NEWSLETTER FOR 2017
Our President-elect for 2017, Professor Prys
Morgan, will be very well-known to members, especially those who
have attended his elegant and wide-ranging lectures on all matters
cultural and historical given, up and down the country, under the
most prestigious banners.
Members who were in Ruthin last summer will long remember his
survey of the Renaissance figures of the Vale of Clwyd which
brought life to the castles and houses we visited. We look forward
to his Presidential Address this coming summer.
This year we welcomed 27 new members, the largest
number for some years, many of them joining via the website. But
sadly we have lost others, our erstwhile Treasurer Mr W H Howells,
Miss Muriel Bowen Evans, editor of the Carmarthenshire Antiquary,
Hugh Toller, the Roman road expert and Drs Chas Parry Jones of
Anglesey, L R W McMahon of Brecon and A J P Campbell of Chester.
Very sadly Mrs Nia Anthony of Pembrokeshire died suddenly just
after the summer meeting. On a happier note we have celebrated
the 100th birthday of two members this spring : Miss Eirwen Evans
of Abergele and Miss Olwen Davies of Bangor.
Our institutional membership base is not growing
and several local authority libraries have cancelled subscriptions.
Meanwhile public procurement procedures become ever more onerous
and no doubt take up the staff time and money which might be used
on more books (or even computers). Members will know that the very
valuable 19th century volumes of Arch. Camb. are available digitally
through the National Library of Wales. Through the efforts of the
Secretary, the Editor and Dr Toby Driver, we hope that the early
20th century ones will also soon be available online.
MEETINGS HELD IN 2016
2016 was a busy year with three successful meetings:
a weekend on Historic Woodland and Parklands based in Raglan and
organised by Dr Sian Rees, to whom we are especially grateful because
it was put in place at short notice, the Summer Meeting in the
Vale of Clwyd organised by Frances Llewellyn and the Autumn weekend
in Exeter organised by Heather James and Frances Griffiths.
Historic Woodland and Parkland in Wales
Members gathered at the Beaufort Arms in Raglan on April 15th and
after lunch set off to visit nearby Raglan Castle where Liz Whittle
described the nature of the elaborate water gardens created below
the castle by William Somerset around 1560. Members examined the
shell alcoves created in the original moat wall and then went down
to the terraces which overlooked the lake and the site of the complex ‘knot
garden’ of small canals at its upper end. From this formal
Renaissance garden members drove to Clytha Park, the epitome of
the picturesque and romantic approach. The ’Castle’ is
little more than a facade: the focus of the view from Clytha House
but it is also the stage from which the parkland can be admired.
Sadly many of the great trees in this park are reaching the end
of their natural life and looking ’interesting ‘rather
than inspiring. This emphasised the never-ending need for management
of living landscapes, a topic which would de discussed the following
In the evening, after dinner, Prof David Austin,
President of CAA, spoke about the concept of exclusivity in land
use and enjoyment, from later prehistory (when boundaries
first appear in the landscape) through to the Early Modern period
when concepts of property and individual ownership lead to the
present impression of ‘enjoyment for the elite’ which
hangs over the term ‘parkland’.
On the following morning Paula Keen of the Woodland
Trust spoke about woodland management and the importance of ‘ancient
woodland’. In Wales the SE has the highest proportion of
surviving ancient woodland (and Wentwood Forest is the best recorded),
despite the 19th pressure to grow conifers for pit props.
Liz Whittle spoke on Mediaeval Deer Parks. Known
from the 13th century they were essential woodland pasture and
may be recognised by enclosure with a bank or wall with inner ditch
and internal division for deer management. Several have lodges.
They are a feature of large estates, both lay and monastic, and
increasingly became a symbol of status rather than part of the
Prue Keely spoke about William Emes (1729-1803)
who had worked on 90 parks, at least 12 in Wales. He worked on
4 estates for the Clive family and his clientele spread from there
: from Powis he went to Gregynog, Erddig, Chirk , Baron Hill. At
Erddig, where the archive of his plans is complete, the Cup and
Saucer is a brilliant answer to flooding problems. Everywhere he
was keen to plant flowering trees, with which he could frame fine
views, his particular hallmark.
Ken Murphy spoke of surveys and archaeological
analysis carried out by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust at 3 notable ‘created
landscapes’ in South Wales, Hafod, Penllegare and Piercefield.
Piercefield was the oldest and had been quite radically changed
and was now badly overgrown; Hafod, the most famous picturesque
landscape, had been more subtly changed by its designer; and the
latest, Penllegare, was the product of industrial wealth.
Stephen Briggs described his discovery and study
of the house and family of Gwernyfed near Talgarth where he had
made a survey of the garden. Starting in 1605 the family history
of this never especially wealthy estate was full of interest and
warranted more time than we had available.
The Saturday afternoon was taken up with a trip
to Piercefield where we went up to the Eagle’s Nest to look
down over the meanders of the River Wye, a small sample of the
6 miles of picturesque walks available there. The party then went
to Tredegar House, now owned by the National Trust, where Stephanie
Evans took us around the garden and explained plans for restoration
work, which she spoke about in more detail on Sunday morning. The
afternoon ended with a splendid tea in Raglan at the home of Sian
After dinner Stephen Briggs spoke again, about
difficulties in identifying houses in rather unskilled paintings.
He illustrated this with a discussion of 4 paintings (post 1664)
of Dinefor House and Castle.
On Sunday morning David Austin and Rob Thomas
spoke of their historical survey work to inform the restoration
of the designed landscape at Middleton Hall, now the National Botanic
Garden. The estate had originally belonged to the Middletons of
Chirk but the main developments were made in 1789-1825 by William
Paxton, another wealthy Nabob. They were followed by Stephanie
work on Tredegar House and the Morgan family, whose fluctuating
family fortunes were the key to changes in the estate.
Lisa Fiddes then turned the discussion from private
to public parks, the product of the Victorian interest in good
works and public health. These parks, sometimes originating from
private gardens, often contained exotic plants and large greenhouses,
with leisure and sports facilities added later. Many are now suffering
from a lack of maintenance.
The final lecture of the Conference was by Pat
Neil of the Friends of Pembrey Court (Carmarthenshire) on their
fight to preserve and restore the house and garden, first recorded
in the 12th century, abandoned and therefore saved from modernisation
in 1677, tenanted until 1948 when it was threatened with demolition,
and finally sold for £1.00 in 2010. She thanked the CAA for
a grant towards a geophysical survey of the garden area.
Summer Meeting in the Vale of Clwyd
Members assembled at lunch time in Ruthin , the
base for the week where people were staying either at the Castle
Hotel in the centre of town, or at the 6th form house of Ruthin
School – Goodman
House – on a self-catering basis, a new venture for CAA.
The evening meal for both parties was in the Castle Hotel.
The first afternoon was spent exploring Ruthin
itself, the 19th century gaol, now a social museum, the Collegiate
Church of St Peter with its almshouses and the remains of the 13th
century Canons’ quarters
in the parish offices at the back, and the great red sandstone
castle at the other end of the ridge. Our visit there with Will
Davies was the high point of the day since he had just completed
a major survey of the ruins and of the 19th century mansions in
the interior, in preparation for the foundation of a Conservation
Trust which it was hoped would be able to halt the decline of the
In the evening we visited the 15th century hall
house Nantclywd yr Dre which happily had been preserved and was
now a museum run by Denbighshire County Council and was available
to us as a lecture venue throughout the week.
On Tuesday we visited Rhuddlan, a long established
river crossing defended by a Saxon burgh, a Norman motte and an
Edwardian Castle. The day was enhanced by the guidance of Prof
Howard Williams of Chester University and of Dr John Kenyon our
new President. For lunch we went to Dyserth to see the church and
the fine 11th century cross and other monuments and then drove
along the Flintshire ridge to see the churchyard at Trelawnyd with
its 14th century cross,17th century hooded tombs and splendid view
of the prehistoric Gop Cave and the huge Gop Cairn, perhaps a Passage
Grave, above it. Pursuing the ridge we noted the line of the Whitford
Dyke, no longer thought to be part of Offa’s Dyke but a separate
land division in this much disputed border area. Then we saw the
second great cross, Maen Achwyfan, with brilliant sunshine enhancing
the sculpture, and went on to visit Whitford church to see more
early stones and later memorials, notably to Thomas Pennant, Moses
Griffiths and Rev Ellis Davies, for many years Editor of Arch.
Camb. On the way back to Ruthin we passed through the mediaeval
borough of Caerwys.
The day ended with the Presidential inauguration
and lecture in Nantclwyd House.
On Wednesday we visited the castle and town of
Denbigh where Chris Jones Jenkins explained the amazing plumbing
of the Castle Gatehouse and we visited the town walls with their
wonderful views of the Clwydian hills. The afternoon was devoted
to the area around Henllan and its famous 15th and 16th century
houses described to us by Peter Welford. The first visit was to
Foxhall where we saw the modest Foxhall of Humphrey Llwyd, still
standing and lived in; and the immodest Foxhall Newydd of John
Panton, never completed and now a ruin, though still an impressive
one. From there we visited Berain, more famous as the home of Catrin
of Berain than for its architecture, since like many late mediaeval
halls it had been altered as fashions, and the social status of
its owners, changed. It had been rescued in the early 20th century
by Harold Hughes, another Arch. Camb. editor, and the present owners
welcomed us warmly. Since the party was large it was divided and
alternated between the house and the Elwy Valley where Frances
Lynch described the geological
importance of the valley and its caves at Cefn and Bontnewydd to
the understanding of glaciations in Britain and early human settlement.
The public lecture that evening was an exciting
of the Renaissance in the Vale of Clwyd by Dr Prys Morgan illuminating
a period of quite exceptional culture and money-making in the area.
On Thursday the Cambrians went on pilgrimage
to Holywell via another visit to Maen Achwyfan to see the carving
under cloudy conditions – a
completely different experience. Starting at Basingwerk Abbey near
the coast we walked up the valley to the parish church, led by
Sian Rees who had headed Cadw’s conservation project at the
well. Mediaeval pilgrims would have taken this route through green
fields but in the 18th century the lower valley had been transformed
into a water-driven industrial centre with cotton mills, smelters
and copper rolling mills. Little now remains of most of these works
except the mill ponds.
From the parish church we went to the Well chapel
and then down to the Holy Well itself with its beautiful hexagonal
well basin, now cleaned of most of its centuries of candle smoke.
A visit was made in small groups to the tiny museum in the Caretaker’s
In the late afternoon we drove to Halkyn Mountain
to see the mining landscape and the hillfort on Moel y Gaer, the
subject of a particularly fruitful excavation in the 1970s when
two series of densely packed Iron Age houses were revealed on a
hilltop never disturbed by ploughing. The final visit to the day
was to view the only stone circle in Flintshire, at Pen Bedw, possibly
another centre of pilgrimage in its day.
On Friday the party was divided. Two thirds went
to the fine houses and churches amongst the Clwydian hills, while
the other third took a more strenuous tour of the hillforts in
Party A visited Tomen y Rhodwydd, one of the
finest motte and bailey castles in Wales and then went to the Church
at Llanarmon y Iȃl
to see the monuments of the Bodidris family. From there they went
for lunch at Rhual, a 17th century house near Mold which has remained
in the same family since the late Middle Ages. Unusually, the family
were Dissenters in the 17th and 18th centuries and an early out-door
baptistery survives. After lunch there was a visit to Cilcain to
see the fine wooden roof adorned with large angels and strange
animals. Bryn Bella, the Palladian villa built by Hester Thrale
and her second husband Gabriel Piozzi in 1792-5 on her return to
her native county, was visited next (by courtesy of Mr and Mrs
Neumark). They enjoyed the wonderful new gardens which now surround
the elegant house. Finally they visited the church at Tremeirchion,
another small church with fine monuments and the remains of a churchyard
Party B covered much the same ground, starting
at Ffynnon Beuno cave near Tremeirchion. This is a small sunny
cave with evidence of human occupation in the later Palaeolithic.
First excavated in the 1880s (and visited then by CAA) it is still
producing material of great interest. The group then moved forward
in time and up onto the hills to visit two famous hillforts, Moel
Arthur and Moel Fenlli. These contrast in size and in evidence
for occupation. Moel Arthur is small and heavily defended on the
east side but there is little evidence for occupation inside it;
though recent work has shown activity from the Mesolithic through
the Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age on the slopes outside. Moel
Fenlli is a classic huge contour fort with visible house platforms
and is much visited. Fiona Gale explained Denbighshire County Council’s
work to protect the ramparts from erosion by visitors at both hillforts.
From the east side of the valley Party B went down to the western
side and followed the river through the cliffs at Pwllglas to look
at the two hillforts which
seem to guard this entrance to the head of the valley. The chief
settlement of this area, almost a distinct territory, is Derwen
where there is a fine church (now under the care of the Friends
of Friendless Churches) with a well-preserved churchyard cross.
In the evening Rachel Pope of Liverpool University
who has been excavating at Pen y Cloddiau for several seasons,
lectured on her work on the Clwydian hillforts.
On Saturday, the final morning, the Cambrians
visited four of the finest churches in the valley : Llanrhaeadr,
at Whitchurch near Denbigh, the Cathedral at St Asaph and Llanynys,
hidden among the central marshes near Ruthin. The three parish
churches are all double-naved, like so many in the region, and
Llanrhaeadr and St Marcella’s contain some exceptional memorials
to members of the great families of the valley. Llanrhaeadr has
one of the finest Jesse windows in Wales and Llanynys has a huge
wall painting of St Christopher which has been recently conserved
After returning to Ruthin for lunch, the party
Autumn Meeting 2016: The City and Cathedral of
The meeting was based at the Mercure Southgate Hotel close to the
city walls and started on the Friday afternoon with a visit to
the Exeter City Guildhall with the finest late mediaeval hall in
Exeter and an elaborate late 16th century portico and carved door.
It has been the centre of city government for 600 years. We were
given a tour of the building and a lecture on its architecture
by John Allan who was our immensely learned and entertaining guide
for much of the weekend.
After dinner there was a lecture by Dr John Salvatore
on Roman Exeter – the fortress Isca Dumnoniorum from which
the 2nd Legion moved to conquer South Wales. It continued as the
civilian capital of the region. This was the first of a series
of lectures which followed through the morning of Saturday and
the following evening, providing us with an authoritative review
of the history of the city.
In the morning Dr Robert Higham spoke on Saxon
and Norman Exeter when King Alfred refortified the site against
the Vikings. William the Conqueror besieged the burh and eventually
built a castle within the northern corner of the walls. Prof Mark
Stoyle then took the story forward to the next great siege, during
the Civil War when Henrietta Maria had to leave her newborn daughter
behind and flee the city.
The final lecture of the morning was by John
Allan and was an introduction to the history of the Cathedral which
we visited under his guidance during the afternoon. As Consultant
Archaeologist to the Dean and Chapter his knowledge was infinite
and we all benefitted immensely from his ability to convey both
the bigger picture and the detailed evidence.
After the tour many members remained in the Cathedral
for Evensong and then moved to the recently renovated Cathedral
Library where we were welcomed by Canon Librarian, Ann Barwood.
The library contains a priceless collection of 9th to 12th century
manuscripts, several of which have references to Welsh saints.
After dinner John Allan spoke to us again about ‘Exeter’s
Golden Age 1450-1750’ which provided an excellent introduction
to the following day’s tour which included the Customs House
and the Quayside, both products of Exeter’s wealth from the
cloth trade at this period.
Sunday morning started with a tour of the Walls
bringing us to the Castle at the northern corner. Originally a
Norman motte and keep, it now houses the law courts. Returning
to the Mercure for a welcome coffee, the party then set off to
visit the Quayside
just outside the southern city wall where the river had been made
accessible to deep draft boats by a canal dug in the 1570s. Excavation
had revealed the original timbers of the 17th century warehouse
there, one of the earliest commercial buildings surviving in a
British port. We also visited the splendid Custom House of 1680
with its magnificent plaster ceilings, before dispersing to find
lunch in the many commercial establishments on the quay today.
After lunch several members visited the Underground
Passages an amazing series of tunnels which held the lead pipes
bringing water into the mediaeval city from springs at St Sidwells
in the suburbs. Originally built in the late 12th century by the
Cathedral Chapter they were later extended by the City Corporation
and remained in use until the cholera epidemics of the mid 19th
century. Today they provide a fascinating visit for those who do
not suffer from claustrophobia!
GRANTS FOR RESEARCH AWARDED IN 2016
We received 7 applications for grants this year,
amounting to £12,650
which is more than we could afford to pay out. We know that the
money available to university departments has been seriously cut
and that other public monies to extend and enhance the historical
value of commercial projects is also becoming increasing hard to
find, so we have eaten into capital this year in order to be able
to dispense over £8,000.
Because of these difficulties we have had to
clarify our priorities for grant giving and have thought that it
might be helpful to applicants to state them here:
1. the archaeological/historical merits of the project, endorsement
of referees and its adherence to interests and aims of the Association,
including use of amateurs, volunteers, ‘hard to reach’ sectors
2. whether the project would/should attract funding from other
3. whether the project is a discrete single piece of work with
a clear outcome, or a multi- seasonal project that will require
further funding in future years
In considering point 3 we have found that there
have been a number of excavation campaigns which have extended
beyond the originally stated period and we are now having to cut
back on these. However we have been able to fund some radiocarbon
dates for these projects because they fulfil criterion 3.
This year therefore we have given 4 grants for
radiocarbon (AMS) dating: to Bill Britnell for dating cereals from
Gwernvale (samples not previously within range of the
dating technology); to Oliver Davis for 5 samples from Caerau hillfort;
to Gary Lock for dates for Moel y Gaer and to Rhiannon Philp for
dating the peat around the human footprints on the Gower shore
at Port Eynon. All these samples come from contexts which could
not have been predicted when the original research brief was written
and which we judge should add considerable value to the work already
done at these sites.
We have also given money to Neil Ludlow to pay
for the translation of specific documents relating to Pembroke
Castle, to inform the interpretation of the results of geophysical
survey work at the site. This is a clearly defined element of a
very large on-going programme of research.
In addition we have given smaller sums to excavations
on Skomer Island and at Meillionydd on Lleyn.
BLODWEN JERMAN PRIZES
The winner of the Association’s £250
junior prize, administered through the Welsh Schools Historic Initiative,
was Caldicot School, Monmouthshire for their project 'Hidden Histories:
how settlement has changed in and around Caldicot and why'. The
pupils' researches were presented through displays, including a
timeline, a model of the area, information boards and a Powerpoint
The senior prize for BA or MA Dissertations on
a topic relating to Welsh archaeology or history was awarded to
James Exall (University of South Wales at Pontypridd) for his BA
dissertation on ‘Charting
the decline of the Welsh Language, 1891-1911: a case study of Mold’ which
made use of the census information to map language against place
of birth and occupations. The work displayed clear understanding
of problems of social analysis and an ability to develop conclusions
and arguments. A runner-up prize was also given this year, the
recipient being Una Tregaskis (Bangor University) for her study
of The Ty’r Dewin Bucket, a small Early Mediaeval stave-built
bucket found in a bog near Brynkir in 1881 which is now in the
Gwynedd Museum in Bangor.
The Eisteddfod this year will be taking place
in Anglesey, near Bodedern, from August 4th – 12th. The Cambrians’ lecture
will be given on the Wednesday afternoon (August 9th) as usual
in the Societies’ tent (but this year there are two of those
and I’m not sure yet which it will be in. It will appear
in the programme!)
The speaker will be Dr Glenda Carr who will be
speaking on 'O Ble y Daeth Enwau Lleoedd Môn?' ('The Provenance of Anglesey
Place-names'). The lecture is being organised in association with
Cymdeithas Enwau Cymru (Welsh Placename Society).