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Tir y Dail, Ammanford - Dig Diary 2010

 

The remains of a medieval castle have lain hidden in the grounds of Cartref at Tir y Dail, Ammanford, almost unnoticed by time and by local people.

Very little is known about this motte and bailey castle. A 12th century date may be likely, but was it built by the Lord Rhys to defend himself from the Normans to the south, or was it built by Normans lords on the edge of their newly conquered territory?

Dyfed Archaeological Trust, with the aid of Cadw, Carmarthenshire County Council, the Hywel Dda Health Board, Ammanford Town Council, Ammanford Archaeology and History Society and local volunteers are spending seven days trying to uncover some answers to this enigmatic site.

The excavation runs from the 19th of July to the 27th, with open days on the 24th and 25th of July. The plan is to open up four trenches in all - Trench 1 on top of the motte, Trench 2 to take a section through part of the motte, Trench 3 to look at the main outer defensive bank and Trench 4 on remains of a counterscarp bank.

Day 1

Despite extensive scrub clearance a couple of years ago the vegetation has returned with a vengeance. Robert peeks out from behind the brambles on top of the castle motte. The morning is spent clearing an area to begin digging.


After sterling work removing the brambles Phil, Jesse, Robert and Tony get stuck into removing the topsoil on the motte. The top of the motte is unusually dished-shaped, did this hold a wood or stone tower, or is the dish-shape caused by 19th century landscaping? Hopefully as this area is excavated some of these questions will be answered.

 

Day 2

Heavy rainfall on a typical Welsh summer’s day puts a halt to activities on site. Fingers crossed the weather improves for the rest of the week.

Day 3

A 5m x 5m trench (Trench 1) is laid out on top of the motte, and Menna, Phil, Robert and Tony trowel it back to reveal the archaeology below. Immediately a stone and clay lining to the interior of the motte is revealed.


Hubert cuts a lonely figure as he removes the undergrowth from the large outer defensive bank in front of the motte.

 


Day 4

Trench 3 is opened up across the outer defensive bank. Phil works on the top of the bank, while Robert contemplates digging out the ditch below. Behind them a section has also been cut into the side of the motte to get a glimpse of how it was constructed.

Day 5

Work begins on recording some of the areas excavated so far. Tony draws the sections revealed in the edge of the motte. Behind him Robert continues to work his way downwards into the ditch.


Hubert uncovers the external face of the outer defensive bank, although this is still masked by numerous tree roots.

Day 6

The site is opened up for members of the public to have a look around and a good number of local people take the opportunity to find out more about the castle on their doorstep. Charles leads the tours, and even the Mayor comes to visit.


Meanwhile Robert unearths a thick layer of broken glass and plant pots within the inner ditch, presumably from the demolition of the Victorian greenhouses. The trench is extended to examine the outer ditch, which is full of ash and coal from the fireplaces of the nearby former 19th century mansion.

 

 

 


Day 7

As further site tours are given a section of the top of the motte is removed revealing a thick layer of large stones, all part of the original 12th century castle motte construction and not, as was initially feared, the result of 19th century garden landscaping.


Tony and Hubert start a detailed survey of the areas we’ve excavated so far.

Day 8

The bottom of the inner ditch is reached, although this would appear to be a later re-cutting of the ditch. As time is running out the true edges of the original 12th century ditch wait until future archaeological excavations uncover them.


Some 17th or 18th century pottery is discovered on top of the motte, our earliest pottery to date. The first positive evidence of a timber castle is also revealed by the discovery of a large posthole nearby.

Day 9

As the dig draws to a close final records are made and work begins on back-filling all our trenches. Hubert, Phil and Robert start putting the rocks back on top of the motte.

Elsewhere Menna continues last minute digging to reveal the remains of the posthole on top of the motte. Although the posthole doesn’t provide much hoped for dating evidence, Menna does find the remains of an animal (possibly a dog) buried next to it.

Day 10

The final day and the remaining trenches are backfilled. Robert, Menna, Richard, Johnny and Hubert undertake the thankless task.


Job complete and the team find time to pose for a photo.

 

 

 

 

 

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