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Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 105806 Trust : Clwyd Powys Community : Prestatyn Unitary authority : Denbighshire NGR : SJ065829 Site Type (preferred type first) : MULTIPERIOD SETTLEMENT Status :
Description : 1 Location
1.1 The resort town of Prestatyn lies on the North Wales coast, 6km east of the neighbouring resort of Rhyl.
1.2 The town is situated at the northern end of the Clwydian hills on the gently rising slopes between a low-lying coastal strip and a steep escarpment.
1.3 From its beginnings as a small hamlet along the High Street, the settlement has grown enormously, particularly over the last century. Modern housing estates now extend out onto the former marshes of the coastal plain, as well as climbing high up the steep slopes of the Clwydian hills to the south-east.
2.1 There is archaeological evidence of settlement in the area during the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Roman and early medieval periods.
2.2 Very little is known, however, of the origins of the medieval predecessor of the present town. Although Prestatyn is mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1087, the location of the early settlement is uncertain. Various possibilities for the location have been proposed: a) A church is mentioned in Domesday, and the settlement might be expected to be located close to it; but since the entry refers to the combined manor of Prestatyn and Meliden it is unclear exactly where the church was situated, and it may well have been on the site of the church in Meliden rather than in Prestatyn itself. b) Though no archaeological remains have yet been reliably identified, it seems most probable that the settlement itself lay in the vicinity of the castle (PRN 102226) which, according to Soulsby, was already standing before the time of the Domesday Survey. The castle is reputed to have been 'erected at a very early period by the native British inhabitants of the district' and its construction is sometimes ascribed to Llywelyn ap Seisyllt in the early 11th century; Cathcart-King, however, describes it as an English castle, and the first documentary reference to it appears to be in an 1162 Pipe Roll. Henry II possessed the castle until its destruction in 1167 by Owain Gwynedd, and it was not rebuilt. c) There have been antiquarian suggestions that the old town and a church stood below the castle and have since been lost to the sea, a theory apparently supported by 19th-century descriptions of masonry remains on the north side of the castle, beyond the railway line. d) It is possible that the medieval settlement lay on the line of the modern High Street. The two earliest houses known in Prestatyn (Plas - PRN 105830 and Penisadre - PRN 102203, both since demolished) were situated here. Although these were not built until the 16th century, the possibility of settlement here prior to these cannot be discounted. Alternatively, settlement may previously have been concentrated in the area of the castle, Nant Hall and Nant Mill. When Plas and Penisadre were built they may have acted as a focus for settlement, and the centre of population may then have shifted, with cottages gradually filling the space between these two houses. A map of 1828 shows buildings lining the High Street on both sides.
2.3 It is evident that at present very little is known of the medieval settlement. There are records of the town being enlarged in the 1160's by Roger de Banastre, but it appears to have been destroyed by Owain Gwynedd in 1167 and there are no further references to it for the remainder of the medieval period. Whatever its location, it would appear to have been small and short-lived.
2.4 A 16th-century picture map of the area around Nant shows Nant mill and the castle as well as a road from Nant to Prestatyn.
2.5 'Prestatyn' appears on Speed's map of 1610
2.6 Prior to the develoment and reclamation of the foreshore initiated by H. D. Pochin of Bodnant in the late 1800s, Prestatyn was no more than a small village of cottages straggling up the High Street. In 1833, it is described by Lewis as a hamlet, which has 'some vestiges of an ancient castle on an elevated spot called Plas Prestatyn in a meadow below the mill'. Like Meliden, the area around the settlement was highly cultivated and richly productive of all types of grain, but particularly wheat.
2.7 In 1839 the Tithe Survey, too, shows just one long street lined with cottages, and a crossroads at the south end of it. Beyond the village an open field system can be discerned. A number of large fields, Maes y Groes, Maes y Pycas, and Maes y Pittia were divided into strips or quillets and uncultivated strips seperated them. All these fields are now built over.
2.8 Old photographs of 1895 and 1900 show small, stone-built, single-storey cottages with thatched roofs at the top of and along Prestatyn's High Street, which have long since been replaced.
3 Buildings and Archaeology
3.1 Prestatyn castle (Prn 102226; SAM F24), the remains of a motte and bailey castle which existed in the 1160s, lies around 1km to the east of the present town centre. The low mound and ditch were excavated in 1913 and revealed most of the walls of the castle. There is a causeway approach to castle.
3.2 Nant Mill (PRN 102966) and its associated mill pond, miller's cottage and farm lies to the east of the town centre. This grade II listed building has been disused since the 1860s, but still contains much of its machinery intact. The building was originally of two storeys but has been heightened to three. A mill is known to have existed on this site since the 16th century.
3.3 Nant Hall Hotel (PRN 102205), a grade II listed building, is a late 18th/early 19th-century building on an historic site. It has many associations with Edward I and later the Conways of Bodrhyddan. Nant is one of the few houses noted by Lhuyd on his visit to Prestatyn.
3.4 Penisadre Farm (PRN 102203), a mid/late 16th-century hall house constructed of rubble, with an added 17th-century wing, formerly stood at the northern end of the High Street, but was demolished and a shopping centre built on its site. When the house was first built, only a strip of marsh and sand stood between it and the sea.
3.5 Plas (PRN 105830), mentioned by Lhuyd, formerly stood at the corner of Gronant Road, fronting Clwyd Avenue. During its demolition in the 1980s two Elizabethan windows are said to have been revealed. Parts of the house were reputed to have been built before 1510.
3.6 A smithy (PRN 103565) formerly existed at the north end of the High Street, but no trace of it now remains.
3.7 The oldest church in Prestatyn is Christ Church on the High Street, which was built in 1863 in Early English style. The parish was consolidated in 1860 out of the townships of Prestatyn and Nant, formerly in Meliden parish.
3.8 There have been a number of finds in the vicinity of the High Street. These include: the skeleton of a woman (PRN 102190) found in 1924, lying 1m deep at the bottom of a peat bed with a flint object and fragments of glass and leather; a polished stone axe (PRN 102258) found in the chuchyard in 1923; a circular stone vessel with a spout (PRN 102562) found during construction of the church; an inscribed slate (PRN 102204), believed to be Roman, at Penisadre Farm.
3.9 Within the large area encompassed by the modern settlement numerous finds covering a wide range of dates have been recorded, indicating considerable human activity here in the past. The locations of the following findspots are indicated on the accompanying map scaled at 1:10,000. A scatter of Prehistoric and Roman finds (PRN 101933) including flint implements and flakes, bone counters and a lead spindlewhorl were found in fields near Nant Hall Road; worked flints (PRN 102184) were found on ploughed land near Princes Avenue; a granite macehead and perforated circular stone (PRN 102232) were found on the eastern edge of Prestatyn; finds on Linden Walk include a grit borer and a lead spindlewhorl (PRN 102234) and also a hand axe or hammer (PRN 102253); a Bronze Age chisel (PRN 102233) was found at Hengoed, Bryneithin Avenue; a bronze ring, possibly part of an Iron Age bridle bit (PRN 102192) was found on an allotment off Dawson Drive; on Rhuddlan Road bone implements and a stone spindlewhorl (PRN 102185) were found; near Penrhwylfa Road six Roman coins (PRN 102186) were found; in the area of the Bryn Newydd housing estate a number of Roman coins (PRN 101935 & PRN 102206) were found and on Mount Ida a finger ring (PRN 106451), probably mid-14th century, and an annular brooch (PRN 106452) of the 13th or 14th century were found.
3.10 A probable Mesolithic settlement site is suggested by the presence of shell middens (PRN 106454) in the former wetland margins at Nant Hall Road. The middens contained mainly mussel shells, but also animal bones and flint artefacts. Also a flint knapping site. CPAT excavation??
3.11 A complex site (PRN 102228) of two distinct cemeteries, probably of Neolithic date, and a Mesolithic working area for flint and chert (which included many microliths) is located amongst the houses on Bryn Newydd. Further flint/chert artefacts were recovered nearby from an archaeological evaluation at 2, The Avenue, suggesting some prehistoric activity here.
3.12 Excavations by CPAT on Melyd Avenue in 1985 (PRN 102196; SAM F094) revealed a prehistoric occupation layer (PRN 102197) and also the remains of timber round houses (PRN 102199) thought to date to the Iron Age, all underlying Roman levels. The Roman civil settlement here (PRN 102198) consisted of a stone bath house dated AD80-160 (revealed in 1934-37 excavations) and various timber buildings, some of which may have been associated with industrial activity. It has been postulated that the focus of the settlement lay to the west, beneath the Meadows Estate (1973 excavations yielded Roman building rubble), and that it developed around a harbour (perhaps situated at the junction of the estate with Fforddisa, where there is now just a small stream). At nearby Meliden it is suspected that lead mines were worked in Roman times, and a harbour here would have proved most convenient for shipping processed lead.
3.13 During construction of sewer works on Fforddisa in the 1940s, some damaged masonry (PRN 102195) similar to that at Melyd Avenue was revealed. A Roman date was thought likely.
3.14 A possible Roman site at Fforddisa (PRN 101416; SAM F138) was identified from a cropmark. Some trial excavation work was undertaken by Prof GDB Jones. The site may possibly be a continuation of the nearby Melyd Avenue Roman settlement or perhaps the site of a fort.
3.15 Midnant cottage (PRN 106494) on the eastern edge of the settlement, probably dates to the late medieval/early post-medieval period. The building is ruinous and in a very poor condition. Associated mineworkings surround the building. Further mine workings (PRN 106495) are recorded and also an unidentifiable stone structure (PRN 106497), and an enclosure (PRN 106496).
3.16 A number of limekilns (PRN 103574/5) are recorded at the foot of the hill on Bishopswood Road.