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The Nevern Castle Project - Dig Diary Spring 2010

 


Chris talking to the team at the end of first day

Sunday 28 March 2010

The spring excavation is underway. It was a fine morning with lots of birdsong. Chris Caple, site director, started with a tour of the site, outlining its history, interpretation and the work that was done last year. The main target of this year’s excavation will be the inner castle, both the tower and a small area to its north. One of last year’s trenches, on the site of the possible great hall, will be extended, and a trench in the inner ditch will be further deepened when the water can be pumped out!

The workforce this year is made up of seven students from Durham University, two from Lampeter University and some local volunteers. Digging commenced mid-morning with great enthusiasm, which is sure to result in a few blisters and aching joints in the next day or so. Part of an inner wall face of the tower was uncovered, but the only finds here were a few fragments of china, probably from the late 1800s, which as Chris Caple observed, indicates that this site has been used longer as a picnic spot than its life as a castle. A few bits of pottery were found in the other trenches, a mixture of both medieval and much more recent material. Not bad progress for the first day.


Digging in the rain

Monday 29 March 2010

A damp start to the day, following heavy overnight rain. It was decided that excavation on the tower of the inner castle was impractical in wet conditions, due to the slope and steps. However, the small area to the north had been protected by a polythene sheet and this part could be trowelled clean, enabling the first plan to be drawn. The rest of the workforce continued with the excavation along the line of the wall of the hall. Here again a few finds of fragments of medieval and modern pottery were found. During morning tea-break the rain eased off but, not long after returning to work, came back with more attitude. The decision was made to stop for the day as the ground conditions were becoming too wet, and the diggers were also on the moist side.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Very heavy rain has put pay to any excavation today. As the forecast for tomorrow is similar it has been decided to move the day off forwards and hopefully return to work on Thursday.

 

Wednesday 31st March 2010

Our first well earned day off!


Thursday 1st April 2010

Despite the rain, work continues. In the ’Inner Castle’ we are revealing the walls of a stone tower. Unlike the round tower on the motte that was dug lat year, this tower looks as if it might be square. It will take a lot of hard work before we find out.

Around the tower, we are looking for evidence of buildings that may have stood here.

In Trench BB we are tracing the wall of the ‘hall’ where the lord lived, entertained and carried out his business and duties.

Friday 2nd April 2010

Today was spent dodging showers, but progress is still being made despite the rain. Because of the wet weather has made it difficult to work on the tower, work has focussed on the other trenches, and we have started a new trench at the north end of the bailey (trench N) to find out what may survive in this part of the castle.

In Trench BB, the wall of the hall just keeps on going! It is now more than 16meters long! The size of this building and its position opposite the probable entrance to the castle suggests this was an important building.


Saturday 3rd April 2010

At last, a whole day without rain, and we make great progress. In the ‘inner castle’ the discovery of a layer of slate mixed with yellow clay indicates the top of the rubble from the collapsed buildings that we think may have surrounded the tower.

In the tower itself we have discovered parts of two walls, but we still don’t know what shape the tower is.

The wall in trench BB is now even longer! The bigger this building gets, the more important we think it might be.

In Trench N we have already revealed part of a stone wall, evidence of more buildings inside the castle. It looks as if this will be an interesting trench……

Sunday 4th April 2010

Another fine day and we are making good progress. As the ground dries it becomes easier to dig and much easier to see different colours of the soil, which give us clues as to what archaeology there is in each trench we dig.

The hard work continues on the tower, removing tons of stones that have fallen from the walls and which completely fill the inside of the tower.

In Trench BB we continue to clean up the wall so that it can be photographed and drawn.

We have extended Trench N to follow the wall we found yesterday…but it has disappeared! Elsewhere, however, we have found a surface made of stone slabs.


Monday 5th April 2010

Today we have been drawing the wall of the ‘great hall’ and the stone surface in Trench N. We have decided to extend Trench BB so we can investigate the inside of the building.


In Trench P the good weather means we can clean up the trench for a photograph, before removing the next layer of archaeology.

Tuesday 6th April

Today we were visited by Cadw and PCNP to see how the excavation is proceeding. Everyone is pleased by the amount that has already been achieved despite the weather.

Workmen from Cadw are repairing the walls of the round tower on the motte to make it easier to imagine how the tower once looked. It is possible that this was where the Lord Rhys was imprisoned.

Unfortunately by lunch the rain returned and it soon became impossible for work to continue today.


 

Wednesday 7th April

A fine day, and good progress is made again. In Trench BB we continue to remove topsoil to reveal part of the inside of what we think is the 'Great Hall', but there is a lot of soil to remove first.

In Trench N we have removed the remains of the wall to reveal more of the stone slab surface. Above the surface we find several pieces of broken pottery. When we start to remove some of the stones we discover that some of them have been shaped. These are probably the remains of carved stones around doorways or windows. This tells us the building we are looking for has probably been demolished.

In Trench P below the layer of slate from collapsed walls, we have discovered a layer of slates with round holes in them. These are probably the remains of a collapsed roof. The soil is very dark, suggesting the roof was burnt down.

Hard work to reveal the top of the walls of the square tower continues...

Thursday 8th April

Our second day off. Some of the team are taking advantage of the good weather to walk up to Carn Ingli. Others are taking the opportunity not to!


Friday 9th April 2010

The work of the Cadw masons shows how substantial the walls of the round tower would have been. Eventually the walls will be capped with turf to protect them from the rain.

In Trench N we are carefully cleaning up a stone surface to look for post holes that show where the walls once stood.


Saturday 10th April 2010

In Trench BB, the ‘Great Hall, we have begun to reveal the stone of the collapsed walls. We have found a lot of pieces of pottery in this layer.

In the square tower we have revealed part of the third wall. It is badly damaged, but held together by tree roots.

Sunday 11th April 2010

In Trench P we have removed all the slate layer to reveal the layer of burning.

Now that the soil is drying out a little, we are able to re-open a trench that was started last year. We eventually hope to find evidence of a possible track leading up to the original entrance to the castle. We also want to find out how deep and wide the ditch is. We will have to remove an awful lot of wet clay to find out though!

Monday 12th April 2010

As the good weather continues we are achieving a lot. On the square tower we have finally got through the thick layer of building rubble, to reveal a glimpse of burnt clay and charcoal. This may be the remains of a collapsed floor from when the tower was destroyed.

In Trench P careful cleaning has revealed the extent of the burning and post holes.

In Trench N we have finished cleaning the stone surface, ready for photographing and planning.

Trench BB has presented a surprise. The new excavation has found the end of the wall of the ‘Great Hall’, but has also revealed part of another building.

Tuesday 13th April 2010

On the tower in the 'inner castle' a corner of the building has been revealed. Soon we will know how large the inside of this building was.

In order to try and discover more of the building in Trench N, we have extended the trench towards the boundary bank of the bailey.

In the 'Great Hall' we draw the layer of stones that has been revealed beneath the topsoil. Once this is done, they can be removed to discover what may lie beneath them...hopefully we will find the floor of the building and some clues as to what it was used for.

 

 

Wednesday 14th April 2010

Today is a busy day, we have lots of visitors, and make new discoveries.

As always happens, when we remove the stones in the 'Great Hall', we do not find what we expected! Instead of a floor surface we discover the edge of what may be a pit, cut into the yellow clay.

We are also visited by a BBC camera crew, filming for a new TV series on archaeology.

Inspectors from Cadw also visit to see how the repair of the round tower is progressing, and to see what we have discovered so far on the excavation this year.

On the Inner castle, we have finally revealed all the inside walls of the tower. We now know the walls are about two meters thick and that the inside of the tower measures about four meters by six.

In the 'Great Hall' we have found a large flat slab with a round hole in it. This appears to be a hinge socket for a large door. This may be the main entrance into the Hall.

Thursday 15th April 2010

Another well-earned day off!

Friday 16th April 2010

During our day off, having approval from Cadw, the opportunity was taken to open up a larger area in Trench N and to dig deeper into the ditch fill in Trench D.

After a lot of hard work in Trench D, we are beginning to get some answers… we have discovered a dark layer of soil that marks the original ground surface from which the bank and ditch were constructed. Lying on this surface we have found some good dating evidence in the form of charcoal and pottery. This will tell us when the bank and ditch were first dug.

Work on the round tower is progressing well, and should be finished soon.

Saturday 17th April 2010

Today we are visited by the Newport ‘twinning association’ and their guests from Brittany.

On the ‘Square Tower’ the outside edge of the south side of the tower has been revealed. We have also discovered that the tower is joined to a perimeter wall that would have encircled the entire ‘Inner Castle’ and suggests the wall and tower were built at the same time.

In Trench P we have removed the layer of burnt soil and charcoal, to reveal a thick layer of slate fragments. This may indicate earlier activity on the ‘inner castle’.


Sunday 18th April 2010

On the square tower, we have discovered a curious layer of stone slabs. These could be the remains of a staircase within the tower, or maybe just stone that has slipped sideways from the wall.

More mysteries are unearthed! On the outside slope of the castle’s western bank, a short stretch of wall has been found. We don’t yet know what this may be, but it may be evidence of a square tower on the perimeter of the castle.

In Trench P we have removed all the slate, and the contents of an oval pit, beneath, is a layer of yellow clay, but we cannot see any evidence of more buildings.

Monday 19th April 2010

In Trench N we have nearly finished cleaning up the enlarged trench. This has revealed more flat stones that may be the remains of a paved surface.

In Trench BB, the floor of the ‘Great Hall, appears not to be made of stone, but is instead a clay floor, with several patches and repairs in it.

On the square tower, more of the outside face of the wall is revealed.

 

Tuesday 20th April 2010

In Nevern village hall preparations are made for visits from local schools later in the week.

In Trench N we start to reveal the top of a layer of stone that has fallen from the defensive bank surrounding the Bailey. We have recovered a lot of pottery from this layer, which will help us to find out when the buildings in this part of the castle were being used. Underneath this stone layer we hope to find a well preserved floor surface and evidence of the walls of a building, but we will have to continue digging here later in the year before we can find out more about this part of the site.

In Trench P we have dug a small trench through the yellow clay to see what there is beneath it. This has revealed a buried ground surface indicated by a layer of dark grey soil.

 

Wednesday 21st April 2010

In Trench P we have cleaned back to reveal the inside face of the wall that would have surrounded the 'Inner Castle'.

In Trench D all the hard work of shovelling through wet clay has finally paid off, and we have found evidence that supports our theories! At the bottom of the ditch we have revealed a flat stone surface. This may be evidence for a road surface, suggesting that this was indeed the entrance into the castle! Visitors to the castle would have to approach the main gates along the bottom of the ditch, surrounded on both sides by high banks and wooden battlements. This approach to the castle would have been very difficult to attack.

We also had our first visit from some of the local schools today. The schoolchildren were shown around the castle, saw the excavations and asked questions about the site. They also learnt about daily life in medieval times, and how archaeologists look for evidence of the past.

Thursday 22nd April 2010

Our last day of digging.

In Trench P we finish drawing the sides of the trench to make a record of the different layers we have dug through. We have discovered the burnt remains of a slate roofed building outside the square tower. Beneath this building we found evidence for the construction of the walls of the Inner Castle, but did not find evidence of early medieval or Iron Age occupation at the site.

In the inner castle we have found out the size and shape of the 'square tower', and have been able to reveal the tops of the wall that can be repaired by the Cadw masons. We have also discovered evidence for a thick wall that would have entirely surrounded the 'Inner Castle'. This part of the castle would have looked very impressive and impregnable, and was probably built as a status symbol later in the castle's history.

In Trench BB we continue digging as long as possible... we have revealed a mysterious block of masonry! Could this be the remains of a stairway, or part of a fireplace? Beneath the floor, several pits have been discovered. We have found that the 'Great Hall' was 22m long and seems to have had a clay floor, but we will need to continue excavating here before we can understand this part of the castle more clearly.

But after lunch the team has the afternoon off and go on a trip to visit St David's.

Friday 23rd April 2010

Our last day on site. The deep trench through the ditch is filled in and we pack up the site and cover over the other trenches until we can continue excavating for another four weeks later in the summer.

Many thanks to the Nevern community, PCNP, Cadw, and everyone that took part in the excavation, and to everyone that helped with organising things and making it all possible. Thanks also to the many enthusiastic people who visited the site. There will be another four weeks of excavation this year, starting on June 20th. We will continue digging to discover more about the castle and the people that built it, so do come and visit the excavations!

Please contact the Dyfed Archaeological Trust if you are interested in volunteering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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