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Capel y Groes 2010 Dig Diary

 

The small village of Swyddffynnon, nestling on the north-western fringes of Cors Caron, Ceredigion, would appear to have medieval origins. A known medieval mill sits in the centre, but research by staff and students of Lampeter University has revealed the possibility that this was part of a bond settlement of Strata Florida Abbey 3½ miles to the east, and may even have been the administrative centre for the medieval monastic grange of Mefenydd.

Old maps show a small building called ‘Capel y Groes’ in the corner of a field on the edge of the village, which may have been a medieval monastic grange chapel. Nothing now remains above ground, but a recent geophysical survey clearly shows remains still survive under the soil, along with a range of hitherto unknown trackways and enclosures, some of which may even be Prehistoric.

With Cadw funding, Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Lampeter University, along with local historical groups and volunteers are now undertaking an archaeological excavation of this possible chapel, hoping to reveal important evidence of medieval religion and settlement, and clues as to how major landowners like Strata Florida organised the landscape of medieval Ceredigion. The dig runs from Monday the 13th September through to Wednesday the 22nd September 2010.

Day 1 – Monday 13th September

On a wet day in September, Richard watches as we open up 40m of trench with a mini-digger. Already the topsoil is full of a range of domestic pottery, mainly from the 19th century but some may be medieval, although we’ll have to wait until pottery specialists arrive to date them properly. The pottery does show we must have a house or cottage nearby.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Tuesday 14th September

It still hasn’t stopped raining yet, but we manage to dodge enough rainclouds to start cleaning off the rest of the topsoil. Already a floor surface starts to show up, presumably from the building shown on 19th century maps. The heavy rain finally calls a halt to activity on site at lunchtime.

 

 

Day 3 – Wednesday 15th September

The rain stops, and the team carry on trowelling off the remaining topsoil, revealing at least one wall and a rich haul of domestic pottery and ironwork, including a meat hook that would have hung from one of the rafters.

 

Day 4 – Thursday 16th September

Despite careful excavation there appears to be no stone left to mark the north-western wall of the building, perhaps the stone has been robbed away, or maybe this was a timber wall or open-fronted. Individual features, including several drains, are revealed within the building.

 

Good progress allows the team the chance to visit a nearby Bronze Age burnt mound on the edge of Cors Caron, discovered by staff and students from Lampeter University earlier in the year.

 

Day 5 – Friday 17th September

One and a half pairs of Victorian shoes, and several horseshoes, are discovered amongst the discarded pottery and ironwork in and around the building.


Still no clear evidence of medieval activity as yet. The stone walls and floor surface are carefully cleaned and recorded with the aim of further digging to see what lies beneath them next week.

 

Day 6 – Monday 20th September

Ian carefully cleans up another shoe found amongst the soil in front of the building.

 

Nikki starts the careful process of making a detailed drawn record of everything we’ve uncovered so far.

 

 

 

Day 7 – Tuesday 21st September

Our youngest volunteers from the village take some time out to come and help on site, uncovering fragments of walls and postholes in front of the building, possibly relating to small enclosures in front of the building.



On our penultimate day everyone is hard pressed to finish excavating the remains of the building, which looks decidedly 18th/19th century in date, but a small rectangular pit next to it reveals our first medieval pottery.

 

To cope with the number of finds several volunteers organise the cleaning and processing of the pottery and glass sherds.

 

Day 8 – Wednesday 22nd September

The good weather allows many of the intrigued locals the chance to come out and see what we are up to.

 

On our last day we enlist the help of anyone capable of digging, including Bobby. At the end of our time here it looks like we have a post-medieval cottage, but one that may have also been engaging in some small-scale industrial activity judging by the quantity of ironwork from the site. There is unfortunately no clear evidence of a chapel site here, or if the cottage walls were first built in the medieval period, but we do have evidence of medieval activity in this area and a much earlier, but un-dated, ditch running underneath the cottage. Further archaeological work would be required to discover what was happening during the medieval and earlier periods.

 

 

 

 

 

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