April 6, 2018

Newsletter 2011


The President of the Cambrians this year is the Right Rev. J. Wyn Evans, Bishop of St David’s who is not only a very notable churchman but also an archaeologist and scholar, a very worthy successor to several episcopal Presidents in the past. His dual expertise was much to the fore in his very successful campaign of restoration at St David’s cathedral while he was Dean. Next year the Presidency will be taken by Prof Gwyn Meirion Jones who has made a life-time’s study of French manorial architecture and history.

This year Nansi Mascetti retired as a Trustee. Like her late husband, Keith, she was an educational psychologist who brought a great deal of wisdom and generous energy to the role. She was always willing to help and was a great trouble-shooter. The Association owes her a huge debt of gratitude. In her place Roger Davies of Mold has joined the Trustees. Roger and his late wife, Catrin Puw Davies, will be known to many members and to all involved with the work of the National Eisteddfod. He is a lawyer who became Chief Executive of Clwyd County Council and his election will bring a great deal of experience to the Association. However we are still looking for a new Treasurer. If you have the necessary skills — please think about it!

Members will be saddened to hear of the deaths during the year of Mrs Diana Boon who frequently came to meetings with her late husband, George Boon of the National Museum; of Francis Humphreys Jones, a stalwart of cultural affairs in Caernarfon; of Mrs Lalla Hughes who ensured that Aberlleiniog motte in Anglesey, which her family owned, came safely into public ownership; of Dr Enid Pierce Roberts, the noted scholar and expert on bardic poetry of the Renaissance , and of WRB Robinson, Dr Leveson Gower and Alan Hayward who were all experts in other fields but retained a passion for history through those careers.


Three successful meetings were held in 2010 and the Association is very grateful to Frances Llewellyn and Prof Thomas Charles-Edwards; Heather James and Dr Anthony Ward; and Brian Davies and Chris Jones Jenkins who were the organisers. Longer accounts of these meetings can be found on the CAA website.

The Easter Conference at Oxford looked at the links between Wales and Oxford and was held at Jesus College. The meeting was opened by the Regius Professor of History, Prof Robert Evans, giving a Europe-wide overview of themes which were picked up the following morning by Prof Tony Carr and Dr Brynley Jones who dealt with medieval and 16-17th century Oxford. A highpoint of the day was a visit to the Bodlean to see their famous Welsh manuscripts under the guidance of Daniel Huws, late of the National Library, Aberystwyth. In the evening the Oxford Movement was discussed by Dr John Morgan Guy and on the following day aspects of Oxford’s teaching of history and Celtic Studies were covered by Profs Huw Pryce and Thomas Charles-Edwards. Edna Dale Jones and Heather James drew attention to the wealth of social information in the management of College lands in Wales and the conference ended with a history of the Dafydd Society by Bruce Griffiths.

The Summer Meeting in Canterbury and East Kent was based in The University of Kent. We were helped a great deal by our member, Dr Anthony Ward, Master of Keynes College, and were also fortunate to have a lecture from another member, John Williams, recently retired as Kent County Archaeologist, on results from large-scale, commercially-funded excavations. Two days were spent in Canterbury itself, with visits to the two great ecclesiastical sites of Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey. Two guided walks and an evening lecture by members of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Paul Bennett (Director) and Simon Pratt provided members with a wealth of information on the Roman, Saxon and Medieval city. Smaller, lesser-known medieval buildings such as The Eastbridge Pilgrims Hospital were a delight and members visited both the Canterbury and Roman Museums. On Tuesday we went to Dover, where Keith Parfitt, showed us the Bronze Age Dover Boat in its new gallery in Dover Museum. A visit to the Roman ‘painted house’ was squeezed in before the party was bussed up to Dover Castle. Most of the group went underground on the ‘ Secret World War II Tunnels’ tour and many also managed to see the newly-refurbished Great Keep AND the Roman pharos as well. On Thursday, we had a stimulating tour of Richborough Roman Fort by John Grigsby. Then to nearby Sandwich where we split into two groups for a most entertaining tour of the 17th century Guildhall, Mayor’s chambers and Court Room by the mace-wielding and moot horn- sounding Town Sergeant, Kevin Cook. We again split into two groups for the afternoon, one party visiting Walmer Castle, and actually glimpsing the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Admiral the Lord Boyce there. The second group visited Deal Castle, a Henrician artillery fortress, and then the somewhat quirky Time Ball Museum on Deal sea front. On Friday, we were on the Medway, first to the Historic Dockyard, Chatham where much was packed into two hours. At the Ropery, our newly-installed President, Bishop Wyn Evans, displayed a remarkable aptitude for rope-making. Rochester Cathedral provided interesting points of contrast and comparison to Canterbury. Finally the Meeting concluded with a special visit arranged by our member Paul Oldham, one of the Wardens of the Rochester Bridge Trust, to the Trust’s restored medieval Bridge Chapel and council rooms.

The Autumn Meeting in the Vale of Glamorgan was based in Bridgend and blessed by wonderful weather. On Friday afternoon the first visit was to Ewenny Priory to see the new work done by Cadw, described by Sian Rees, and, with permission, to see the ruins of the monastic enclosure in the gardens of Ewenny House. The next visit was to Merthyr Mawr where some went on foot to the chapel behind Merthyr Mawr House with our member Murray McLaggan, a site relevant to Saturday’s lecture on Iolo Morganwg’s concern for Early Christian stones. The main party was rejoined at the display of these stones behind the parish church where Jeremy Knight spoke. The next day there were visits to the burial chamber at Tinkinswood and the restored medieval village at Cosmeston. In the afternoon there were contrasting visits, to the famous medieval church at Llantwit Major and to the lighthouse at Nash Point. In the evening Brian Davies of Pontypool Museum spoke with his characteristic energy and humour about Iolo Morganwg and the date of the Llantwit Major Crosses. On Sunday we visited Cowbridge with its restored Physic Garden and newly displayed St Quintin’s Castle. After lunch and a tour of the revived gardens at Dyffryn, the last visit was to Coedarhydyglyn, the home of Rhodri Treherne, the nephew of our late President, Sir Cennydd Treherne. It was a great privilege to be able to wander through this beautiful 18th century house.


The Junior Prize, which we give in association with the Welsh Heritage Schools Initiative, was won by the Orielton CP School from Pembrokeshire for their project on a famous WWI code-breaker from the village – Oswald Thomas Hitchings. It is hoped to extend it into a book in the near future. The Chairman presented the prize at a ceremony at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.

There were four dissertations presented for the Senior Prize which was won by Ben Davies, an undergraduate at the Department of Archaeology of the new University of Worcester. He had presented an extremely competent geophysical survey of the possible vicus area around the Roman fort at Buckton, Shropshire, together with a mature discussion of the significance of his results in the light of the known history of the site.


This autumn the Trustees were presented with an exceptionally large number of requests for grants for archaeological and historical work in Wales. This is undoubtedly a sign of the straitened times, so it was decided to add to the Research Fund the surpluses made on meetings this year. As a result it will be possible to give some money to all those who applied, but it should be noted by applicants that this year’s funds are exceptional. We would also ask that applicants send in their application forms as early as possible, and certainly by the end of September.

The following grants were made to:
Toby Driver and Jeff Davies: £1500 for a second season of excavation at Abermagwr Roman Villa.
Margaret Dunn : 2 grants of £1000 for dendrochronological work on dating houses in Merioneth and Conwy. (See report following)
W.T. Jones and Cymdeithas Hanes Dolwyddelan : £500 for cataloguing pottery from their excavations at Tai Penamnen.
Mathew Jones: £500 for a geophysical survey of Rhuddgaer, Anglesey.
Alan Lane: £350 for a radiocarbon date on bones excavated from Llangors Crannog, subsequent to the main excavation.
Anne Leaver and Ian Stewart: £500 for post-excavation work on the late Geoff Mein’s records of his long-term excavation at Trostrey, Monmouthshire.
Geoffrey Wainwright: £500 towards excavations at Carn Menyn, Preseli.
Rev David Williams: £400 for travel costs incurred in the revision of his Fasti Cistercienses.
J. Llywelyn Williams: £300 for drawings of Roman skillets to facilitate an article in Arch. Camb.


This three year project, also known as the “Dating Old Welsh Houses” project, is very grateful to the Cambrian Archaeological Association for the financial support received since its inception in 2008/9. Our objectives include identifying early Tudor and Elizabethan houses with original timbers suitable for dating; sampling to obtain the felling dates; architecturally recording each dated building; involving and training volunteers from local communities to undertake documentary research on the dated houses and their families; and sharing the results widely with school pupils, local communities, visitors, academics, and those professionally involved in planning and building conservation.

The project works in partnership with The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW), which has developed dendrochronology in Wales. Sampling and analysis has been undertaken by Daniel Miles and Martin Bridge of the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory. Results are publically available within a year of sampling through summary publication in the tree-ring lists in Vernacular Architecture and on Coflein, RCAHMW’s on-line database.

So far some ten houses have been sampled on Anglesey, the earliest at present is a recently identified first-floor hall in Beaumaris with timbers felled in the winter of 1482/83. A further ten houses dated in south Denbighshire yielded several early sixteenth-century dates and included a previously unknown hall-house of 1517/18 with an early inserted fireplace. Ten houses sampled in the former Caernarfonshire part of Gwynedd have revealed several sixteenth-century examples of the “Snowdonian style” stone-walled, storeyed house with gable-end fireplaces, both without and, later, with a mural stair. A 1506/7 timber-framed town house in Caernarfon has been recorded. Work is now starting in the former Merioneth part of Gwynedd and we await the results from the first three sampled houses. In 2011 work will start across the Conwy County Borough, mainly in partnership with the National Trust.

Many of these houses of the later fifteenth and early/mid-sixteenth centuries were the homes of the first generation benefiting from the political and economic improvements of the early Tudor period, and of the changes in land ownership brought about by the introduction of primogeniture and by the effects of the Acts of Union. These heads of families were important locally, and sometimes regionally, and some of their homes, families and lifestyles are described by the bards. Many of them re-organised their land holdings, often laying the foundation for the field boundaries and land use which has resulted in the environment so admired by many today.

Prior to the use of the scientific technology of dendrochronology, the dating of particular types of building and changes in style and materials was uncertain. Now it is possible to trace in more detail the distribution over time and space of the main house types and their modifications.

This project hopes to raise awareness of the unique early domestic built heritage still surviving, often unrecognised or under-appreciated, in north-west Wales. Results already indicate that the region was far from being an architectural backwater but was in some ways innovative. Full results will be published in due course. Meanwhile further information is available from www.datingoldwelshhouses.co.uk and summaries of results are available in the annual volumes of Vernacular Architecture, (www.vag.org.uk), and on Coflein, RCAHMW’s on-line database.

Margaret Dunn, Nant Gwynant.


The Cambrians’ lecture at the Ebbw Vale Eisteddfod was delivered by Prof Ceri Davies of Swansea University. His subject – Y Goncwst Rufeinig yn Llên Cymru — was designed to reflect the 1600th anniversary of the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain.


The Trustees have been discussing the need to extend the existing deposit in the National Library of official and working papers of the Association. Secretarial papers from the 1990s have been taken to Abersytwyth (left in good order by Dr Hughes and in rather less good order by Peter Llewellyn who, as an early medievalist, expected papers to have been messed about a bit) and the current Secretary is discussing the awkward problem of electronic records with the library staff.
If any members have material relevant to the Association, especially well labelled photographs or slides, that they would like to present to this archive, please contact the Hon. Secretary.