CBHC / RCAHMW https://rcahmw.gov.uk On the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales Sun, 21 Jul 2024 11:14:05 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.5.5 ELAN VALLEY: A COMMUNITY LOST TO PROMOTE PROGRESS https://rcahmw.gov.uk/elan-valley-a-community-lost-to-promote-progress/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/elan-valley-a-community-lost-to-promote-progress/#respond Sun, 21 Jul 2024 11:14:04 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=29027 #OTD 120 years ago in 1904 the Elan Valley Reservoirs were officially opened by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The construction of this ambitious civil engineering project in mid-Wales lasted in total for thirteen years, from 1893 to 1906 though work had been substantially completed by 1904. Four dams were built on the river Elan, […]]]>

#OTD 120 years ago in 1904 the Elan Valley Reservoirs were officially opened by Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The construction of this ambitious civil engineering project in mid-Wales lasted in total for thirteen years, from 1893 to 1906 though work had been substantially completed by 1904. Four dams were built on the river Elan, namely Craig Goch, Pen-y-Garreg, Garreg Ddu and Caban Coch with foundations placed for the base of the Dol y Mynach Dam on the Claerwen river.  The dams, reservoirs, tunnels and 73 mile aqueduct of the Elan Valley Water Scheme (NPRN 96459) were built to supply clean drinking water to the city of Birmingham in the English midlands.  The aqueduct connected the water take-off point  at Foel Tower (NPRN 32527) in Garreg Ddu Reservoir (NPRN 309541) to Frankley Reservoir in Birmingham; the system was operated entirely by gravity without the expense of pumping being required.

Foel Valve Tower, looking south-west (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)

In 1892 the Brimingham Corporation Water Act was passed which signified that the city council could make a compulsory purchase for the land, approximately 72 square miles, in the Elan and Claerwen Valleys in Powys.  Another possibility considered at the time was Cwm Ithon, near Llandrindod, which would have meant drowning the village of Llanddewi Ystradenni.  By the end of the 19th century Birmingham had rapidly grown into an industrial powerhouse, and because of this, epidemics of typhoid, dysentery and cholera were commonplace.  Under the leadership of Joseph Chamberlain, leader of Brimingham City Council and the civil engineer, James Mansergh, the Elan Valley was earmarked as an ideal valley for the location of a water catchment area.  The building of the Elan Reservoir Scheme was a similar to a previous water scheme at Lake Vyrnwy Reservoir which was built after the Liverpool Corporation Water Scheme Act was passed in 1880 with the first water being supplied to Liverpool city in July 1892.  At the time, this was the first enormous artificially created water reservoir in Europe and in the same year work began to create a reservoir to supply clean water to Birmingham.

Photograph of the Elan Valley Water Scheme taken at the time of construction, showing a length of the iron aqueduct pipe (Edward Hubbard Collection Archive number: 6496754)

Queen Victoria’s reign had experienced numerous technological, industrial and engineering developments as well as various social reforms.  This increased optimism and confidence continued during her son, Edward VII’s reign, with Britain leading the way in politics, trade, entrepreneurship  and social developments.  New developments in trade and industry were reflected in Wales’ economy with census returns showing an increasing number of the population working in the coal industry with coal production was at its highest in 1913.  Other industries were also developing: in 1907 the steel works at Port Talbot were established and aluminium works at Dolgarrog were opened, powered by hydro-electricity in the Conwy valley and in 1912 Marconi established the first successful station, in Waunfawr near Caernarfon, to transfer long-wave radio.  Though the golden age of railway building  had passed, there was still some significant projects being built such as the building of the port at Fishguard between 1902 and 1906 with it being linked to the main line so as to shorten the journey to Ireland through Rosslare and to take advantage of some of the passing business of the large ships who travelled the Atlantic Sea. In 1906 the transporter bridge at Newport was built and the building of the Elan Valley Dams were amongst the pioneering engineering projects of the period.  The Elan Valley project was followed by other schemes to drown valleys which would supply drinking water for English cities as well as to increasingly populated centres in Wales such as Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.  By the end of the 1950s an even more controversial scheme had surfaced with Liverpool City Corporation’s plan in 1965 to drown the village of Capel Celyn in Tryweryn near Bala.

Photograph taken during construction work showing the Elan Valley Water Scheme, shows view of a stone-laying ceremony watched by a number of gentlemen in railway wagons with the letters BCWW (Edward Hubbard Collection Archive number: 96459)

The whole Elan Valley Water Scheme was built by the City of Birmingham from 1893 to 1906 and involved the construction of 4 dams, created by the damming of the Claerwen and Elan rivers, an aqueduct which was 126km in length, and flooding an area whereby more than a 100 people were evicted.  Buildings were demolished, farms, a church and a school, including two mansions, namely Cwm Elan and Nantgwyllt, which had links with the Romantic poet, Percy Shelley, who’d visited the area and  stayed at Cwm Elan mansion.  His uncle Thomas Grove had bought Cwm Elan in 1792 and Shelley himself had intended to buy Nantgwyllt mansion having been entranced by the rugged and wild beauty of the valley.  Though the  landowners of the two large estates in the area, Elan Valley and Nantgwyllt, were compensated for their loss of land this wasn’t the case for the tenants and smallholders who lost their homes and livelihoods. 

Coflein : Archive number 6067281

Whilst the reservoirs were being constructed, over an 13-year period, a purpose-built temporary village, named Elan Model Navvy Village, was built for thousands of manual workers and their families.  The new ‘village’ was self-sufficient, and though the wooden huts were basic in construction, they had numerous conveniences such flushing toilets, and electricity, and there was a pub(for men only), a hospital, police and fire station, a shop, library and street lights.  A purpose-built railway (the Elan Valley Railway) was also built for the transportation of goods and workers for the whole project which ran all the way up from a junction (Elan Valley Junction) just south of Rhayader railway tunnel to the furthest end of Craig Goch Dam where the main centre for the workshops for the carpenters, blacksmiths, sawmills and the main storage units for the works were dotted along the line. The rail track was demolished in 1916 and the old line, nearly 28 miles in length, is now used as a walking and cycling track.

Periodically, the house and garden at Nantgwyllt appear above the water line of Caban Coch. View of Walled garden Caban Coch, Elan Valley under drought conditions in August 2022 (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)
Caban Coch Dam today (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)

One of the reasons why the Elan Valley was chosen as the location for the scheme was because of its high rainfall and the narrow downstream valleys in the area made it easier to build masonry dams.  The sparse population also made it easier for the City of Birmingham to secure ownership of around nearly 72 square miles required for the scheme. 

Pen-y-Garreg reservoir, dam and valve tower (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)
General view of Carreg Ddu Dam (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)

Construction for the Caban Coch Dam (near where the present Elan Valley Visitor Centre is situated) began in 1893 and was built on the lowest level of the Elan Valley Water Scheme,  which also included Garreg Ddu Dam, whilst Pen-y-Garreg is referred to as the ‘middle dam’ and its construction was completed in 1904 with Craig Goch Dam being the top most in this series of dams in the Elan Valley with its construction beginning in 1897. 

Aerial view of Craig Goch Dam (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)

Though the foundations for the Dol y Mynach dam in the Claerwen Valley was built as part of the building programme of the four dams in Cwm Elan, these plans had to be abandoned because of the First and Second World War.  The Claerwen Dam on the river Claerwen was built from new between 1946 and 1952 and was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. Its construction doubled the capacity of the original scheme to 345.5 million litres of water per day being supplied to Birmingham.

The Elan Valley also played a crucial role in the development of Barnes Wallis’ ‘Bouncing Bomb’, used during World War II by the RAF Dambuster pilots to bomb Nazi Germany’s industrial areas.  In July 1942 the prototype charge for the bomb, 280lbs of high explosive, was proof-tested at Nant-y-Gro Dam (NPRN 408280), which had been initially built as a million gallon reservoir to provide a water supply for the workers’ (navvies) village below Caban Coch Dam but had been abandoned once the whole scheme  was completed.  The central portion of the masonry dam only was destroyed but the experiment was a success and what is now left of the dam is protected as one of Cadw’s Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

Over a century ago one of the natural resources of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys provided a valuable asset to an industrialised progressive city and by today its wild ruggedness and remoteness provides an attractive escape to visitors and tourists from all over the world. Dŵr Cymru and the Elan Valley Trust now manage the Elan Valley Estate with the visitor centre attracting up to fifty thousand visitors a year. It has several designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and in 2015 the Elan Valley Estate was given International Dark Sky Park status, making it at the time the first privately owned but openly accessible park in the world to achieve this status.

To discover more about the building of the Elan Valley Water Scheme you can visit our online database, Coflein, where you can view recent photographs of the dams as well as view the Edward Hubbard Collection which includes contemporary images of the dams being built. The Royal Commission’s Library has a copy of Eustace Tickell’s rare book, The Vale of Nant Gwilt – a Submerged Valley (1894).  The Royal Commission’s study, Houses and History in the March of Wales: Radnorshire 1400–1800 (2005), describes several old farmhouses in the Elan Valley area, notably Nannerth-ganol and Llannerch-y-cawr and is available as an eBook from our online shop: https://shop.rcahmw.gov.uk/collections/downloads/products/houses-and-history-in-the-march-of-wales-radnorshire-1400-1800-ebook

Bethan Hopkins-Williams

Bibliography

Coflein – The online catalogue of archaeological sites, historic buildings, industrial and maritime heritage in Wales

The Elan Valley Railway by Colin Judd (1987)

Hidden Treasures: Discovering The Heritage of Wales (RCAHMW, 2008)

Llyfr y Ganrif (Main editor, Gwyn Jenkins, 1999)

Website: www.elanvalley.org.uk

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Join us for our Second Pendinas Festival of Archaeology   https://rcahmw.gov.uk/join-us-for-our-second-pendinas-festival-of-archaeology/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/join-us-for-our-second-pendinas-festival-of-archaeology/#respond Tue, 16 Jul 2024 20:18:53 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=28998 Our Pendinas Hillfort Community Project is coming to an end this August 2024, and we would like to invite you all to come to the Second Pendinas Festival of Archaeology and celebrate the fantastic work that’s been achieved over the last two years.  Come and enjoy a fun-filled day on Saturday 27 July between 10am and […]]]>

Our Pendinas Hillfort Community Project is coming to an end this August 2024, and we would like to invite you all to come to the Second Pendinas Festival of Archaeology and celebrate the fantastic work that’s been achieved over the last two years. 

Come and enjoy a fun-filled day on Saturday 27 July between 10am and 4pm at the Community Hub, Penparcau. Ben Lake, MP, will be formally opening the festival at 10.15am at the Hub, and will also be unveiling a top secret part of the Pendinas Project over at Ysgol Llwyn yr Eos School. Iron Age Villagers from Castell Henllys will be hosting Celtic activities such as slingshot firing, face painting and bread-making throughout the day, and the Celtic Bard and Troubadour Morgan of Mercia will give a musical performance at 11am! We will also have other activities running during the day such as clay pot-making, round-house building, dressing up stations and even a mini excavation where you can try your hand at being an archaeologist!  

Join Luke Jenkins at 11.30am and Beca Davies at 12.30pm for guided tours of the hillfort, the first in English and the second will be bilingual, and enjoy talks by Toby Driver and Ken Murphy on ‘Reconstructing Pendinas Hillfort – a New View of a Busy Prehistoric Hilltop Town’, and ‘Archaeological Excavations of Hillforts in West Wales’ beginning at 2pm at the Hwb. We will also have local wildlife expert Chloe Griffiths mapping your memories of this ancient hillfort with the help of our mapping expert, Jon Dollery.  There will be  stalls representing the Commission, Heneb: the Trust for Welsh Archaeology, the Portable Antiquities Scheme and other heritage organisations, as well as responsible metal detecting.  

You will also get the chance to sample some Celtic and Roman food, like our ‘Celtic Cawl’ and ‘Roman Honey Cake’! To finish the project in style we will also have a celebration cake which will be cut at the end of the festival, which you can enjoy with a free cup of tea or coffee!  

We’re also very excited to announce that our book ‘Discovering Pendinas Hillfort, Penparcau, Aberystwyth’ has gone to print and will be formally launched by Christopher Catling at 3pm on the day! There will be a free copy available to all those who attend the festival, but don’t worry if you are unable to attend, the book will be free to download from our website!  

Bring a picnic and enjoy the day!  

Free parking is available in Ysgol Llwyn yr Eos School carpark, SY23 1SH. The ‘What3Words’ reference is drainage.waxes.latitudes.  

The Pendinas Hillfort Community Archaeology Project  is a two-year partnership project between the Royal Commission and Heneb: the Trust for Welsh Archaeology and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with additional support from Cadw. Over the last two years, the project has undertaken two archaeological excavation staffed by over 100 local volunteers and worked with over 4000 people and community groups through organised events, talks, and guided tours of the hillfort, and has worked closely with 260 local children from the local primary school!  

This is a free event open to all! There is no need to book! 

If you have any questions, please email the Project’s Community Outreach Officer: beca.davies@rcahmw.gov.uk 

We hope to see you and celebrate the project on the day! 

Beca Davies, Community Outreach Officer Pendinas Project / Swyddog Allgymorth Cymunedol  Prosiect Pendinas  

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Explore  Pendinas With Our  Fantastic New Map! https://rcahmw.gov.uk/explore-pendinas-with-our-fantastic-new-map/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/explore-pendinas-with-our-fantastic-new-map/#respond Thu, 04 Jul 2024 14:20:13 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=28958 How well do you know Pendinas? Do you know that Pendinas, Penparcau, near Aberystwyth, is an Iron Age hillfort dating back over 2000 years? Do you know that Pendinas is the largest hillfort on Cardigan Bay, more complex than any other coastal hillfort from north Pembrokeshire to the Llŷn Peninsula?  Do you know that the […]]]>

How well do you know Pendinas? Do you know that Pendinas, Penparcau, near Aberystwyth, is an Iron Age hillfort dating back over 2000 years? Do you know that Pendinas is the largest hillfort on Cardigan Bay, more complex than any other coastal hillfort from north Pembrokeshire to the Llŷn Peninsula?  Do you know that the Wellington Monument at the top of Pendinas commemorates the Battle of Waterloo? Do you know that Pendinas is a local nature reserve rich in wildlife as well as archaeology accessible from every direction and the perfect place for a walk?

All these aspects of Pendinas, and many more are celebrated and depicted in a wonderful colourful pictorial map by the contemporary artist Carys Tait, and commissioned by the Pendinas Hillfort Community Archaeology Project, one of the  lasting legacies from its two-year National Lottery Heritage Fund funded project.

This new map is a glorious bird’s eye view of Pendinas in the village of Penparcau, just south of Aberystwyth. The map is adorned with the wildlife – kite, buzzard, chough, and other birds, as well as the orange-tipped butterfly and even the (un!)common  lizard  – you can expect to see if you take the intriguing and rewarding walk up Pendinas.  The hillfort is shown at the intersection of several pedestrian and cycle routes: the celebrated Coastal Path, the Ystwyth Trail (along the old railway line), as well as the walks that weave up and around the banks and ditches of Pendinas.

Created by Carys Tait, known for her bold, detailed, and always engaging artwork, the map  vividly explores the themes of flora and fauna, history and archaeology, and embraces the sheer joy of getting out and about and exploring this magnificent hillfort. All these elements have been skilfully woven together pictorially  to create an indispensable and vibrant new map accessible to everyone.

Dr Toby Driver of the Commission, who has contributed much to the project success, is delighted with the map, saying:

‘We’re very happy with the new Pendinas access map, brilliantly drawn by Carys Tait. The Pendinas and Tan-y-bwlch Local Nature Reserve is a real treasure for all Aberystwyth residents, but sometimes it can be difficult to know just how to access it. This new map shows footpaths, car parks and all the archaeology and wildlife highlights visitors can see, including the mighty Pendinas hillfort! ’

Copies of this map will soon be available in a new free printed and digital publication on the hillfort. Discovering Pendinas Hillfort will be launched at the Pendinas Hillfort Festival of Archaeology at the Hub: the  Penparcau Community Centre , near Aberystwyth, on 27 July 2024. Everyone is welcome! The digital version will be available to download from the Commission’s online bookshop: https://shop.rcahmw.gov.uk/collections/downloads

Printed copies of the book will also be distributed to local schoolchildren and local groups. There are also plans to create a number of exhibition panels  displaying the map in local schools and the Penparcau Community Centre  as well as sharing the image with the County Council and other interested parties. To find out more, please contact Nicola Roberts: nicola.roberts@rcahmw.gov.uk

The Pendinas Hillfort Archaeology Project is a two-year partnership project between the Royal Commission and Heneb-The Trust for Welsh Archaeology (formerly Dyfed Archaeological Trust). Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with additional support from Cadw, it has helped us to discover more about this spectacular Iron Age hillfort that dominates the heights above Penparcau, Aberystwyth. The project’s many activities included excavations, guided walks, working with local schools and community groups, extensive gorse clearance, as well as two Pendinas Archaeology Festivals. Don’t forget, come and join us on 27 July 2024 for the second festival, a day filled with fun activities, and the launch of our new free Pendinas booklet which celebrates the work of the project! For more information, please contact Beca Davies: beca.davies@rcahmw.gov.uk

Carys Tait is an independent designer and illustrator. For further information about her work, please visit her website: https://www.carys-ink.com/

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Doorways inside Welsh Homes https://rcahmw.gov.uk/doorways-inside-welsh-homes/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/doorways-inside-welsh-homes/#respond Tue, 25 Jun 2024 21:39:49 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=28780 Doorways are key elements of the home which partition houses and the spaces that structure our living areas both physically and ideologically. Doorways are points of entry in the home.  The significance of doorways is reflected in the long-standing folk traditions associated with them throughout Britain: a new bride is traditionally lifted over the threshold […]]]>

Doorways are key elements of the home which partition houses and the spaces that structure our living areas both physically and ideologically.

Doorways are points of entry in the home.  The significance of doorways is reflected in the long-standing folk traditions associated with them throughout Britain: a new bride is traditionally lifted over the threshold of the house by her husband, while horseshoe charms are often nailed on or above the main entrance to the home for luck and to keep away malicious or mischievous spirits.  On a purely practical level, doorways provide admission to the house itself, thereby acting as a secure barrier between the interior and the exterior of the home that controls access to the individual rooms within it.  They control the physical atmosphere of the home by regulating air drafts and allowing rooms to be warmed or cooled more effectively, and are an important domestic fire control measure. 

Doors also act as barriers to unwelcome sights, scents and sounds in the home: they hide untidy rooms from view, contain cooking smells and dampen noise.  They also act as barriers to people in the home, securing or opening access to the different areas and rooms of the house depending on contemporary attitudes towards privacy and social class, and ideas about what sorts of people should be allowed access to particular rooms.

Doorways are practical features of the home as they control admission to different spaces in the house and provide secure barriers between rooms. They can also be highly decorative.  At Rhyd-y-gors in Carmarthenshire a gothic-style ogee archway visually enhances this internal doorway, in keeping with the broader, early nineteenth-century gothic design scheme of the whole interior.

The physical appearance and design of doors and doorways can be helpful when dating a property.  Like all interior decorations and adornment, the embellishment and treatment of interior doors can signify the contemporary ideas and attitudes of successive occupants of a home, and about the particular rooms and spaces to which they provide access.

Though doorways, hallways and staircases are often overlooked as spaces in the home, they are essential structures of our houses.  At Cymryd-isaf in Henryd, Caernarfonshire, a traditional post-and-panel partition separates different ground-floor rooms in a fifteenth-century Welsh hallhouse.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, doorways became key markers of social class.  Increasing segregation of family and servants in the great house was expressed and maintained by separate systems of circulation.  Wealthy homeowners with a staff of domestic servants required workers to come into the building via a separate servants’ entrance, which was concealed from the main entrance used by family members. 

Wealthy homes had doorways in the main part of the house which were often designed to impress.  This large and ornate interior doorway at Trawscoed Mansion, near Aberystwyth, is a door which connected some of the main rooms in the house. Its grand scale, the quality of the wood and elaborate carved decoration, were designed to demonstrate the affluence and style of the homeowners.
In most upper-class homes, the servants didn’t enter the house through the main door at the front of the house which was used by the family.  Instead, they entered through the service range at the rear of the house, or through a concealed side door.  Servants’ doors were less ornate than the front door used by the family which was reflected in the plainer hallways they opened into.  This example of a house at Trewyn in Crucorney is an example of this and shows a typical servants’ entrance with a plain doorway opening out into a stone-floored hallway.  A row of service bells which would have been used to summon staff to different parts of the house can be seen above the door.
This image is a view of a staircase and a small doorway in Penrhyn Old Hall in Llandudno which connects two rooms on different levels in the house.  With the door having been removed from the frame, a permanent passage has been created between the two separate rooms.  The door is plain and practical, and noticeably shorter than most doorways in modern homes.

In country estates, like Llanerchaeron near Aberaeron, architects such as John Nash designed the large service range at the rear of the property to be architecturally invisible to the family and guests using the main entrance, while town houses placed entrances in basements below street level.  Inside these homes, the green baize door was used to control the way employees moved around the house and visibly marked the difference and social distance between the working-class servants and their upper-class employees. Baize is a type of cloth that was affixed to doors using brass studs; it was designed to muffle noise and reduce disturbance for people on both sides of the divide.

Many internal doors in estate houses had locks, limiting access to the rooms beyond to those who held keys.  Servants’ quarters commonly had lockable doors, whose keys were held by the housekeeper.  This was another way of demarcating class barriers and controlling the differential movements of servants and families.  The valuable and portable contents of the house were also kept out of sight; the silverware and glass were commonly kept under lock and key in the butler’s pantry and plate-room, where they were better protected from mishandling and theft.  In the modern home very few internal doors still have, with the exception of bathrooms and toilets, a latch or lock that fastens from the inside.

Read more about doors and doorways in these Royal Commission books:  Inside Welsh Homes (2012), Rachael Barnwell & Richard Suggett with contributions by Helen Rowe and The Welsh Cottage (2010) by Eurwyn Wiliam.

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Anglesey’s Neolithic tomb with a solar secret: ‘Here Comes the Sun’! https://rcahmw.gov.uk/angleseys-neolithic-tomb-with-a-solar-secret-here-comes-the-sun/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/angleseys-neolithic-tomb-with-a-solar-secret-here-comes-the-sun/#respond Thu, 20 Jun 2024 12:57:00 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=28882 The Summer Solstice takes place every year between June 20 and June 22 in the UK, marking the moment the sun reaches its highest elevation in the Northern Hemisphere, providing the UK with the longest day of the year, with sunlight that lasts for almost 17 hours. This year, 2024, the Summer Solstice takes place […]]]>

The Summer Solstice takes place every year between June 20 and June 22 in the UK, marking the moment the sun reaches its highest elevation in the Northern Hemisphere, providing the UK with the longest day of the year, with sunlight that lasts for almost 17 hours. This year, 2024, the Summer Solstice takes place on Thursday 20  June. The term summer solstice is derived from Latin and means ‘the sun stands still’. The solstice – also referred to as Midsummer – is often thought of as a day-long event, but in fact represents a single moment in time: when the sun is at northernmost point from the earth’s equator during a single year.

Aerial view of the Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber taken in 1973 (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW, D.O.E Photographic Collection)

The Summer Solstice can be a magical event to experience with many people believing it connects us with our ancestors and the land. The Summer Solstice is celebrated all over the UK and in many different ways.  Bryn Celli Ddu (NPRN: 93827) on Anglesey is one of Wales’s most intriguing prehistoric monuments with a special connection with the summer solstice. Its most unusual feature can only be seen once a year. As the sun rises at the summer solstice shafts of light shine directly down the tomb’s passageway to illuminate the chamber within.

Bryn Celli Ddu: a Neolithic Passage Grave

Bryn Celli Ddu is a late Neolithic passage grave built around 3,000 BC, in the European Atlantic tradition, excavated and partly restored in the mid to late 1920s by W J Hemp (Hemp 1930), the Secretary of the Royal Commission. It is situated in Llanddaniel Fab, Anglesey and its Welsh name means ‘mound in the dark grove’. It comprises an outer circular stone kerb, around 26m diameter, with an inner stone arc, both of which encircle a simple passage tomb whose entrance lies on the east side.

Entrance to Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW, D.O.E Photographic Collection)

The passage tomb is one of the finest of its kind in Wales. The c.7m long  forecourt and stone-lined entrance passage gives access to a central polygonal chamber made of large slabs. In the north angle of the chamber is a 1.7m high smoothed stone pillar, interpreted as a ‘protectress’ or tomb guardian in the style of Breton tombs.  One of the chamber stones bears a small spiral carving which is probably Neolithic.  As at other prehistoric sites, people buried their dead there to protect them and used it as a place to pay respect to their ancestors though there is evidence that the importance of the site can be traced further back in history.

Photo taken before 1960 showing an inscribed stone at Bryn Celli Ddu (Crown Copyright: RCAHMW)

Its significance to the summer solstice, when the sun rises and shines directly down the passage to illuminate the chamber, was finally proved and documented by the National Museum of Wales in 2005.  A central pit contained the most richly decorated Neolithic carved stone in Wales. The original is in the National Museum Wales, with a cast on site.

Bryn Celli Ddu sits at the heart of a ritual landscape and is therefore a place of archaeological importance as it provides an insight into prehistoric life and culture in Wales and Britain in general.  Surrounding the burial chamber is a plough-levelled cairn just to the south (NPRN 309540), a standing stone to the south-west (NPRN 302503) and a cup-marked rock to the west (NPRN 415847). The arrangement of the passage tomb and style of the rock art carvings has similarities with the passage tomb of Barclodiad y Gawres on western Anglesey (NPRN 95545).

Browse through our online database, Coflein, to discover more about this Neolithic burial chamber in Anglesey: Coflein – The online catalogue of archaeological sites, historic buildings, industrial and maritime heritage in Wales and please visit our online shop and download our free Anglesey Inventory: Anglesey: An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in the County (eBook) – Siop CBHC – RCAHMW Shop.

Bryn Celli Ddu is in the care of  Cadw  and open daily. To find out more and to view a short, animated film, visit the Cadw website: Bryn Celli Ddu Chambered Tomb | Cadw (gov.wales)

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