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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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Haverfordwest: Primary school teacher accused of 34 sexual assaults

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher was in court on Monday (Aug 3) accused of 34 sexual assaults.

James Oulton, 34, of Richmond Crescent, denies all the charges.

Oulton, who was granted a continuation to his bail, was represented in court by his barrister Chris Clee QC.

The case is listed for administrative hearings in November and the trial date is provisionally set for April 12, 2021.

Oulton is currently suspended from work at Mary Immaculate School.

It is understood that the case does not involve children who are pupils at the Roman Catholic primary school.

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Phased re-opening for Leisure Centre facilities

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FACILITIES at Pembrokeshire County Council’s Leisure Centres will begin to re-open in a phased and safe manner from Monday, August 17.

Following further easing of Welsh Government restrictions, Pembrokeshire Leisure will be opening its doors for the use of fitness suites only in the first phase.

The fitness suites at Fishguard Leisure Centre, Haverfordwest Leisure Centre, Milford Haven Leisure Centre, Pembroke Leisure Centre and Tenby Leisure Centres will open from Monday, August.

You must book and pay for your gym slot in advance.

Without a pre-booked slot you will not be able to gain access to the facilities.

There will be no bookings or payments taken at the centres. In order to make a reservation you will need to be a registered user of Pembrokeshire Leisure.

You can register via the website https://pembrokeshireleisure.co.uk/ or by calling 01437 775504, Monday to Thursday, 9am – 3pm.

See below for further membership information.

Bookings can also be made via the website and telephone numbers above and through the Pembrokeshire Leisure app which is available to download on both Apple IOS and Android.

You will be able to book your session from Tuesday, August 11, onwards.

For everyone’s safety please do not attend any Pembrokeshire Leisure facilities if you are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms.

Users are asked to bring only a full water bottle (drinking fountains will not be in use), a towel and their Pembrokeshire Leisure Card for their exercise session.

Please note there will be no changing facilities available so please arrive dressed ready for your session.

Buildings may operate one-way systems and equipment may be set out differently than normal with some equipment set up in other areas of the centre to allow more space to exercise.

Those visiting with pre-booked appointments are respectfully asked to adhere to social distancing rules in operation.

There will be an enhanced cleaning operation in place with hand sanitising stations and customers will need to use the provided cleaning products to clean equipment before and after use.

The second phase, from Tuesday, September 1, will see Crymych Leisure Centre re-open and swimming pools, indoor fitness classes and facility hire available at all centres.

Again, all activities will be via pre-booked appointments only.

Further details will be released in due course, including opening arrangements for all of the remaining leisure facilities.

Currently all Pembrokeshire Leisure memberships are frozen with no payments being taken.

To allow members to return when they feel safe and happy to do so Pembrokeshire Leisure will be offering the following:

If you are ready to return to us:

  • Everyone with a frozen current membership will be able to access the fitness suites for free from August 17 to 31.
  • We will be offering a ‘BeActive’ membership while our facilities have a reduced offering at £19/month.
  • You will need to sign up to the membership using our app or website.
  • This membership will be paid on a monthly basis with no minimum term.
  • It will be available until our centres are able to offer a more complete selection of activities, when existing membership subscriptions will be restarted.

If you don’t feel ready to return to us yet:

  • All memberships will remain frozen and you will not need to contact us until you are ready to return.
  • All subscriptions will receive an extension as Appropriate.
  • When we are able to offer a more complete provision of activities then memberships will be restarted. Members will be given notice before the payments are taken.

More information regarding the BeActive membership will be sent to all members.

All relevant information will also be published on

https://pembrokeshireleisure.co.uk/ and the Pembrokeshire Leisure App.

If you are unclear on the process of re-joining please contact 01437 775504.

Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism. Leisure and Culture, Cllr Paul Miller, said: “With restrictions easing further in the coming weeks the team have been working hard to ensure we can offer a safe, phased, return to leisure facilities across the county.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming back members and the general public from the 17th.”

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Milford Haven coastguards launch six lifeboats and task helicopter to hoax call

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MILFORD HAVEN Coastguard Operations Centre swung into action last night following an emergency call, tasking SIX lifeboats and a rescue helicopter to search for a sinking yacht with three crew on board.

But the call – which led to rescuers to search a large part of the Bristol Channel – turned out to be a hoax.

The RNLI said that the call out cost valuable funds, which could have been used to save lives in a real emergency.

Barry Lifeboat station volunteers posted on Facebook saying: “Whilst out on its first exercise since the start of the Covid 19 restrictions, the Barry Dock All-weather lifeboat was tasked by Milford Haven coastguard to reports of a sinking yacht with three people on board.
“Volunteer crews from RNLI Penarth Lifeboat Station, RNLI Weston Lifeboat Station and RNLI Lifeboats at Burnham-on-Sea launched their lifeboats to the mayday call.
“The six lifeboats and coastguard rescue helicopter carried out a coordinated search pattern around the Flat Holm and Steep Holm Islands
“A dredging vessel the Arco Dart also assisted in the search.
“After an investigation by the coastguard team at Milford Haven it was deemed to be a hoax call.
“The volunteers from the four separate RNLI stations returned home and prepared each lifeboat for its next service.
“A hoax call is a massive drain on the resources of the RNLI and it’s volunteers during this challenging time.”

Speaking to The Pembrokeshire Herald on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the RNLI said: “Volunteer crew members will respond to any request to help those in trouble at sea.
“However, when a false 999 or 112 call is made, it uses volunteers’ time, which they selflessly give to help those in trouble.
“It costs the charity valuable funds, which could be better used elsewhere, and a false call can take lifesaving resources away from a real emergency.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have been approached for a comment.

Barry lifeboat after being tasked to hoax call on Monday night (Pic: RNLI)

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