Medieval house investigated in Llandaff

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Excavations in Llandaff, near Cardiff, have uncovered a medieval building next to the Old Bishop’s Castle during a project to construct a new community centre on the site of a block of public toilets.

The excavation at the start of back-filling
Overlooking the excavations at the start of back-filling, with the gatehouse of the Bishop’s Castle beyond. [Image: Tim Young]

The first part of the archaeological work took place in September 2019, and gave around 200 local schoolchildren the chance to get involved in excavating the deposits associated with a pound that housed stray animals on the site from the 17th century. Towards the end of this work, the corner of a stone building was uncovered at the edge of the area under investigation, so a team of adult volunteers returned during October and November to examine the find further.

The building was discovered to be a 10m by 6m ‘storeyed house’ or ‘first-floor hall house’ that has surviving walls up to 2m above floor level. There is currently no artefactual evidence to confirm its date of construction but the fireplace with a dressed Bath stone surround suggests it was built in the 15th (or possibly late 14th) century.

Excavation revealed that the fittings of the house were stripped before it was levelled, and the upper storey demolished into the lower so that the ground was level with the bank next to it. This formed the platform on which the post-medieval pound was established, or extended from a smaller precursor between the house and the castle wall. The refuse that was dumped in the house after it was emptied appears, on pottery evidence, to date to c.1600, and the house does not appear on speed’s map of 1607, so it is likely that its destruction took place around the start of the 17th century.

Post-excavation work is expected to shed more light on the house’s occupants, but it is currently believed that a person of status was likely to have lived there because of the Bath stone used in the fireplace. This was unusual at the time, although it can also be found at Llandaff Cathedral. Its location adjacent to the Bishop’s Castle, the centre of manorial administration, on a site that was later a manorial possession, may also suggest a high-status occupant.

This news article appears in issue 359 of Current Archaeology. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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