Trust Regional Historic Environment Record
Trefignath Burial Chamber, Treaddur
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 2500 Trust : Gwynedd Community : Holyhead Unitary authority : Ynys Mon NGR : SH25868055 Site Type (preferred type first) : Prehistoric CHAMBERED TOMB Status : Scheduled Monument , Cared for by the State
Summary : Trefignath Neolithic burial chamber near Holyhead was totally excavated by Christopher Smith between 1977 and 1979. The excavations demonstrated that the monument was fundamentally altered on three occasions, and the building styles of the different parts of the burial chamber reflect this.
There was evidence found of occupation on this site before the construction of the burial chamber. The remains of hearths and early Neolithic pottery were found underneath the mounds with flint and chert tools, although no building remains were revealed.
The first tomb to be built was at the western end of the present mound. It had a simple, square chamber, with an entrance facing north, and was covered by a circular mound of stones (a cairn). It is thought that this may be the remains of a passage grave.
The second chamber to be constructed was rectangular in shape and had two stones marking the entrance from a narrow forecourt. Over this, and the earlier chamber, a long, wedge-shaped mound was constructed, which formed a long cairn. The mound was edged with drystone walling.
A third chamber, at the eastern end, was added to the front of the central chamber. It was also constructed with large entrance stones and in the same style, but there was no longer any means of access to the central chamber. The long cairn was then extended to cover this chamber as well, and could be dated to the late Neolithic by pottery left at the entrance.
Except for a pit dug at the east end during the Iron Age, the burial chamber remained largely untouched until the 19th century. At this time many of the stones were taken for building, and the contents of the chambers were disturbed.
Description : Remains of burial chamber at Trefignath, best preserved at E end, where there are two portal stones, one now leaning plus a chamber 8ft x 3ft. A hollow 9ft x 5ft in the ground on W of chamber, edged with stones, represents the second segment. Possible collapsed remains of separate, third chamber to W of hollow. To the W, group of recumbent stones probably indicate an extension to the complex. Overall length 45ft. Little trace of mound. (RCAHMW, 1937)
A gallery grave on natural knoll with traces of a long barrow. Tradition of urns and human bones. <2>
1967. Remains described as RCAHM <3>
1969. Condition unchanged <4>
Excavation is to commence spring 1977 and continue each spring to 1979 or 1980. Attention concentrated at the E end monument, though chamber emptied in C19th: disturbed deposits found just inside the entrance. Surrounding mound well preserved in places. Several courses of dry-stone revetment services on much of S side. Finds include flint and chert artefacts, fragments of pottery-broadly Peterborough ware and food vessel types. Initial indications suggest E chamber and its surrounding mound were late additions to site. (Smith, 1977)
Continuation of excavation, probably to be concluded in 1979. Attention concentrated on central group of orthostats which proved to be the remains of a collapsed chamber. It was surrounded by a stone cairn with deeply recessed forecourt and dry-stone retaining walls. This structure antedates E chamber and cairn. Finds similar to 1977 and sherds of plain, smoothed patterned pottery found associated with the earlier chamber: Peterborough ware and 8 flints. Pedological and palynological work is being undertaken by N. Keely and J. Greig. Slight indications of pre tomb activity and the W group of orthostats are to be examined in 1979. (Smith, 1978)
1974. Burial chamber under guardianship. <7>
Excavations completed in spring 1979 and existence of a third, western, burial chamber confirmed. Sequence of site is now as follows:
1) Pre-tomb activities represented by flint and chest tools and working debris from old ground surface. 2) Buildings of simple chamber and passage tomb encased in round cairn of boulders at W end of site. 3) Addition of central chamber with wedge-shaped cairn retained by dry-stone walls. 4) Addition of E chamber and extension of wedge-shaped cairn. (Smith, 1979)
Post excavation work. Reconstruction of W chamber and partial reconstruction of the cairns. <9>
1910 report of 'dolmens at Trefignath' and photograph of site. Composed of local mica schist. <10>
A Neolithic burial chamber. It is situated on a natural knoll with views all round, though less so to the south. The site has three chambers which were built in succession from west to east, with the cairn being successively enlarged on each occasion. It was fully excavated between 1977 and 1979 (Smith 1987). In addition to the chambers, evidence was found for domestic settlement pre-dating its use for burial, and dating from the period 3,600 to 4,000 BC. Flints and pottery were found. (Davidson 2002)
This Neolithic burial chamber lies outside the western edge of the study area. However, it is a scheduled ancient monument, and as the setting of the site may be impacted upon, it is necessary to include it within the gazetteer. The monument is composed of local mica schist, and situated on a natural knoll. It is surrounded by traces of a long cairn, and is best preserved at the eastern end. This site was assumed to be a gallery grave until excavation proved it to be much more complex. The site was excavated between 1977 and 1979, and was partly reconstructed in 1980. This demonstrated that the tomb had three chambers, which were built in succession from west to east, with the cairn enlarged as each new chamber was built. The earliest chamber resembled a simple passage grave. The central and eastern chambers were box-like structures with portal stones. The tomb overlay evidence of domestic occupation of the site dating to the early fourth millennium uncalibrated BC (HAR 3932 5050 /-70 BP).
Quantities of flint and chert artefacts including 22 scrapers, and a single leaf-shaped arrowhead were found and the remains of at least 21 pottery vessels. Nineteenth century references also mention the discovery of 'urns and bones'. The site was first noted in 1655 or 1660 when John Aubrey visited it. Stanley in 1867 states that the monument was damaged c. 70 or 80 years previously, when the capstones were removed for gateposts and lintels. An alignment from the standing stone at Ty Mawr to the burial chamber lines up, to within one degree, with the winter solstice sunrise.
The chamber is marked as a cromlech on the 1889 map, but not shown on any earlier maps, although clearly known about. On the 1926 map it is marked as cromlechau, presumably because the chambers were being considered as separate tombs, rather than part of a single structure. <13><18>
No evidence of visitor damage due to intensive use. As described. The knoll on which it sits is not the most prominent in the area. The tomb is clearly aligned as shown by construction of the 3rd chamber on same alignment as the 2nd - approximately to the E - perhaps astronomical but could be towards a harbour at Beddmanerch Bay. Before draining, this point would have been the first 'dry' route along the coast and the minor road 'Lon Trefignath' is probably an ancient route. (Smith, 2003)
This site lie some 200m south of the proposed road, but has been included because it is a scheduled ancient monument, and the proposed road will be visible from it. The site is a Neolithic chambered cairn, in its latest form it consists of a long trapezoidal shaped cairn containing three chambers. Excavation (Smith and Lynch, 1986) showed that the chambers denoted successive periods of use, and that the chambers were not used contemporaneously. Underlying the cairn was evidence of former Neolithic settlement. (Davidson & Riley, 1996)