman road.
Although Maen Llia reputedly bears traces of a Latin/Ogham inscription, its precise geometric relationship with nearby bronze-age monuments suggests that it is prehistoric in origin. We paused exactly 320m south-east of Maen Llia at the remains of a Bronze Age burial cairn (NPRN 84539). David Leighton explained that the cairn forms the apex of an isosceles triangle whose other two corners are formed by Maen Llia and a multi-banked Bronze Age ring barrow (NPRN 84544). Distances between the three sites have been measured by the Royal Commission and the cairn was found to be equidistant from the other two sites. Intriguingly, a platform (possibly for a structure of some kind) sitting inside this triangle of sites is equidistant from the ring barrow and Maen Llia.
Platform lying precisely equidistant from ring barrow and Maen Llia.
More recently, a possible recumbent standing stone (NPRN 409642) has been identified projecting from a field-bank at the current roadside to the south-west of Maen Llia. GPS readings indicate that the stone is also at the mid-point between the ring barrow and Maen Llia.

Walker standing on possible recumbent standing stone, positioned at an equal distance between Maen Llia and the Bronze Age ring barrow.
Maen Llia, measuring 3.61m high and 2.75m wide, is located at the head of a pass between Fan Llia and Fan Nedd. According to legend, at Midsummer’s eve the stone walks to the river to drink. This story could refer to the stone’s shadow, whose evening shadow reaches towards the nearby river and is, according to local people, the shape of a forked tongue.

Maen LLia, one of the largest standing stones in Wales.
Lunch was eaten overlooking the Llia Valley and much fun was had flying kites kindly supplied by Ramblers Cymru!

Looking south down the Llia Valley.
After negotiating the 500m+ upper slopes of Fan Dringarth, we made our way down to the eastern slopes of Fan Llia and followed the line of the Nant y Gaseg stream towards Ystradfellte Reservoir. There are numerous abandoned post medieval dry-stone sheep folds and other tumbled stock enclosures in the vicinity of the reservoir.

One of many abandoned folds known to have been used from the medieval period up until at least the nineteenth century, possibly built on an earlier structure.
The reservoir, constructed in 1907-14 to provide water for Neath, has the remains of a number of probable later medieval or post medieval building platforms close to its northern and western shores. Some are thought to represent seasonal dwellings, occupied in summer when cattle grazed the upland pastures.

The Royal Commission’s David Leighton and Richard Suggett (Buildings Investigator) discuss the interior layout of a probable longhouse on the reservoir’s northern shore.
Given the close proximity of the reservoir, it is likely that further remains lie under the water itself.

Remains of medieval or later longhouse bisected by the western shore of the Ystradfellte Reservoir.

From the reservoir it was a short walk back to our start-point. We all agreed that the walk was invigorating, informative and fun!

Ramblers Cymru’s annual Big Welsh Walk continues throughout May. See their website at http://www.ramblers.org.uk/wales/what-we-do/events-index/2014/may/big-welsh-walk.aspx for details.

A list of heritage walks planned by Cadw can be found on the events page of Cadw’s website at http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/events/?lang=en

 By Nikki Vousden.

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