The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological
Trust Historic Environment Record
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RHOSSILI OLD VILLAGE
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 01862w Trust : Glamorgan Gwent Community : Rhossili Unitary authority : Swansea NGR : SS4150088345 Site Type (preferred type first) : Medieval Deserted rural settlement Status : Scheduled Monument
Summary : At the south end of the warren below Rhossili is the site of a deserted medieval village.
Description : At the south end of the warren below Rhossili is the site of a deserted medieval village. The area had long been thought to be the site of an old church and human burials and midden sites had been discovered over the years. Prior to 1928 a small midden yielded a medieval pot and a human jawbone. In 1949 2 skeletons were unearthed together with fragments of medieval pottery and a layer of charcoal containing hearth stones, the bones and teeth of domestic animals and various shellfish. Further human remains were unearthed over the years including a skeleton found c0.5m to lm below the surface in 1980. Later the same year water erosion revealed masonry structures and GGAT undertook an excavation of the site. In 1996 further survey work was undertaken to assess the erosion by GGAT and a geophysical survey was undertaken by Geophysical Surveys of Bradford. The excavation in 1980 confirmed the existence of a church with a nave 16m by 6m with a 4.5m square chancel. The walls were regularly coursed, bonded with lime mortar and plastered internally and externally, surviving in relatively good condition beneath a sand dune. Sandstone had been used as dressing and together with the plastering suggests considerable care had been taken in what was essentially a simple church. The nave contained plastered stone benches c0.4m high against the walls and two windows, although one had been blocked. The floor was made of beaten clay which had been cut in various places, presumably for burials although these were not investigated. The external chancel wall survived to a height of 2.5m but the cross wall dividing the chancel and nave was poorly preserved, a 3rd window was located in the S chancel wall. High on the west face of the cross wall was an area painted with a masonry pattern of black and red lines infilled with red cinquefoils and black tendrils, on the back wall of the chancel was an indecipherable Lombardic inscription. The architectural style of the church suggests a pre 1200 date for its construction, possibly around 1150, with the wall paintings dated to between the 12th and 14th centuries. The church shows at least 2 structural phases, some of the plastering and the stone benches may have been secondary, and it may have been abandoned prior to sanding. Some human burials were found cut into the sand that covered the church, associated with post medieval pottery, it has been suggested that these and burials found in 1949 may be connected to later shipwrecks. Another building was revealed 17m by 7m, aligned WNW-E SE, greatly damaged by flooding which had removed its western wall and most of its floor deposits. The walls were built of local stone bonded with clay with rounded corners. The N wall had been robbed the S wall survived to a height of lm. 2 sections of walling attached to either end of the house were interpreted as an internal cross wall running the length of the house. There were 2 doorways in the S facing wall, one of which had been blocked. A 2m wide strip of preserved floor deposits against the S wall contained a heavily burnt layer, interpreted as burnt thatch and a compacted clay floor, beneath which was a layer of soft red clay containing charcoal and molluscs. The house is reconstructed as having low walls, curved corner and a steeply pitched thatched roof above. The building would appear to represent a form of early medieval building common in SE Wales, tending to date to the 12th and early 13th centuries. Refuse dumps, or middens, found adjacent to the building also contained 12th and 13th century pottery, food waste, a bone comb and an iron key. This building is in fact larger than many of the manorial halls built in this style, but the architectural style and the midden contents suggest it must have been a house.