Trust Regional Historic Environment Record
Enclosure and Settlement, Glyn Farm, Llanbedrgoch
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 5348 Trust : Gwynedd Community : Llanfair-Mathafarn-Eithaf Unitary authority : Ynys Mon NGR : SH51808115 Site Type (preferred type first) : Early Medieval ENCLOSURE Status :
Summary : In the early 1990s, a number of significant Viking-age metal detector finds at Llanbedrgoch were discovered. A geophysical survey then revealed a large enclosure, which was subsequently excavated by Mark Redknap of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales.
The roughly oval enclosure lies on a sheltered south-facing slope near Red Wharf Bay, and has a freshwater spring rising within it. This spring produced finds which dated back as far as the Neolithic, including a crouched burial. There were also a number of finds demonstrating activity at the site in the 1st - 6th centuries AD.
The main focus of the site at Llanbedrgoch began in the 7th and 8th centuries AD. An earthen bank and ditch enclosed a settlement of wooden round houses and rectangular halls.
In the 9th century, the enclosure bank was rebuilt with a massive drystone wall. This may have been a demonstration of the settlement's ability to protect itself from Viking raids, although the defences have also been thought more reminiscent of walled sites in Ireland. The internal buildings revealed changes in building styles, and at least six late 9th-early 10th century buildings have been identified, suggesting a change to more long-houses and halls along the inner face of the wall, with even a paved road running north-south across the site, and possible side roads running from it. Llanbedrgoch was abandoned by the late 11th/ early 12th century.
This low-lying, fortified site was identified as a new type of settlement, possibly a trading centre, and produced the largest collection of early medieval finds from North Wales. These included leather-working implements, antler, and metals such as silver, copper alloy, lead and iron. The discovery of quernstones, grain and animal bones indicate farming in this area, whilst trading is suggested by the presence of hack-silver and lead weights.
Llanbedrgoch may have suffered during the Viking raids of the 10th century. The site is thought to represent an early aristocratic power centre, possibly even with royal assistance from Rhodri Mawr, while both the fortifications and the hack-silver suggest an administrative or economic role for the site.
Description : See PRN 5347. <1>
Geophysical results indicate a D-shaped enclosure, with high spots of activity within the ditch. Excavation has established that the ditch was approximately 2m in width and 1m deep. Its fill contained charcoal and the knob from a crucible of early medieval type, suggesting metalworking activity in the area. Calibrated c14 dates from the ditch fills are AD 450-770 and ad 760-1035. <1>
An enclosed Viking-age settlement situated on gently rising S-facing ground on well-drained carboniferous limestone, near to the modern sea-side resort of Benllech and only some 900m from the broad sandy beach of Red Wharf Bay.
The size and extent of the early medieval settlement is now known, and preliminary analysis suggests that it was well-established by AD 600, when the main activity appears to have been farming. The site during this phase encompassed an area about 80m across, and was enclosed by a ditch measuring 1.7-2m wide and 0.6-1.4m deep.
Two entrances have been located and excavated, which survive as undug causeways across the ditch between a gap in a bank of upcast. Within this pre-Viking-age enclosure there were at least two different forms of wooden structure: at least one small round house, and a large rectangular hall. During this phase dumping of midden material started within the enclosure at the bottom of the slope on the W side. This activity appears to have continued into the late C10th.
During the C9th the enclosure boundary was rebuilt as a defensive structure 2.2-2.3m wide. Most of this wall has been obliterated by late robbing and farming, but sections of the lower courses were found in the S half of the site. Such an ambitious undertaking may be interpreted as a response to both domestic concerns and Viking pressures, construction coinciding with the onset of Viking raids on north Wales from the 850s.
A large slab-lined sub-rectangular pool or reservoir, c.4.7m by 4m, once served a spring emanating from the limestone at one end of the lowest points of the enclosure. Lenses of silt and sand within the pool contained large quantities of animal bone, as well as a number of early medieval artefacts, including the end of a silver ingot (hack-silver), a copper-alloy pin with wrythen-decorated globular head, ironwork and a punch-decorated folded strip of tin. A silver penny of Edmund (939-946) from the upper silt suggests that it remained open well into the C10th.
The remains of a paved road made of limestone slabs and smaller stones between raised stone kerbs were identified to the N of the pool, suggesting a direct link between the pool and the buildings situated about 50m to the N.
The remains of at least five buildings have been found which belong to the C9th/C10th phase. Building 1 - c.10.5m by 5m, sunken floor and narrow, low walls of limestone blocks forming a revetment and a ground-level foundation sill to support a timber superstructure. Building 2 - Rectangular and sunken floored, but larger; 7.5 x 11m internal dimensions. Building 3 - Little remained except flagging and sunken floor. Building 4 - Constructed parallel to the inside of the enclosure wall on the W side of the site. Only a few courses of limestone drystone walling survived. There was at least one further construction phase within the enclosure, involving the erection of a large rectangular building, with a slightly raised central hearth, over the site of building 1.
Skeletons of five individuals were found on the W of the site, buried in the upper fill of the ditch immediately outside the defensive wall. The burials were laid in shallow graves and all aligned N-S. A sixth extended inhumation was discovered in 2001 in a different area of the site, within the enclosure and aligned E-W. <6>
Two skeletons found during excavation at Glyn in 1998. One extended inhumation almost overlying a crouched inhumation. (Longley & Richards, 2000)
The site was first identified through metal detecting by Archie Gillespie who identified a scatter of early medieval and Romano-British finds over three fields at Glyn Farm, Llanbedrgoch. A systematic programme of geophysical survey and excavation identified a large and relatively long-lived settlement dating to the early medieval and Viking period to the sixth century to the late-eleventh century AD (Figure 6.17; Redknap 1996; 1997; 1999; 2001a; 2001b; 2004). Occupation in the Roman period is demonstrated by radiocarbon dates from features belonging to an earlier settlement which span the mid-third to the mid-fifth century cal. AD, as well as pottery sherds, bronze brooches dating to the first and second centuries AD and a silver coin dating from c. 400AD, which were identified on the surface of the fields.
Early medieval settlement (c. 450850 AD) The first major phase of occupation following the Romano-British settlement is represented by a group of timber buildings which were enclosed by a bank and ditch. The first phase of the enclosure is represented by a narrow ditch, up to 0.4m wide, which produced a date of cal. AD 90560 from the upper fill. This was replaced in the sixth or seventh century AD by a large D-shaped enclosure, which covered an area of c. 1ha and was defined by a substantial ditch up to 2m wide and 1.4m deep (Redknap 2004, 148). A wooden palisade in the boundary ditch was dated to cal. AD 620860 (Beta-113403). The evidence suggests that the settlement was occupied between the mid-sixth century and the mid-ninth century. Finds associated with the ditch confirm this date for example, one of the ditch fills produced a crucible fragment of early medieval type, demonstrating that the settlement was also the focus for metalworking activities. An eighth-century copper-alloy dress pin also derived from a ditch fill.
The settlement contained a number of timber buildings, including a wattle-and-daub roundhouse. This had a diameter of c. 5m and was defined by a curvilinear gully and stakeholes. Material from the gully fill was dated to cal AD 680890 (Beta-113392). The roundhouse was sealed beneath a large, rectangular timber hall which was partially overlapped and sealed by another timber hall (Redknap 1997, 94). A posthole associated with the first building produced a date of cal. AD 590870 (Beta-113402) and it is suggested that occupation was focussed between the sixth and seventh centuries AD (Redknap 2004, 148). Finds dating to the eighth century were also recovered from within the enclosure, including an early medieval bone or antler pin. Evidence for artefact production is also apparent in the form of bone blanks and off-cuts and metal working residues (Redknap 1996, 81). During this phase, a dark-earth artefact-rich midden began to accumulate at the bottom of the enclosure on the western side. This produced large numbers of animal bones and a relatively large assemblage of finds, such as a seventh-century copper-alloy bird-headed pin (parallels exist in Yorkshire; Redknap 1997, 95). The artefactual evidence suggests the main phase of accumulation was initiated in the sixth century AD but this continued well into the tenth century AD (Redknap 2004, 149; see below). A stone-lined pond, present during the next phase of occupation, may also have been constructed during this phase.
Viking-age settlement (c. 8501000 AD) During the mid-ninth century AD, the enclosure boundary was enhanced through the construction of a monumental stone-faced wall, up to 2.3m wide, which was built inside the partially silted-up ditch (Redknap 1997, 95). The interior of the enclosure was reorganized through the construction of new rectangular buildings which were interlinked with trackways. The construction of this larger enclosure has been interpreted as a response to local and Viking pressures, with construction possibly coinciding with the onset of the Viking raids on north Wales from the 850s onwards (Redknap 1999, 61). The boundary may have also have displayed the success of the inhabitants who were closely involved in long-distance trading activities and artefact production. The settlement in the late-ninth and tenth centuries functioned as a centre for farming, craft production and trade (Redknap 1996, 82; 1999, 61).
The excavations focussed on five rectangular buildings, some activity areas defined by hearths, as well as a stone-lined pond. Sill beam methods of construction were utilized in three of the buildings, and they were rich in animal bones and artefacts, suggesting they were the focus for food consumption events, such as feasting. Building 1 was c. 10m by 5m and consisted of a sunken-floored building with low stone revetment walls and a ground-level foundation sill to support a timber frame. The building contained a stone-capped drain and a stone-lined rectangular central hearth which was dated to cal. AD 770980 (Beta-101535). The hearth was surrounded on three sides by raised earthen areas, interpreted as low benches for sitting or sleeping (Redknap 1997, 94). The floor of the southern half was paved and may indicate a division in space. The adjacent Building 2 was constructed from stone walls which supported a sill beam, c. 7.5m wide by 11m long, and floor deposits have been dated to cal. AD 7051035 (Redknap 2004, 153). The building was larger than Building 1 and it has been interpreted as a hall or barn. Both buildings appear to be contemporary and are associated with a paved and metalled yard surface. Building 3 was very badly preserved but is indicated by stone flagging and a sunken floor (Redknap 2004, 153). A decorated tenth century copper-alloy buckle was recovered from one of the floor deposits. Buildings 4 and 5 are represented by fragmentary courses of walling on the eastern and western sides of the enclosure. During the final period of occupation, a large square shaped building was constructed over Building 1, sometime in the tenth century cal. AD. This building contained a raised central hearth, and possibly functioned as another hall.
A large slab-lined oval pool, c. 5m by 4.8m, with steps leading down to the water, was constructed in the southern half of the enclosure (Redknap 2001, 144). Lenses of silt and sand up to 0.3m deep within the feature produced large quantities of animal bone, as well as a number of early medieval artefacts, including the end of a silver ingot, a copper-alloy pin and a decorated folded strip of tin. On the basis of the dating evidence, Redknap suggests that the pond was constructed during the pre-Viking period of occupation, although it evidently remained open well into the tenth century AD (Redknap 2004, 150). The remains of a paved and cobbled road, up to 3m wide, were identified to the north of the pool, and this feature possibly led directly to the rectangular buildings in the northern half of the enclosure.
Five burial inhumations were also recovered from the upper fills of the enclosure ditch on the western side of the site. The burials were unusually orientated northsouth (rather than the Christian tradition of eastwest) and were situated within shallow graves. Some of the bodies displayed signs of injury and two of the individuals had had their wrists tied either infront or behind their backs, suggesting that their deaths were violent. It has been suggested that the individuals, who were possibly members of a family group and included children and adults, were the victim of Viking raiding activities which occurred sometime between cal. AD 790 and AD 1040 (Redknap 2004, 1545). A sixth extended inhumation was also discovered in a different area of the site. The circumstances of this burial were evidently different, and it has been interpreted as early-Christian due to the eastwest orientation of the body (Redknap 2004, 155).
The finds assemblage from the site was particularly rich and indicates the prosperous status of the settlement and some of its occupants. Finds of hack silver and lead weights reinforce the importance of Hiberno-Norse trading at the site, and large numbers of high-quality artefacts were also recovered, such as early-tenth century arm rings of the Bangor Hoard type, a range of decorative artefacts such as brooches, decorative plates and buckles, and tenth-century ringed pins (Redknap 2004, 15664). Metalworking residues, in the form of silver and copper-alloy droplets and casting sprues, and bone-working residues, such as antler cut-offs, reveal that artefact production was frequently performed at the site. The presence of iron tools, such as awls and toothed tools, also indicate that leather working was being carried out. Large numbers of rotary quern fragments were also recovered, and the large cattle bone assemblage and charred cereal remains reveal that the settlement held an important agricultural role within the community (Redknap 2001, 159) and was possibly the focus for conspicuous community feasts. This is further supported by the dark-earth midden deposits which continued to accumulate up to the tenth century AD to a depth of 0.80m. (Waddington, 2013)
Events : 43306 : A Geophysical Survey Around Find Spots of Viking Artefacts (year : 1994) 43307 : Llanbedrgoch: a Viking Site on Anglesey? (year : 2000) 43784 : Glyn, Llanbedrgoch (year : 2004) 40360 : Early Medieval Burial in Gwynedd (year : 2000) 44557 : Early Celtic Societies in North Wales (year : 2010) 40568 : Early Medieval Burial and Ecclesiastical Sites 2001-2002 (year : 2002)