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Llanllyr Nunnery Excavation Dig Diary

Rhys ap Gruffudd founded Llanllyr Nunnery in 1180, one of only two nunneries in Wales. At its dissolution in 1535 some of the nunnery buildings were converted into a mansion. This mansion was demolished and replaced by the current house in the Georgian Period. One of the aims of the excavation is to locate the remains of the nunnery and the mansion.

It is a Dyfed Archaeological Trust/Trinity St Davids partnership project funded by Cadw.

The Trust and the University are very grateful to the Gee family, especially Matthew Gee, for all allowing the excavation to take place, and all their help during the excavation.

Thomas Dineley's 1684 drawing of Llanllyr Mansion


22nd -23rd May 2014

A day and a half spent clearing the soil across a large cobbled surface that ended up being far larger than expected …

as well as trenching in the field east of the cobbled surface.

26th May - 31st May 2014

This week was supervised by Jemma Bezant of University Trinity St Davids. Thanks to a plentiful number of volunteers and fine weather good headway was made cleaning the trenches after the machining, although some remained under water all week after the previous weekend's heavy rain.

A start was made in cleaning the extensive cobbled surface (below)

and revealing a number of features within the trenches.

Day 1 and 2 - Monday/Tuesday 2nd and 3rd June 2014

DAT staff Fran and Hubert joined Jemma to continue the excavation. The large area of cobbles is going to take a lot of time cleaning – we hope to finish by the end of the week!

In the picture below one can see the detail in the cobbled surface in front of Beth.

In the east field Trevor and Gaynor try to locate the edges of a ditch we believe may cross the southern end of the N-S trench nearest the cobbled area.

Day 3 - Wednesday 4th June 2014

A terrible day of torrential rain. We managed to work for a few hours before the rain got the better of us and we gave up.

Day 4 - Thursday 5th June

After all the rain many of the trenches were rather waterlogged but Olwyn and Andy managed to excavate a stone wall on the island between 2 pools of water – finding a George II coin dated 1739 in the process.

Day 5 - Friday 6th June

At last we have finished cleaning the cobble surface. We believe a range of buildings surrounded this cobble yard. The cobbles appear to continue further to the west (top of picture) but are much more disturbed by tree growth.

The biggest excitement of the day was the flock of sheep that had to be brought past the site on their way to Llanllyr farm and later back out to the fields. It didn't go quite to plan and many thanks to Luke and Matthew for displaying great heroism in rounding up the sheep.

Hubert looking as if he is camouflaged to blend into the trees as the sheep come down the lane …

Day 6 - Saturday 7th June

After another night of rain our trenches are looking more like something from the 1st World War than an archaeological site … and today is our open day!

However the rain did stop and we had a good number of visitors to look at the drier areas.

Below is Ken Murphy (DAT Director) drawing a section of trench not under water.

Day 1 - Monday 9th June

An overabundance of water seems to be the theme of the last few days but today the sun has come out so we try and bail out the south end of Trench 2 in the hope that it will eventually dry out.

Within Trench 4 we have found the remains of the continuation of a cobbled trackway seen in Trench 3, a cobbled pathway as well as traces of stone walls. Below - Alice and Luke clean the area for a photograph.

Day 2 - Tuesday 10th June

Although we bailed out most of the water yesterday from Trench 2, Beth and Beth had the lovely job of trying to clear enough mud away from the west edge of the trench so that we could draw the trench section.

Elsewhere more recording of sections and plans goes on …

Day 3 - Wednesday 11th June

A man happy in his work - Martin takes the long view when planning Trench 2's section.

Whilst under darkening skies Luke and Alice discuss where on earth Luke has mislaid his trowel again

Day 4 - Thursday 12th June

For the last time we trowel Trench 2 in a bid to define the linear features that cross the Trench. Although the sun is welcome the ground surface soon becomes baked hard as Katherine and Wendy (below) excavate a number of the features.

As well as planning by hand individual areas the whole excavation is recorded using a Total Station Theodolite by Hubert and Luke.

Day 5 - Friday 13th June

A beautiful day to end the excavation on. Although we have not found any clear evidence for medieval buildings or a Tudor mansion within the excavation area, we are confident that we have confirmed the position of the 18 th century buildings and cobbled yard as shown on the 1768 estate map (below). Perhaps below these buildings earlier ones exist and next year we will learn something more ….

But for now parts of the site are covered over before all the trenches are backfilled…

and we end with a rainbow.

The Trust and the University are very grateful to the Gee family for allowing the work to take place and in particular thanks go to Matthew Gee and Simon for all their help during the excavation. Also our thanks go to all the volunteers who gave their time over the weeks and worked so hard. It is much appreciated.




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