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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.

News

Cleddau Bridge Hotel fire started deliberately

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A RESPONSE to a Freedom of Information Act request made by Llanion councillor Joshua Beynon reveals that the fire which devastated the Cleddau Bridge Hotel on March 30 this year was arson.

The blaze followed a protracted period during which the hotel had been empty following the refusal of a planning application for change of use to residential accommodation.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that investigators have now concluded the fire investigation regarding the fire that took place at the Cleddau Bridge Hotel on March 30, 2019.

“The investigation determined that the fire was started deliberately, and all relevant information has duly been passed on to Dyfed Powys Police.”

The Herald has asked Dyfed Powys Police to comment on the progress of its investigation.

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News

No prosecutions in Pembroke Dock grant fraud allegations

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MORE than five years since allegations of impropriety in publicly-funded building restoration grants were taken up by the police, the local force tells Pembrokeshire County Council chief executive, Ian Westley, in a letter circulated to councillors: “The Crown Prosecution Service has determined that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any of the suspects.”

More details to follow – the matter will also be discussed at this Thursday’s full council meeting.

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Education

Fishguard school last in Wales without broadband

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CHILDREN in a school in Fishguard are excited about next term before the summer holidays have even begun.

Ysgol Llanychllwydog is the last school in Wales without broadband.

The pupils sometimes have to wait half an hour for pages to load. Sometimes videos won’t play. Now the school is looking forward to an ultra-fast future, and for the head teacher the changes cannot come quickly enough.

Currently when the internet goes down Amanda Lawrence has to drive 10 minutes to her other school to send an email to report it.

“It’s frustrating. There are lots of schools that are able to use schemes where you can plan electronically, but it’s difficult for staff here to do that,” she said.

As part of a scheme to target hard-to-reach places, fibre optic cable is being laid along a 15-mile route from Haverfordwest.

Matt Lovegrove, who works for Openreach, admitted it had been ‘a massive challenge’.

He said: “We’ve had to plough 1.5 miles of new trench to put new duct in, we’ve had to put new poles and had to span the cable between 50 poles as well, so a real variety of challenges.

“The product is limitless in terms of speed. It’s gigabit capable, that means they can download music, interactive learning et cetera, and it will be instant for them.”

The wider community will also benefit from the upgrade, he said. “We are looking to work with local government and residents to expand that fibre footprint to as much of the village as possible.”

“They’ll be able to access the high speed broadband and again get all the benefits from that.”

The last school in Wales without broadband

Broadband is a Welsh Government priority. It’s invested £13.8m in school broadband.

But Llanarchllwydog has been a tough nut. It’s taken the efforts of Welsh and UK governments to bring broadband.

“Because of the challenging topography, that we are familiar with, it has taken rather a long time to make sure that every school is equipped with the broadband speeds that they need,” said Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams.

“This means that schools will have the external infrastructure that they need to deliver our exciting new curriculum and I hope to be making an announcement shortly on further investment on kit and equipment inside schools.”

The work is being done through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity programme.

DCMS minister Margot James MP agrees cooperation between the two governments has helped deliver the project.

“That’s not the end of it for Wales,” Ms James said.

“The other aspects of the rural gigabit connectivity programme is that we are using that £200 million to bring full fibre to local public buildings like hospitals and schools so that they get the gigabit connectivity first.”

The cable has now reached the telegraph post outside the school. The final work will happen over summer.

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