April 6, 2018

Newsletter 2014


Our President for 2013-14, Dr Sian Rees, was installed during the Brittany meeting and immediately demonstrated her enormous value to the Association by her direction of the Autumn meeting in Monmouthshire. Her predecessor, David Longley , will be working hard again for us during the Galloway meeting this summer, so our President-elect, Professor W.H.Manning will know that we will expect a lot from him! And we know that we will not be disappointed, as he is the foremost scholar of the Roman invasion of Wales and excavator of many of the key sites. His years as Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University and popular lecturer on Swan’s Hellenic Tours have made him a brilliantly clear exponent of complex stories, as we saw last September at Usk.

This year has seen 12 individuals join the Association but we have lost several old friends. Members will be saddened to learn of the deaths of Denys Evans, Aberystwyth and Gwen Owen, Bangor , both very frequently seen at our meetings. We have also lost the Marquess of Anglesey, a noted military historian, Peter Smith, erstwhile Secretary of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments and architectural historian and Derek Pratt and Alan Veysey, both historians of north-east Wales. Others who have died are Mrs Cox, Aneurin Davies of Swansea , Dr Anthony Francis, Andrew Humberstone, Amelia Redding of Exeter , probably our only Catalan member, David Rowlands and Sylvia Wilkins.

The Trustees this year have been involved in discussions over the new Heritage Bill and also the proposed merger of Cadw and the Royal Commission, both of them issues which will have major impacts on how our monuments are cared for and our history promoted as the major cultural asset that it can be for the nation. We have also received a record number of applications for research monies, an indication of the pressures on public resources. It is hoped to use our website more actively in promoting involvement by the membership in the official consultations to which the Trustees are invited to respond.


Two meetings were held in 2013: the Summer Meeting in northern Brittany based on St Brieuc and the Autumn weekend in Newport , Caerleon and Usk, based in Cwmbran. The Brittany meeting was organised with customary panache by our past-President, Professor Gwyn Meirion-Jones, with the help of historian, Prof Michael Jones, whose lucid translations of the talks by enthusiastic local scholars were much appreciated. The themed weekend in south-east Wales which explored Roman and medieval maritime connections was organised by our current President, Sian Rees, and David Young. The Association is very grateful to all of them for their work to make this traditional part of our programme so enjoyable. Those who travelled to and from Brittany by Eurostar are also grateful to Dr Peter Jarvis for his efficient organisation of the journey.

The Summer Meeting (June 30th – July 6th ) was based at the Brit Hotel just outside St Brieuc, a modern hotel but one with a traditional French attitude to good food. On the first day the party went east to Dinan where they toured the town under the guidance of M Loïc-René Vilbert, local historian and Director of the municipal library of the Ducal town, famous for its surviving circuit of town walls. Cambrians saw the west walls, merchant houses within the old town and the church of St Sauveur before leaving by the steep Jerzual gate to have a splendid lunch by the river below. After lunch a visit was made to the Abbaye de Léhon with some fine medieval tombs in the church and attractive modern glass in the monastic buildings now used as an arts centre. Finally the party visited Taden to see the church where wall-paintings had been newly discovered and to make a visit to the Manoir de la Grand’Cour which had been the subject of considerable work by Profs Meirion-Jones and Jones but which had been subsequently rather controversially restored. This gave members the opportunity to debate building styles and the social role of manors with the experts – an engaging practical seminar. In the evening Professor Jones filled in the background to the day’s visit with a lecture on Ducal Brittany.

The following day we returned to the Gallo-Roman period with a visit to Corseul, the capital of the Coriosolites, and its great Temple of Mars where the excavator, Patrick Galliou, explained the site. After a visit to the chateau-fort of La Hunaudaye with its well preserved towers, intriguing carvings in the prison chapel and fine Renaissance staircases, the party went for a substantial lunch and then set off to visit Mme de Kerjégu at her moated château of Bienassis. This site probably began with a lost timber-framed hall which was followed by the surviving 15 th century house, itself enlarged in the 17th century. Again this was a building analysed by our tour leaders. The final visit of the day was to the church of St Gobrien in Morieux where the wall-paintings, especially the martyrdom of St Lucy, inspired a good deal of discussion. In the evening, the new President, Dr Sian Rees, delivered the Presidential address, ‘In the Footsteps of Princes: Conservation and National Identity’.

The following day (Wednesday) we saw more wall-paintings at the chapel of Kermaria an Iskuit at Plouha where we were greeted by the Maire and the local press. This morning we were guided by Mme Geneviève Le Louarn who also showed us the 11 th century round church at Lanleff. Lunch this day was in a small manor house now a noted ferme auberge, thus combining two notable aspects of this summer’s tour. The afternoon was taken up with a visit to the great Abbaye de Beauport. This 13 th century Premonstratensian foundation has some very fine medieval sculpture, was richly enlarged in the 17 th century and suppressed and sold off in 1797. It remained in private hands until 1992.

On Thursday the first visit was to the estate of La Roche Jagu, originally a military castle overlooking the river but now surrounded by famous gardens, its buildings used as an art gallery. The castle walls survive as lawn revetments and as the back wall of a long late medieval manor house, epitomising the social changes of that period. The journey to Louannnec, where we had lunch, revealed another instance of re-use – an Iron Age stele in the church re-used as the 6-7th century gravestone of Desiderius son of Bodognous, described by Jeremy Knight. Most of the afternoon was spent in the town of Tréguier where many timber town houses survive in streets between the erstwhile cathedral and the harbour. The last visit of the day was to Coadélan at Prat, another grand manoir of the 14th century, currently being restored by its owners. A large menhir or standing stone was a hint of prehistoric activity and the restoration of the huge mill pond behind the manoir was a reminder of the economic base of these medieval estates. In the evening Patrick Galliou returned to give a lecture on the promontory site of Le Yaudet which was to be visited the following day.

On this last day of the meeting the first visit was to the château-fort of Tonquédec, first mentioned in the 13th century, but surviving into the age of artillery and showing some interesting modifications to its defences. Before lunch there was just time to visit the Chapel of Notre Dame de Kerfons containing the best surviving example of a choir screen (1481-5) – wonderfully carved. The iconography of this screen was explained by Mme Le Louarn who also spoke to us at Lanvellec in the afternoon. After lunch in the seaside resort of Perros-Guirec Cambrians were met at the peninsula of Le Yaudet by Patrick Galliou who led a walk around the site. Excavations in 1991-2003, by Patrick Galliou and Barry Cunliffe (visited by our Association in 1996) had revealed evidence of early prehistoric activity and late Iron Age (La Tène) occupation behind a huge rampart of murus gallicus construction. The rampart is still a major feature of the site and shelters the medieval and modern village. The final visit of the meeting was to the church at Lanvellec to see and hear the baroque organ built in 1653 by the English recusant organ-builder, Robert Dallam. The characteristics of the organ, built prior to their being ‘well-tempered’, were demonstrated in a short recital by Michel Cocheril. In the evening the Association hosted a formal dinner to thank all the Breton scholars who had helped to make our visit so rewarding and enjoyable.

The Autumn Meeting (September 28th – 30th ) was based at the Parkway Hotel, Cwmbran and explored the importance of maritime and riverine (Usk and Severn ) routeways for access, defence and trade in Roman and Medieval Monmouthshire. On the Friday afternoon the party went to see the Newport ship, the most notable relic of the medieval port of Newport . This almost complete hull is now finishing its period of conservation and study and is awaiting decisions about its reconstruction and display. It is currently in a borrowed warehouse on the outskirts of town where the Cambrians were greeted by members of the Friends of Newport Ship, the Curator Toby Jones and Dr Nigel Nayling. We saw the dried timbers and 1:10 laser-produced scale models from which the final reconstruction will, it is hoped, be produced. We then visited the remains of Newport Castle under the guidance of Will Davies of Cadw. This castle, now ignominiously trapped between the bridges of the railway and the road, has been reduced to little more than the waterside range. But a close examination of the fabric reveals traces of its former splendour, as befits a stronghold on this crucial river crossing. In the evening Dr Nigel Nayling gave a lecture on the historical background to the Newport ship and the Barlands Farm Roman boat and Magwr Pill medieval vessel found in the mouth of the Usk. This concentration of early boats provides an unparalleled sequence of boat-building history.

On the following day the party visited Caerleon and Caerwent, the military and civilian centres of Roman South Wales. At Caerleon Dr Peter Guest described his recent excavation of the Roman quayside which revealed the astonishing scale of the official buildings on the waterfront. After an all-too-brief look at the Baths Museum and the fort and amphitheatre, the group moved on to Caerwent where Dr Richard Brewer led a walk around the walls and through the town with its temple, forum-basilica, shops and houses where he had carried out many years of excavation. From Caerleon the party drove to Chepstow for lunch and to see the castle under the guidance of Rick Turner of Cadw who had made a particular study of the exceptional central keep. The final visit of the day was to the Roman Severn crossing point at Sudbrook, the site of a later Iron Age fort, now diminished by erosion but still with impressive ramparts; the site is synonymous with estuarine crossing – it is also the mouth of the Severn Railway tunnel and is overlooked by the second Severn bridge. That evening a lecture by Mark Lodwick and Rick Turner further expounded the theme of riverine defence and trade in the Roman and medieval periods.

On Sunday morning the Cambrians were in Usk. They first visited the site of the early legionary fortress, the predecessor of Caerleon, where the results of the excavations in the 1970s were explained by the excavator, Professor Bill Manning, the CAA President-elect. From that low-lying site the party walked up to Usk Castle , overlooking the valley, where they were welcomed by the owners, Mr and Mr Henry Humphreys and Jeremy Knight outlined the history of this little- known, but spectacular castle. The towers of the inner enclosure are surrounded by a delightful garden bathed in autumn sunshine that morning where the Cambrians were entertained to coffee by the Friends of Usk Castle. After a tour of the ruins, the Association held its Annual General Meeting in the Great Barn.


A record number of applications were received this year totalling amounts beyond what we can fund. Nevertheless, using some surpluses from elsewhere, the Association has, for 2014, made the following grants: to our secretary, Heather James, £700 for the costs of survey on Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire; to Dr Toby Driver and Dr Jeffrey Davies, £1500 for excavation at Abermagwr, Ceredigion, to clarify the chronology of the site of the ‘villa’ and its surrounding enclosure; £1500 to Professor Gary Lock towards another season of excavation at Moel y Gaer, Bodfari hillfort, Denbighshire; £1000 to Professor Ray Karl and Katharina Moeller for further work at the ‘double ringwork’ hilltop enclosure at Meillionydd, Llyn peninsula, Gwynedd; £500 to Sarah Ward for photography of source material at the National Library of Wales for work on the gentry of north-east Wales, c. 1640-1688. Pending receipt of references, two applications from Anne Leaver and Ian Stewart for post- excavation work on the late Geoff Mein’s excavations at Trostrey, Monmouthshire and Alex Gibson on Bronze Age ‘pygmy cups’ from Wales were deferred until the next meeting of Trustees in Feb. 2014.


The Schools Prize (now one of several from different funders, co-ordinated by the Welsh Heritage Schools Initiative, see http://www.whsi.org.uk) was won by Ysgol Bro Hedd Wyn, Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd. They submitted two projects: for Year 3 and 4 ‘The 60s’ focusing on 60s music and dress and for years 5 and 6, the life of Hedd Wyn. This included a visit to his home, Yr Ysgwrn, and a viewing of the black-draped Bardic Chair (he died in WWI before he knew of the Eisteddfod award for his poetry) and composition of a poem which has been placed on Hedd Wyn’s grave at the war cemetery in Belgium . The headmistress’ letter of thanks to the Chairman said that they would spend the money on a microphone system. The senior prize was won by Angela Muir, Swansea University , for her Master’s thesis on ‘Illegitimacy in Eighteenth Century Wales: Paternity, Courtship, Marriage and Illicit Sex’. Angela was presented with her prize cheque by the Chairman, Professor Muriel Chamberlain, after dinner on Saturday 28th September at the Autumn Meeting. The secretary circulates notice of the senior prize to English as well as Welsh universities every year and Trustees would welcome more applicants.


The CAA library, which contains material from our Corresponding Societies (listed in the back of the List of Members) is open to all members and can be consulted on application to the Librarian (Tel 029 20 573202 or e-mail jennifer.evans@museumwales.ac.uk )


Work continues (albeit slowly) to improve and expand the Association’s website www.cambrians.org.uk . From 2014 we intend to place the Minutes of the Trustees’ meetings on the website. More has been added to the section on publications, mainly concerning Archaeologia Cambrensis. Here you will find the link ( http://europeana-journals.llgc.org.uk/browse/listissues/llgc-id:2919943 to the Europeana digital library where the National Library of Wales has placed the digitised copies of all the 19th century issues of Arch Camb. We continue to press the NLW to complete the digitisation of the 20th century volumes.


The 2014 National Eisteddfod will be held at Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, 1-9 th Aug. The Association’s lecture will be given by our past President, The Very Reverend J. Wyn Evans, Bishop of St Davids. Bishop Wyn’s subject will be: ‘Ail-ymweld a’r Eglwys Fore yn Sir Gaerfyrddin’ . (The Early Church in Carmarthenshire Revisited). The lecture will be given in the afternoon of Wednesday 6 th August in the Societies’ tent; please check the Association’s website for precise details nearer the time.