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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Pembrokeshire Archaeology Day





Aerial view of Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire.
DI2006_1190   NPRN 24369

Guest speakers of the day will include Royal Commission staff, Dr Toby Driver and Louise Barker, who will deliver a lecture on, “ Puffins amidst prehistory: New survey, recording and discovery on Skomer Island”, and Tom Pert who will be speaking on “On line access to RCAHMW info”.

17 November 2012

9.30 – 10.15: Registration, coffee and look at displays
10.15 – 10.30: Welcome and introduction
10.30 – 11.15: Celia Thomas Woodlands Ancient to Modern
11.15 – 12:15: Mike Parker-Pearson Origin of the stones of Stonehenge from Pembrokeshire
12:15 – 12:30: Tom Pert Placebooks – An App to Tell the World About Your Place
12.30 – 1.30: Lunch and further time to look at displays
1.30 – 2.30: Louise Barker and Toby Driver Puffins amidst prehistory: New survey, recording and discovery on Skomer Island
2.30 – 2.45: Pete Crane Pembrokeshire archaeology 2012
2.45 – 3.05: Coffee/Tea
3.05 – 4.00: Roger Thomas The19th Century Fortification of Pembrokeshire
4.00 – 4.10: Summing up and thanks

Contact details: Pembrokeshire Archaeology Day

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Witches and Ghosts in Wales





Vivid impression of a courthouse of the period.
Court House, Beaumaris, Anglesey.
As Hallowe’en approaches we should remember the first witch who was executed in Wales over four hundred years ago. In 1594 Gwen ferch Ellis of Betws-yn-rhos, near Conwy, was apprehended for leaving a charm in Gloddaeth, the home of Sir Thomas Mostyn.  She was taken to Flint castle, then partly used as a prison.  Witnesses were examined at the old parish church in Llansanffrasid Glan Conwy, since rebuilt, and some of Gwen’s neighbours claimed that she had harmed them through witchcraft. Gwen was later tried at the Denbighshire Great Sessions, found guilty of witchcraft, and sentenced to be hanged. One can still visit some of the places associated with Gwen’s tragic life. Gloddaeth still survives as St David’s College, and the courthouse at Beaumaris still gives a vivid impression of a courthouse of the period.
  
There is a full account of Gwen ferch Ellis and other Welsh witches in Richard Suggett’s book, A History of Magic and Witchcraft in Wales, published by The History Press (ISBN 978-0-75242-826-0)

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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Remote Island Reveals Fascinating Prehistoric Past





Aerial photo of Grassholm Island taken in 2011. The gannetry is situated on the left-hand (western) side of the island. Remains of a roundhouse and field boundaries are just visible in the centre of the island.
© Crown RCAHMW: AP_2011_4436

Grassholm is a tiny island, just 200 metres across, located 15 kilometres off the southwest Pembrokeshire coast. Owned and managed by the RSPB, the island is home to one of the largest gannet colonies in the entire world supporting 39,000 breeding pairs, some 9.5 % of the world’s population. Yet despite its remote location, recent ground survey by Commission staff Olly and Louise has revealed the traces of roundhouses and field boundaries indicating that this tiny island was also once home to a thriving prehistoric community!

The Royal Commission first surveyed the island back in 1972 – Commission Investigator Douglas Hague visited the island and planned and excavated the remains of a small settlement of conjoined rectangular buildings. This was situated on the western side of the island where the caustic effect of gannet guano had killed the dense mattress of grass exposing the archaeological remains beneath.  The settlement appeared similar to structures identified on nearby Gateholm and were presumed to be Medieval – perhaps even representing the ‘lordly hall’ mentioned in the legend of Branwen in the Mabinogion.

Hague’s settlement has now been covered over by gannet nests which crowd onto the western side of the island. But, as the gannet colony has expanded in size, increasingly more of the island’s archaeology is being revealed. Aerial reconnaissance by the Commission in 2011 identified what looked like the remains of prehistoric occupation running down the central spine of the island. This needed verification on the ground and the Commission was fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to do just that, by accompanying the RSPB on their annual Grassholm rescue mission to cut free gannet fledglings tangled up in marine debris.

The trip out to the island was exciting – dolphins and seabirds accompanied us on our hour long journey in a small RIB from St Justinians. Once we reached the island, there are no beaches, so to disembark from the RIB we had to scramble up the shallow sloping cliffs. The first thing you notice is the smell – the guano of nearly 80,000 gannets fills the air with a potent scent, but the magical landscape of the island more than makes up for that.

The gannets watch an archaeologist surveying the island’s remains.

The western side of the island is covered in gannet nests – squat pillars of mud, stained white from guano – while the eastern side is covered by tussocky grass. But, a narrow strip of ground within the centre of the island, running from the north to south coast is free of both nests and grass and it’s here that the archaeological remains were most visible.

What we found was extraordinary. The remains of two small roundhouses, barely 4m in diameter, were visible. The tumbled walls of field boundaries radiated out from them forming small fields, terraces and garden plots. Clearly this was a serious attempt to set up a small farmstead and the remains reminded us of similar structures identified on nearby Skomer. There was also what appeared to be cairn – a mound of stones, perhaps simply the result of field clearance, but it could also mark the burial place of one of the island’s prehistoric inhabitants.

One of the small stone-built roundhouses identified during the survey.

We didn’t get long on the island – perhaps only a couple of hours before the tide and swell meant we had to leave – but what we discovered has changed our understanding of this remote place. The structures we surveyed are almost certainly prehistoric and clearly very different in character to those planned and excavated by Hague more than 40 years ago. It seems then that we have at least two phases of occupation on the island, perhaps in both the Iron Age and early Medieval periods, but it’s hard to imagine people living on this isolated and remote island permanently or for any lengthy period of time – perhaps the occupation was only seasonal to catch seabirds or de-pasture sheep.  Hopefully more research and further visits in future years will provide us with more clues about the occupation and exploitation of this enigmatic little island.

With huge thanks to the RSPB for allowing us the opportunity of visiting the island and to Tim and Beth from Venture Jet for getting us there and back safely.

Read the RSPB blog about the visit here http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/ramseyisland/b/ramseyisland-blog/archive/2012/10/15/annual-grassholm-rescue-mission.aspx 

By:  Oliver Davis and Louise Barker


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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Memories Day - Tell Us Your Stories!





Amlwch Port, Anglesey.

Tell us your stories!
Bring your old photos of Amlwch!
Saturday 3 November, 10am – 3pm at the Copper Kingdom Centre


As part of the Metal Links Project, the People’s Collection Wales would like you to share your own stories about life in Amlwch through its website.

Bring along your old photographs, stories and objects to the Copper Kingdom Centre on Saturday 3 November between 10am and 3pm, where the People’s Collection team will help you add your material to the People’s Collection website.

For more information, contact Samantha Williams by e-mail at samantha.williams@rcahmw.gov.uk or by telephone at 01970 621 203.

Go to www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk to start sharing your stories!

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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Local History Book Fair - Swansea Museum





RISW, Local History Book Fair to be held at Swansea Museum, 29 October 2012
On Saturday 29 October 2012, staff from the Royal Commission will again attend The Royal Institution of South Wales’s annual Local History Book Fair at Swansea Museum between 10am and 4 pm.  The day will offer the opportunity to buy new local history books, second-hand and antiquarian books, historical maps and paintings, postcards and much more.  Authors, publishers and bookshops, representatives of local history societies, as well as staff from the Royal Commission, will be on-hand throughout the day to answer enquiries and chat to visitors.  In particular, please come along to our stall where a full-range of publications including our three latest titles: Fields of Play: The Sporting Heritage of Wales, Y Tu Mewn i Gartrefi Cymru / Inside Welsh Homes and Worktown: The Drawings of Falcon Hildred― all on sale with a special 10% discount. The day promises to be a wonderful opportunity for all, so please come and join us!


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Friday, 19 October 2012

Dream Island – The Archaeology of Skokholm





The lighthouse, fields and enclosures on Skokholm.
Crown copyright RCAHMW: AP_2011_4458

Recent investigation of Skokholm by the Royal Commission using LiDAR has revealed extraordinary new details about the prehistoric and medieval occupation of this remote and beautiful Pembrokeshire island. The Commission’s own Olly Davis describes some of these recent discoveries in the fifth episode in the ITV Wales series Dream Island on Friday 19th at 8pm.

Further Reading:
New Discoveries Reveal the Hidden Archaeology of Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire

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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Worktown Exhibition Official Opening






An artist with enthusiastic purchasers of Worktown: The Drawings of Falcon Hildred
Last Thursday evening, 11 October, saw the official opening of Worktown: The Drawings of Falcon Hildred at the Coalbrookdale Gallery, Ironbridge Gorge Museum.  The evening was very well attended and everyone greatly admired the range of drawings which covered nearly 50 years of observation of the changing industrial scene and was both celebratory and nostalgic. Speakers of the evening included the artist himself, Falcon Hildred, Steven Miller, Chief Executive Officer Ironbridge Gorge Museums, Dr Peter Wakelin, Secretary of the Royal Commission, and Harriet Delvin, committee member for West Midlands HLF. 

The free-to- enter exhibition will run until 30 April 2013 and will be open 10am-5pm, Monday-Friday. For further details, please call 01952 433424 or visit Ironbridge Gorge Museum. Future venues displaying the original artwork will include the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Newport Museum and Art Gallery. An exhibition of reproduction images will also be displayed at the Museum of Slate, Llanberis. Please check our website for further information on future events. The beautifully illustrated catalogue , a permanent record of Falcon’s work, and written by the Royal Commission’s Secretary, Dr Peter Wakelin, is now available to buy from the Royal Commission for £16.95 or at the special price of £15.30 for Friends.

A selection of photographs taken at last week’s successful event:








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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Glamorgan Family History Show October 2012






People’s Collection Wales officer, Helen Rowe demonstrating the website at last week’s Glamorgan Family History show.

On Saturday 13 October, Helen Rowe and Nicola Roberts had a very rewarding day on the Royal Commission stand at the Glamorgan Family History Show in Merthyr Tydfil. With around 850 attendees to the show, we were inundated with people looking for information on the places relating to their family history research. Using our laptops, we were able to search live on Coflein and Peoples Collection Wales to help explore peoples’ stories, including that of a distant cousin who was first on the scene of the wreck of the ‘Royal Charter’ at Moelfre during the Great Storm of 1859. As well as family related searches, Glamorgan University were on the look-out for photos of the college in earlier times as a technical college and then a polytechnic to help put together material for a centenary book; a former headmaster of the Secondary School at Cyfarthfa Castle was on the hunt for specific information about the building in the 1960s and we heard about life as an electrical engineer in the mines at Cynheidre and Nantgarw collieries. If you are researching a building or have a story to tell why not see our resources on Coflein, or upload your own photos and memories to Peoples Collection Wales.

Future autumn events include:
Archive Day to be held on 24 October
Swansea Museum, Local History Book Fair to be held on 27 October
Amlwch Memories Day to be held on 3 November
Pembrokeshire Archaeology Day to be held on 17 November


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Monday, 15 October 2012

Archive Day






24 October 2012, 10:00am – 3pm
Interested in researching the history of your home, finding out about your family tree, researching local history or looking for a pictorial record of Welsh History and Historic Monuments?

Then come along and obtain information from representatives of The National Library of Wales, Ceredigion Archives, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and the People’s Collection Wales who will all be available on the day to answer your questions.

The park and ride facility in Boulevard St Brieuc serves the Rhodfa Padarn offices and drops off at Canolfan Rheidol which is only a few minutes walk away.

For more information contact:
Y Bont
Welsh Government
Rhodfa Padarn
Llanbadarn Fawr
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3UR
Telephone: 0300 062 2021
E-mail: ybont@wales.gsi.gov.uk

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