Mystery of Oystermouth Castle Medieval Ditch

Image of two environmental sampling tins embedded in the sand deposit in the section of Trench 1

Environmental sampling of the sand deposit in Trench 1

The report on the environmental samples taken from the soil filling the possible medieval ditch around Oystermouth Castle been returned to the office.

The results are both puzzling and disappointing and show the soil to be relevantly clean, containing miniscule amount of charcoal and a very small amount of unidentifiably biological material (and lots of pebbles). The soil from medieval ditches tends to be very dirty. So does this mean there was no ditch? Where we just unlucky and happened to sample a very clean area of the ditch? Was the ditch regularly cleaned-out when open and filled back in with remarkably clean soil? (Most unlikely!) Or was it opened and backed-filled quickly with the same material, meaning

the soil was fairly clean? (In which case the ditch wouldn’t have served a defensive purpose but could have been for foundations or quarrying.)

I’m beginning to wonder if the ditch (assuming it existed) ran around the bottom of The Tump, which was used as an outer bailey.
What do people think?


  1. Foundations. Maybe it was dug to create another building or structure then the foreman notices they are digging in the wrong place and gets the diggers to stop. Or maybe the person who wanted a new building realised they couldnt afford it.

    You can speculate and speculate but really, without any more information I dont think any guess about the probable ditch would be correct. Its the frustrating thing about your line of work. Maybe a castle resident had a large dog?

  2. Hello Kokorori

    It’s fairly small area that they were digging in, so I think it would be difficult for the trench to be sunk in the wrong place. But it is true that they may have run out of money for further building work, that’s one reason we’re thinking about to explain why the castle’s drum towers are incomplete. Your right it’s really very difficult to come to any solid answers when you can only see half the picture, hopefully we’ll get the chance to go back and excavate the other side of the area, once the power cables have been moved.

    Happy digging


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