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Friday, 27 September 2013

Reconnaissance Team: Aerial Photography, Uplands and Maritime

Recording and monitoring sites at Bryn Y Fan (SN93158870) near Clywedog.
Left to right: Kimberly Briscoe (Trainee Community Archaeologist; RCAHMW), David Leighton (Senior Investigator Uplands; RCAHMW), Sarahjayne Clements (Trainee Community Archaeologist; RCHAMW), Jenny Hall (Archaeologist; Trysor).

We have been very busy over the past few weeks at the Royal Commission and this week has been spent with the Reconnaissance Team. The team is split into three areas, aerial photography, maritime and uplands survey, looking for new sites in many different areas across Wales as well as monitoring known ones.

We started the week by learning how to catalogue aerial photographs onto the Commission’s database, using GIS to help us locate them on the map. It was really interesting trying to locate sites where the National Grid Reference (NGR) was not known to us, and helped me to learn more about the geography and archaeology of Wales.

We then visited sites around Borth and Ynyslas. First of all we looked at the remains of a Mesolithic peat shelf and tree stumps on the foreshore at Borth, which was amazing to think about how the landscape has changed. We also noticed an eclectic mix of houses in Borth due to different phases of development as a holiday resort, which was interesting to see. We then went to Ynyslas to look at the remains of a Second World War missile testing range and camp, which was extremely important in the development of fuel for space rockets. After this we discussed how we could move forward with community projects in Ynyslas and Borth and came up with some ideas that we will begin work on soon.

Midweek we went to Bryn Y Fan (SN93158870) near Clywedog to see what is involved in the Uplands Archaeology Initiative and talked to Paul Sambrook and Jenny Hall of Trysor about the community archaeology they undertake. We walked up and around the hill for most of the day looking for any archaeological sites. We did find some Cairns which was really exciting which we recorded by taking a NGR, measurements and photos.

Towards the end of the week we discussed our learning plans for this year, we then observed a talk on the Britain From Above Project to find out more about the work carried out with the community and aerial photographs.

As part of learning about maritime reconnaissance, we added information about wrecks to the maritime database, we learnt how to map fish traps on GIS using LIDAR, maps and aerial photographs to help. This was very informative and it is surprising how features show up using different techniques.

By Sarahjayne Clements, Community Archaeology Training Placement

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Friends Newsletter Issue 3

Issue 3 of our Friends Newsletter is now available to download:

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Friday, 20 September 2013

Shipwrecks and Gravestones

Sarahjayne and Kimberly at Pentre Ifan.
Hello, my name is Kimberly Briscoe, and I am one of two new community archaeologists descending onto the archaeologically rich town of Aberystwyth, to fulfil a year  long CBA funded placement at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. My aim is to get as many of you as enthused about archaeology as I am, and about the rest of the Royal Commission, and if you’re already keen, to help you develop your interest further!

So a little bit about what we are doing here…
The two placements here develop the two major strands of community involvement in archaeology. I hold the youth focused side of the coin, learning ways of enabling 16-25 year olds to develop passions and involvement in the archaeology that surrounds us here. Sarahjayne Clements  my cohort, will be focusing on the non-youth side of community heritage and archaeology, tackling everybody else!

The Starting Blocks

Right, so I’ve come to the end of my first two weeks here with the Royal Commission and, to be honest, I am absolutely shattered, but it has been fantastic fun! Our inductions are arranged so that we spend a week with each team to gain a feel for the way data is recorded, analysed and digitized in each department of the Royal Commission, understanding the processes of research and analysis. This is great as we can feed our experience and the knowledge of the resources back into the work we do with you.  The first week we have been shadowing the Data & Technology team.

Data & Technology Team

Here we were able to see how the Royal Commission presents and makes the archives available and useful to the general public. The Data & Technology team work to enable this process through the construction and maintenance of two fantastic publically accessible web pages. The first is the Peoples Collection Wales, managed by Helen Rowe, and if you haven’t had a play on this website it’s well worth a visit !

The Peoples Collection works to serve you; it’s basically a website that allows you to publicise any old photographs and memories in video, picture, audio or written form, or just to enable you to access other peoples published memories and images relating to your communities past. This creates a giant archive of research, images and memories. The Royal Commission aids this process by uploading images, audio and documents from its own archives to share with you! For instance Sarahjane and I were involved in transcribing and uploading videos recorded from ‘Garw Valley Garden and History and Heritage Company Oral History Project’, where people were talking about their childhood memories of the River Garw.

The second website is the web browser Coflein where we are currently digitising our archives for public access. This is one of the important parts of the Royal Commission’s work, allowing the public to search our archive. Through this induction we were able to understand and aid the process of uploading the material to the database.

Finally, the latter half of the week was set aside to discuss the exciting new projects on the innovation side of the Royal Commission’s approach to capturing community histories. The first application, ‘Wales 1900 project’, is a digitised historical map of Wales in the 1900s enabling users to mark place names onto the historic map of 1900 Wales located on . It’s great fun and becomes addictive after a while, so quite a few located place names in Chepstow (near where I grew up r) are marked out by yours truly!

The second project crowdsnapcymru is a clever app designed by Daniel Drave in partnership with the Royal Commission. Basically it involves your favourite buildings and their place in your memories and your community. I like this idea and I am keeping it in mind as a potential way to engage and to showcase work achieved by future community projects.

Archive and Library Team, plus a glimpse of Shipwrecks

Cwm-Yr-Eglwys church swept out to sea in the storm of 1859.

Our second week was primarily dedicated to shadowing the Archive and Library team. This meant viewing the archive and understanding what goes into managing, disseminating and cataloguing the resources here - both digitally and in paper copy - and ensuring the data remains usable, flexible and available for public use.

Throughout this week, however, we were able to develop another important strand of our work, i.e. what we can achieve with the community. We focused on exploring how we can engage primarily with younger people. We were given a chance to view a current project with a local school in Pembrokeshire, run as a partnership between Cadw and Dylan Adams from Cerddora creative education. Dylan, the creative educator, conducted the workshop in and around Carreg Coetan Arthur , a local Neolithic burial chamber,  using sound and interpretive dance with the children to help them gain an understanding  and experience of what it would may been like thousands of years ago. This was fantastic to watch, and so encouraging seeing the children really engaged with their local monument.

Aber-bach Beach Wreck site of the Charles Holmes.
Continuing this theme, we have been given the chance to become involved in an exciting new project ‘The Welsh Shipwrecks Project’.  This joint Royal Commission-Cadw venture is based on the little known tragedy of the shipwrecks caused by the violent Royal Charter Gale of 1859. As part of this we followed the story of one shipwreck - the ‘Charles Holmes’, which ended its life so abruptly on the shores of Aberbach beach. We firstly visited the local graveyard at St. Catherine’s Church, Granston, hunting for the memorial erected by local people to the lives lost in the shipwreck, which in fact was revealed to be a modest single gravestone for the 28 passengers! We then experienced the impact and scale of the storm from a local perspective by viewing the ruined remains of the church at Cwm-Yr-Eglwys , swept mostly out to sea in the storm.

Well, it’s been a busy but interesting two weeks and we’re certainly getting a feel for the work conducted here at the Royal Commission. For now I’ll finish up, but there will be more news soon!

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Open Doors at the Royal Commission September 2013

This year the Royal Commission is working with partners at three Open Doors events. These are held every year during September, when hundreds of sites and buildings are opened (free of charge) to the public, with many also offering guided tours, talks and exhibitions.

Denbigh Town Hall (nprn: 23423) - Guided tours of the historic town of Denbigh on Saturday, 21 September.
On Saturday 21 September, Royal Commission investigators will be happy to share what they have learned during the preparation of the next Royal Commission publication, which is on the historic town of Denbigh. They will be leading two guided tours of the town, highlighting a range of domestic, religious, commercial and public buildings. Each tour will last 1½ hours and participants are asked to meet outside Denbigh Town Library at 11am and 2pm. Places are limited to 15 people and bookings will be taken by Denbigh Town Library. Please contact Denbigh Town Library for further details.

Royal Commission talks and exhibition at Fort Belan’s (nprn: 26459) Open Doors event, Sunday, 22 September.
The following day, on Sunday 22 September, Royal Commission military historian, Medwyn Parry, will be giving two talks during the Open Day at the eighteenth-century coastal defence complex, Fort Belan, Llanwnda, Caernarfon. The talks will be ‘Worktown: The Drawings of Falcon Hildred’ (11.30am) and ‘Belan and Beyond: Military Remains in Wales’ (1.15pm). The Royal Commission exhibition displaying the artwork of Falcon Hildred will also be shown.

Finally, next Thursday 26 September, the Royal Commission will be opening its doors to welcome members of the public to its offices. During the day, we will be showcasing the collaborative Britain from Above project (which links partners in Wales, England and Scotland) to local secondary schools. There will be an emphasis on the digital skills needed for a career in today’s heritage sector and in education generally. Members of the public are warmly invited from 3.30pm onwards to view archive material in our Library, presentations and chat to staff. There will be a talk by Gareth Edwards at 4pm on, Collections of the National Monuments Record of Wales, Casgliadau Cofnod Henebion Cenedlaethol Cymru. All are welcome.

For further details on any of these events, please contact Nicola Roberts Tel: 01970 621248,

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Itea and Biscuits ‘With Britain from Above’

Wednesday 18, September 2013
Free Session!

Interested in local history?
Like historic aerial photographs?
Want to try out a new and easy history resource?
Want to learn more about the internet and how to use it?
Why not join the Britain from Above team?

Local and Family History Centre,
Tŷ’r Ardd, Sunnyside, Bridgend, CF31 4AR
For further information please contact:

Free Tea and Biscuits after the session.

Telephone: 01970 621245

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

My First Week at Royal Commission

My name is Sarahjayne Clements and I am the new trainee Community Archaeologist at the Royal Commission. My focus is on working with the wider community and I am training alongside Kimberley Briscoe who is the youth-focused trainee community Archaeologist.

In the past I have volunteered for a variety of projects within the archaeology and the heritage sector and am really looking forward to gaining more valuable experience. I was really nervous on my first day but all the staff were very welcoming, helpful and friendly so there was no need to be. I have learnt so much already this week and thought I would share what I have been doing with you.

Our induction programme is very thorough and it means that we spend a week working within each department. This week we have been with the Data and Technology team.

On day one I met staff, watched health and safety videos and learnt about safety procedures. In the afternoon I set up all my I.T. and email accounts. I also learnt about Coflein, Historic Wales and other helpful web sites.  On day two I learnt about the People's Collection Wales and how to use the site. This will be a very useful tool for my Community Archaeology projects in the future and the map features are excellent. I then made a start on transcribing oral history accounts that had been recorded as part of the Garw Valley history project that will be added to the People's Collection Wales.

On day three I added data to Oracle with the help of GIS. I also used any other time to catch up on paperwork and transcribe more oral history accounts. There's lots of software to get to grips with but I'm sure with practice it will become easier. It was similar to the software I have used before when working on the Historic Environment Record in the past. I'm really looking forward to the coming weeks as my induction schedule is packed with exciting activities.

On days four and five I spent more time transcribing oral history accounts and then attended several meetings on databases and shipwrecks. I also learnt about innovation for the People's Collection and the really interesting projects being worked on such as ‘Wales 1900’ and ‘Crowdsnapcymru’. We also attended a meeting on outreach and learning with Cadw, preparing us for future involvement in the joint Royal Commission-Cadw Shipwrecks Project.

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