Welcome to the Lost City of Trellech Project
Hello there and welcome to the home of the Lost City Of Trellech. Our aim is to excavate, record and better understand the development of Trellech that was once the largest settlement in medieval Wales. We believe that archaeology should be educational, open to everyone regardless of age or ability and most importantly, enjoyable.
Our educational activities are funded through individual donations, our commerical activities like experience days and through our ebay shop Archaeological Historical.
Got any questions? Please contact me using the details on the Contact page.
Trellech 2016 - (Saturday 16th July to Sunday 14th August)
Trellech will be shown on the Digging for Britain (West) Series at 9pm on Thursday 10th March 2016.
Volunteers are welcome to join us on our annual dig this year where we will continue the excavation of the fortified moated manor house focusing on the kitchen and courtyard.
The cost for the first week is £50 per person with discount for groups. This includes fees for induction, insurance and camping. After the first week it is £4 per person per day.
For volunteers returning for their third year or more the cost is £50 for the whole dig.
Trellech 2017 - (Saturday 15th July to Sunday 13th August)
If you are interested in working with us at Trellech but cannot make it for this years annually summer dig then I can always sign up now for Trellech 2017.
10th Anniversairy event - 20th July 2014
To mark 10 years of digging, we held a celebration event to thank everyone for all their hard work and contribution to the Lost City of Trellech project. It has been quite a journey and so much has been achieved. See below for a video of the day along with some breathtaking aerial views of the site:
Archaeological Experience Days
This is your chance to come and be an archaeologist for a day.
Adventure, Explore and Dig on the Archaeological Excavation.
This archaeological adventure will take you on a journey into the past. You will be given equipment and guidance to help you uncover lost artefacts that have not seen the light of day for hundreds of years.
Experience Days are open to people of all ages including children.
Experience days can take place at anytime of the year but it is best to come between April and October when the weather is normally better. There are plenty of dates available throughout the season. To book a date either contact us by e-mail or telephone.
For more information about the Experience Day click here
Season 2015 season complete
The 2015 season of digging is now over.
Thank you to everyone who took part and those that helped out in the filming for the Digging for Britain Series. In 2015 we concentrated on three areas; the tower trench, the curtain wall including part of the courtyard and the kitchen, all three of which are part of a fortified moated manor house.
The tower trench is so named as it is the part of the excavation that lies next to the round tower that was excavated in 2014. Initially we were interested in investigating a curved shaped feature outside the tower, found at the end of 2014 season. This was quickly discovered to be quite a shallow feature and likely to be modern in origin, possibly created by the previous farmer who regularly burnt waste in the area leading to a discolouration of the soil beneath.
As the area outside the tower was taken down further it was observed that many of the stones in the area were lying at an angle and that at the northern end of the trench the soil was increasingly getting blacker the deeper the trench went (the normal soil colour is red that gets redder and less black the deeper you go). This suggested a possible ditch so the trench was subsequently expanded to investigate this possibility and to find its extent. The people digging it clearly thought they had found a ditch and could see its extent, personally I could not. What was definitely clear was that the further south we went there were less signs of any ditch existing. It may be that the northern end just caught the edge of a ditch and this will need to be investigated further but the position of large spoil heaps in the vinicity makes this impossible for the time being.
While investigating for a ditch it was noticed that the finds immediately outside the tower were large and well preserved, while finds from the ground to the south behind the next building were smaller and more numerous. This might suggest that the ground immedately behind the round tower remained as pasture, while the ground behind the building to the south was a garden and cultivated breaking up any artefacts in the ground. Both areas have a large amount of stone in them now making modern cultivation impracticable and the lack of plough marks suggests modern activity is not a factor.
The second area to be investigated was the curtain wall on the east perimeter of the manor house and part of the courtyard that it enclosed. We wanted to understand the relationship between this wall and the tower that it adjoined. Back in 2014 we investigated the relationship between the other curtain wall on the south perimeter and found that part of it had existed prior to the tower (layers or soil and slag abutted it but those same layers lay under the tower). However part of it was built after the tower had begun to be constructed as the tower lay below and under the walls foundation. A clear break in construction was then found showing that this one wall was a mixture of an earlier wall that had been partly removed, then rebuilt and curved to meet the tower that was under construction. So we wanted to see if a similar thing was happening with the east perimeter or was it all of one date.
Possible breaks in construction were identified but none as clear and obvious as in the south perimeter and could be explained by the rather haphazard building of many of the stone walls (several drawings of the walls have been thrown away by annoyed archaeologists thinking they had made a mistake after looking at their work, only to discover their work was correct, it was the nature of the doggy stone work they were drawing). The consistent context of earth below would suggest that the east perimeter wall is all of one date and that given the tower sits below one of its ends, this perimeter was built after the construction of the tower had started.
In both cases, each perimeter wall seamlessly joins to the round tower construction and looks likely to have been tied in simultaneously with the round tower construction. While the quality of workmanship on many of the walls may leave much to be desired, the quality and build of the round tower is of a different order of merit.
While in this area we also investigated again the foundation of the tower where it joined the east perimeter wall (first investigated in 2014). No foundation trench was found. The contexts under the tower (investigated 2014) and under the east perimeter wall were found to be similar and with similar type pottery suggesting they are of the same date, but the outer wall of the round tower sits more than a foot into this context. The absence of a foundation trench might suggest that the tower has simply sunk into this position owning to its great weight, deforming the clay under it. A similar occurence has been noticed following the removal of some of our spoil heaps that have significantly deformed the ground beneath them.
We also looked at the courtyard inside the perimeter and found that the stone courtyard surface was laid after the east perimeter wall was built as it abutted to it. This had been laid on a bed of iron slag (again laid after the east perimeter wall was built) essentially used as hardcore as a bed for the stone slabs. Some of the stone slabs had been robbed during the abandonment of part of the building in the early 1500's. Belw all of these features including the tower, between 1 to 1 1/2 feet of clay with medieval pottery was found showing that earlier phases exist that then stop on reaching a white/yellow clay extremely rich in iron which is presumably natural but this will be investigated more in 2016.
The Kitchen proved to have the most interesting discoveries in 2015. For many years this area has not been excavated as it is regularly flooded by the high water table that exists in Trellech. We concentrated on excavating the lowest third (east end) that had proved the most problematic regarding flooding. We discovered that below this kitchen was an earlier stone building, built of substantial blocks, the corner of which had used as the foundation for the new kitchen block. Previously under the round tower and courtyard we had found medieval contexts that were earlier than the manor house but this is the first time that we have a building to go with those contexts.
It was clear that when the earlier building had collapsed, rather than remove the stone work, the builders of the kitchen simply raised the floor up over the rubble at the lowest end, possible as a means of getting above the water table (the water table today will be higher than that in the past, partly as the ground around is higher i.e. the floors are relatively lower and water is not being used up so intensively, the area is now primarily pasture fields not an industrial city). They also added in a clay floor, possibly as damp proofing before adding another layer of clay/sand and small broken rubble as hardcore that had clearly been smoothed by people walking on it. Above this no evidence for any additional flooring material was found and although two different fireplaces were identified there was only a little charcoal. This contrasts significantly from the reception hall of the manor house and of other fireplaces found that have significant accumulations of charcoal in their vinicity. One possible explanation taken from known examples of medieval kitchens is that reeds or other similar material were used as the floor. This material would be able to absorb some of the liquid, blood and smells created with the use of the kitchen, then periodically removed, burnt and a new layer laid down. This would help explain the lack of charcoal on the floor underneath. The hardcore layer that had clearly been smoothed by people walking on it, could still be achieved with reeds or similar material immmediately above.
Between the building phases of the earlier building and later kitchen, there were some contexts noted. A single line of posts of varying thickness were put up parrallel to the north wall of the kitchen. The line was not particular straight, but the amount of rubble below made a straight line impossible. They must have been placed after the earlier building had fallen as had they been there before they would have been flattened by the size of material that collapsed. These posts may have been to mark a temporary building line following the collapse of the earlier building or as a possible wind break on the north side. In amongst the rubble immediately to the south an area of burning was identified and some of the rubble looked to have been laid out as to hold a temporary hearth. So it may have been simply some temporary structures built into the ruins of the old building by the builders of the new kitchen as an area to cook and have a break. The posts were only discovered as at some point they were burnt, the burning going straight down to their bases. Since the post bases were later below the floor of the new kitchen and the surrounding earth had not been burnt it must have occured before the floor laid down. Following the laying of the floor the burnt posts were simply snapped off.
On the north side of the building a fireplace with chimney stack had been found by 2005. We initially thought it was a later add on as the north wall of the kitchen clearly goes behind the chimney stack that then abuts it. This view was further reinforced when the lintel in front of it was found only to go down to the latest floor surface in the kitchen. However on more detailed inspection in 2015 an earlier level of a lintel and associated charcoal was found in association with the earliest floor surface of the kitchen. A soak way drain cut into this surface also clearly bent around this earlier lintel showing that it must have already been in place when the soak away was constructed. The area where the fireplace contects with the north wall also seems to be all of one build. So although the base of the chimney has unnecessary faced stone work of the north wall behind it, the overall evidence points to a kitchen built with a fireplace and chimney stack at the same time c.1300.
Back in 2007 a large stone that was originally part of a mill stone was found in the centre of the kitchen. Excavation over several years and during 2015 revealed that this large conglomerate stone had been crudely resizsed and levelled mainly using the broken pieces from its original whole. A similar conglomerate mill stone has been used as the base for the central fireplace in the reception hall of the manor house. In both cases no evidence of direct fire on the stone was found (direct fire on stone degrades and weakens stone as shown in the chimney stack fireplace of the kitchen) instead it likely that these were bases for metal objects into which the fire would be placed. In the case of the reception hall, a brazier being used and for the kitchen a large pan in which hops could be brewed. Some seeds were found nearby conglomerate mill stone in the kitchen and have been taken away to be identified. The fact that in both cases the mill stones were already damaged when being put in place strongly suggests they were not there for their originally purpose i.e. grinding but for a secondary use.
The students in 2015 were convinced that under the big mill stone in the middle of the kitchen lay something else, maybe a well or another feature that the stone had capped. I was equally convinced that this was not the case and it was highly unlikely there was anything of great interest hidden by this big stone. By the last week of the summer dig the students had excavated up to the mill stone and started excavating the floor either side of it. They then discovered on the south side an extremely well built flue or drain with stone top, side and base. This feature lay under the floor of the kitchen and went under the southern wall so clearly pre-dated the kitchen. They followed this feature and it went straight to the middle of the mill stone on its under side. The north side revealed no flue or drain so clearly the feature either started or ended, depending on your point of view, under this mill stone. The students also discovered that the mill stone had been built upon sandstones that went deeper into the ground. Clearly the students were right and I was wrong and a feature of some significance lies below the mill stone. Whatever the feature is it is likely by its context to relate to the earlier stone building found below the kitchen. As the mill stone likely weighs well in excess of a ton this will not be investigated this year until the surrounding walls have been lime motared and I can afford to bring in some heavy lifting equipment.
Finds in the kitchen consisted of parts of jugs, cooking pottery and burnt bone (bone normally does not survive unless it is burnt due to the acid nature of the soil). In addition to the fireplaces, as mentioned earlier, a soak away drain was found. Only the top was stone capped with the base being the generally sandy soil below. Cut into the floor it ran towards the north wall. No drain through the wall was discovered so any liquid that made it that far, i.e. did not drain into the sandy base, probably soaked through the joints in the stone wall and into the shallow moat in the corner by the chimney stack. We know where this drain goes to but not where it comes from. This lay outside the excavation area in 2015. In 2016 we wish to concentrate partly on the next third of the kitchen but it may not be until 2017 season when we finally finish off the kitchen and the rear areas of the manor house. After that we still have the floors of the main hall of the manor house to work through, the floors of the neighbouring industrial building and to fully excavate the two buildings and moat of the north side of the manor house. Even after this it still leaves us with possible 50 further buildings to fully excavate plus paths and gardens all of which is only a small part of the complete medieval setllement of Trellech.
Take a look at some pictures or watch Stuart explaining the history of the well below:
The 2017 season will start in March and run until the end of October. During that time work on the site will be on some of the weekends and everyday for four weeks from Saturday 15th July to Sunday 13th August 2016 inclusive. The dates of the summer digs for the following years are below.
- 2017 - Saturday 15th July to Sunday 13th August
- 2018 - Saturday 14th July to Sunday 12th August
Volunteers are always welcome. If you wish to volunteer, please contact me using the details on the Contact page.
Students: Those wishing to volunteer please contact me via e-mail or phone the details of which can be found under the Contact Me page. The cost for attending is £50 for the first week and then £4 per day thereafter. Payments can be made prior to attending or when you arrive.
School groups are encouraged to visit and join in the excavations. There is no charge for educational groups but donations are welcome to help fund the excavations.