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Pembroke Castle excavation completed

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THE TWO WEEK archaeological excavation of Pembroke Castle has finished, with much information and material gathered to be analysed.

Dyfed Archaeological Trust, funded by the Castle Studies Trust, started the excavation on September 3, the first at the site for over 70 years. The excavations and topographic survey aimed to further advance the understanding of one of Wales’ and the UK’s most iconic castles.

The large outer ward has been an empty space since at least the eighteenth century, yet aerial photographs in 2013 revealed parch marks detailing the outline of a possible late medieval double-winged hall house. This was further confirmed by geophysical surveys carried out by Dyfed Archaeological Trust, funded by the Castle Studies Trust, in 2016. Such buildings are unusual in castles, particularly in the outer ward, generally associated with more lowly structures. This may suggest that the ward had been ‘gentrified’ matching historical accounts which place the birth of Henry Tudor in the outer ward: it may have occurred within this very building. It is thought more likely that he was born in what was a modern residence for the time, than in a guard tower on the castle walls.

Under the guidance of well-known castle expert Neil Ludlow, Dyfed Archaeological Trust excavated two trenches to understand more about the form, date, context and function of the remains. Additionally, they carried out a topographic survey to make a detailed record of the layout of the castle.

Neil Ludlow said prior to the excavation: “The geophysical survey carried out in Pembroke Castle, in 2016, funded by the Castle Studies Trust, showed a large, winged building that resembles, in plan, a late-medieval manor house. This is an unusual find within a castle, and has additional significance at Pembroke as the possible birthplace of King Henry VII.

“But this is still guesswork, as nothing else about the building is known. All we really know is that it was excavated in the 1930s without records. Thanks to the support of the Castle Studies Trust, some of these questions will be answered as well as learning more about later medieval high status living.”

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied since at least the Roman period. Norman lords founded the first traditional castle there in the 11th century. Henry Tudor was born at Pembroke Castle on January 28 1457. On August 22 1485, Henry seized the English crown, defeating King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, in the culmination of the Wars of the Roses. He was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle, and was crowned Henry VII, first monarch of the House of Tudor.

On the first day of the excavation, a possible wall was quickly made visible in trench one, and trench two revealed a former path surface through the castle grounds and the suggestion of an outer wall. Bone, pottery, brick and tile were found, most from the early 20th century but with some late medieval and post medieval material as well.

The second day saw a second wall revealed close to the east, yet the walls appeared too close together to be associated with the walls seen on the parch marks. Large areas of mortared stone patches were revealed to the west, suggesting walls, and the outer wall of the building in trench two started to become exposed as well. A large amount of oyster shell was collected from the site as well as more pottery and bone.

On the third day, the full width of the wall in trench two was made visible at its western end, at roughly one metre wide, suggesting a substantial structure. In trench one the two walls located close together were thought to represent the cess pit.

The fourth day brought wind and rain, but did not deter progress, with more backfill being removed from both trenches to reveal the surviving walls of the structure. Day five saw good progress, removing almost all of the remaining backfill from trench one to reveal a rubble collapse layer – pre-dating the 1930s excavations. The large mass of masonry is thought to be a possible curving stair, whilst the top of the large wall in trench two was fully exposed.

The sixth day saw further poor weather, and so the focus was on washing and sorting the cleaned finds for bagging up. By the afternoon the weather improved somewhat and the team were able to start the removal of layers of building collapse within the trenches.

Members of the Castle Studies Trust who are funding the investigation visited the site on day seven to check on progress. Work continued in trench one revealing an area of potential bedrock within the possible small room at its eastern end. Collapse material has been removed from trench two to reveal a spread of mortar and slate, potentially a collapsed roof within the structure.
The eighth day saw a sample excavation of the small room in trench one completed, exposing more of a large outcrop of limestone bedrock in its base. Cadw gave permission to slightly extend the trenches and this was started in the afternoon.

The ninth day saw trench two extended to expose the return of the large wall in the northwestern corner of the building, which again appears to be a substantial wall, suggesting a tall building. The extension in trench one was also continued, but no continuation of any walls were seen, although a deposit of rubbish was revealed containing large quantities of roofing slate, oyster shell, bone and quite a few pieces of glazed tile.

The tenth day saw the return of the wall in the second trench fully exposed, the cobbled surface on the outside of the wall cleaned and a rough stone slab floor adjacent to the steps was exposed. They finished taking the eastern extension of the trench down to the correct level, and commenced excavation of the possible cess pit, which is being sampled for environmental analysis.

Day 11 saw the recording and site survey start, as they finished excavation of a small test pit in trench one, onto a second possible stone slab floor. The east end of the trench was found to contain a mix of material, with pottery dating throughout the medieval and later medieval period, as well as three shards of Roman pottery too.

Day 12 was spent undertaking further recording and drawing in the two trenches as the work drew to a close.

The recording was finished on the thirteenth day, as they started backfilling in the afternoon.

In between the volunteers stopped to watch the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh being given the freedom of Pembroke. The last day saw both trenches were backfilled and re-turfed by the end.

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Coastal car parks at beauty spots remain closed

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THE RECENT changes in regulations reinforce that movement is restricted to your local area.

This has been identified by the Welsh Government as an approximation of a five mile radius from your home.

Members of two separate households from the same local area (not travelling more than five miles) can now meet outdoors, as long as they maintain social distancing.

You should aim to meet another local household as close to your home as possible. Always take care to maintain social distancing and hand hygiene.

Pembrokeshire County Council car parks at attractions and beauty spots (including public toilets) currently remain closed so you should check before travelling.

They remain closed as a clear message that travel remains restricted, and associated tourism amenities remain closed.

A critical point for all to note is that lifeguards are not currently patrolling beaches and toilets and other facilities are not open.

Full details of the car parking facilities which remain open for the local community can be found on the Council’s website:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/emergency-planning/service-changes

Councillor Phil Baker, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure said: “The emphasis is on careful, structured unlocking, and not to put in danger any of the recovery measures that relate to public health and not to undo the safeguarding that lockdown has delivered.

“We will continue to review and monitor this carefully and take cautious, measured steps only to provide the benefits of the eased regulations without putting our residents at risk.”

Motorists are reminded not to contravene parking restrictions – such as yellow lines – where they exist as parking enforcement is still being undertaken.

As with other service areas, car parks will be reviewed in line with current advice.

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Pembrokeshire County Council Leaders coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE County Council Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Tuesday, 2nd June, as follows:

‘I want to thank everyone for the continued support to myself, Elected Members and officers of the Authority.

‘We have all experienced many challenges over the years but this continued struggle is very testing for all. We continue collectively to work together to ensure we, in Pembrokeshire, remain safe and avoid catching Covid-19

‘It is clear that we still have to remain “local”. There is no remit for travelling outside our local community. You will have read and heard clear guidance on only travelling five miles from home.

‘As always and where you can, please exercise from your home. The more we can do to reduce the spread of the virus, the better we will all fare in the long term.

‘I want to highlight that today marks the 50 th anniversary of the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge. This was indeed a tragedy as lives were lost and it is a sad chapter in Pembrokeshire’s history.

‘As in any incident, people can, and do, rebuild and also learn lessons. After Covid-19 the new “normality” will look different from what we were used to. But we will all move forward and regain Confidence.

‘I’m sure, like you, I question how I should be tackling this issue. Should I be doing more? The answer is simple and direct – we need to ensure social distancing is maintained; wash our hands regularly and listen to the advice given by experts.

‘Remember: ‘Stay Strong and Stay Local.’

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‘Check in, Catch up and Prepare’ All school’s in Wales prepare to enter next phase

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ALL children will have the opportunity to “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September”, the Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced today as she published details of the next phase for schools in Wales.

It is proposed that all schools will start the next phase on 29 June, with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27 July.

In the next academic year, beginning in September, the intention is that the autumn half-term break will be expanded to two weeks.

In each school there will be a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.

There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.

Next week, the Welsh Government will publish guidance to support schools, as well as further and higher education institutions. This will include information on managing their facilities and logistical arrangements, including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport.

The Government is also today publishing a paper from its COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, representing the latest understanding of the virus with respect to children and education.

Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15 June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.

Guidance for childcare providers will also be published in the next week, supporting them to increase the numbers of children in attendance alongside schools.

Kirsty Williams said:

“My announcement today gives schools three and a half weeks to continue preparing for the next phase.

“We will use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.

“29 June means there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody-testing programme. As we continue to keep Wales safe, this approach will be critical.

“The evolving science suggests that warm weather and sunlight gives us the best opportunity to ensure more time in school. Waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling. That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people.

“This is and has been a worrying period for us all. I know that many will feel apprehensive. We have not rushed this work and this decision.

“The three and a half week period before the next phase also gives us time to keep watch on developments elsewhere and provides further check-points to review evidence and the roll-out of testing.

“This is the best practical option that meets my five principles which underpin my decision making.

“I am also convinced that it is only by returning to their own school that we will see increased attendance from our more vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

“Working together we will secure equity and excellence for pupils as they check in, catch up, and prepare for summer and September.”

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