Archaeologists may have discovered a Welsh graveyard from medieval times – under a department store

As it happens6:50Archaeologists unearth medieval Welsh graveyard – under department store

For a century, residents of the Welsh town of Haverfordwest shopped at Ocky White’s department store with no idea what lay beneath them.

After the store closed in 2013, the local county council purchased the land for redevelopment. And now archaeologists have found hundreds of human remains underground that may date back to the medieval period.

“We suspected [with] what little evidence we have of the medieval convent of St. Savior, the Dominican convent… it was around, but we didn’t know its exact location,” said Fran Murphy, an archaeologist who worked at the site. . As it happens the host Nil Köksal.

Murphy is convinced that her team from the Dyfed Archeology Trust have discovered the convent cemetery.

“We have about 282 graves so far in a fairly small area,” she said. BBC News reported that about 100 children are among the ruins.

A hidden story

Haverfordwest was created 1,000 years ago in South West Wales along the Western Cleddau River. A castle stands in the center of the town, a few steps from what would have been the convent.

“He has a long history… [and] there are these great monuments, but between them there is not much known,” Murphy said.

The excavation of the former department store has stories to share.

“If you work from the top down, as you do, there was first a 19th century iron foundry on the site for at least 100 years,” she said.

“Underneath we had some sort of earlier industrial remains from the 18th century. And then underneath we had a lot of demolition material, which must have come from a convent building. Lots of worked stone and beautiful medieval tiling, which , I’m sure, comes from a church…that seemed to seal a lot of graves.”

Fran Murphy is an archaeologist and head of field services at the Dyfed Archeology Trust. (Submitted by Fran Murphy)

Murphy saw the bones of a mixture of young children and grown adults. Most were wrapped in a simple shroud, with their arms crossed and their heads turned to the west. Some showed signs of severe arthritis, while others had head and limb injuries.

His colleague Andrew Shobbrook speculated that some of the bodies may belong to the victims of an attack on the English occupation of Wales. In 1405, French and Welsh forces fought together under Owain Glyndŵr, the last native Welshman to be Prince of Wales.

As for the many infants and children, Murphy attributed their deaths to the high death rates of the medieval period due to illness and disease.

She said it appeared the cemetery had been in use from the late 13th century to the late 16th century. Further study using radiocarbon dating and isotopic analysis will help researchers build the story of what happened at the site and who lived there.

The talk of the town

The inhabitants of Haverfordwest always referred to an old convent among them, without knowing where it was. There is a street named Friars Lane and a pub that goes through Friars Vaults.

The county council bought Ocky White to redevelop the site into “a food store, bar and roof terrace”. But once they tore down the department store, a rich story began to emerge.

“Many, many people in town remember shopping there and sitting in the cafe… having tea, not knowing that under [their] the feet were all these burials,” Murphy said.

“So people are really interested and we have a lot of volunteers helping us wash the finds.”

Archaeologists have so far discovered 282 graves in what they believe to be the cemetery of a convent from the medieval period. (Submitted by Fran Murphy)

Archaeologists have a shop nearby where they process their finds and discuss them with visitors. The excavation site is not accessible to the public.

When their research is complete, Murphy hopes to learn more about who the townspeople were in medieval times.

“Where did they come from? You know, how was their health?

She noted that this dig is the first of its kind in Haverfordwest – or any town so far in South West Wales.

“Sometimes we feel a bit on a limb, away from everything else. And so I think it reminds us that these events in history… happened in the most remote corners of the UK,” said she declared.