Summer Meeting, Hay-on-Wye, 30 June to 5 July, 2024

Our summer meeting, based in and around the lovely town of Hay on Wye, comprises a varied programme of site visits and lectures from Neolithic tombs to medieval castles and churches and 18th century architecture and a flour mill. Hay on Wye is a small Welsh market town, very much a border settlement. It stands on the banks of the river Wye, which marks the Wales/England border, and also near the borders between Brecknockshire, Radnorshire and Monmouthshire. Hay itself is known, somewhat eccentrically, as the Town of Books, and is well known for its spectacular castle and for the richness of the surrounding archaeology.

 Distribution of the Black Mountain Long Cairns, south and west of Hay-on-Wye. From Britnell and Whittle 2022

To prehistorians it is famous for the numerous Neolithic chambered long cairns, members of the Severn-Cotswold group, which encircle the high ground of the Black Mountains to the south and west of the town. Standing stones and stone circles abound in the area as do round barrows, such as Twyn y Beddau. A border area certainly from the later prehistoric periods, it has large numbers of hillforts atop the lower foothills of the Black Mountains, and the Roman forts at Clyro and Clifford attest to its importance during the Roman conquest.

Representing the early medieval periods, Llangorse Lake holds Wales’s only crannog, a high-status residence of the kings of Brycheiniog. Later, the Norman invaders threw up formidable numbers of castles, early earth and timber mottes such as Hay I and Clyro and many subsequently rebuilt in stone, such as Hay II, Clifford and Snodhill, to defend their holdings in this rich agricultural borderland. The Normans built churches, larger ones such as Talgarth, smaller as at Moccas, and monasteries, the Augustinian Llanthony and Cistercian Dore, though there are elements of pre-Norman building at Peterchurch and similar traditions at Llanthony. The richness of the agricultural land was inevitably attractive to farming settlement and the extraordinary survival of the 15th century farmhouse at Llwyn Celyn is a fine example of the type of stone-built farmhouses that must once have been a common feature of the Golden Valley.

The importance of religious traditions in the area was maintained into the modern era with the establishment of an early non-conformist chapel near Hay at Maesyronnen in the 1690s, the development of a Methodist college at Treffecca by Howell Harris in 1752 and Capel y Ffin built in the 19th century,an attempt by Father Ignatius to re-establish monasticism in Wales. Its monastic buildings, nevertheless, were later occupied by the celebrated artist and sculptor Eric Gill and the artist David Jones adding a final chapter to the history of this extraordinarily attractive area.

We will visit good representatives of all these monuments and buildings from our meeting centre, the Swan Hotel. On the west side of Hay on Wye, the Swan is a charming Georgian building within easy walking distance to the town – indeed the old castle motte and the church are situated immediately adjacent.

The evening lectures and conference dinners are in the hotel, whence the coach will transport us every day, except for the Sunday walk and Tuesday, when we walk to the large castle in the centre of town. This has recently benefited from extensive conservation and refurbishment, transforming it from its former status as a collapsing ruin, and later we take a promenade to look at the different styles of architecture in the town and its development.

The Augustinian monastery of Llanthony


The meeting is almost fully booked but there are usually spaces for evening lectures and some of the site visits. You can download a booking form by clicking here.