Vale of Glamorgan

Cwm Nash Cemetery, Vale of Glamorgan

Paul Huckfield, Arfordir Coastal Heritage project Co-ordinator and Rowena Hart, GGAT Projects, have been at Cwm Nash, Vale of Glamorgan this afternoon, filming with the BBC and ITV.  They have been talking about the cemetery located on the cliff top there and the human remains that have been exposed and on show since the storm of 5th of January.

Rowena does all the talking as Paul has man flu!

Filming the bones for the BBC news








Human remains have been repeatedly exposed by erosion and recovered by GGAT over the last 20 years, the last being in 2012. Learn more.   The remains have been carbon dated and all date from the post-medieval period.

This latest discovery is mainly thanks to Mr Morgan for his swift action in recovering the remains before they were lost to the sea.

The two grave cuts exposed by the January storms

The Trust have a Ministry of Justice license to excavate the rest, and the landowner’s permission, and are seeking grant support from Cadw to enable us to do so.


Cwm Nash Geophysical Survey – Day 3

Day 3 of the Cwm Nash Survey saw plenty of resistivity and magnetometer survey undertaken.

Only a few part-grids remaining for tomorrow. Once again we would like to thank the volunteers who came to site today and undertook the survey techniques.

One of the volunteers undertaking the geophysical survey at Cwm Nash.

Sam Pamment and members of the Friends of Margam Park came to visit the site this afternoon. Will the weather hold for one last day?

Volunteers learning how to carry out a geophysical survey

Cwm Nash Geophysical Survey – Day 2

A beautifully sunny day at the GGAT Cwm Nash Survey. The site was very busy today with our fantastic and hard working volunteers! We also had lots of visits from members of the public passing through on their coastal path walks. It was lovely to meet you all.
We began our day by setting up our GPS station at the top of the hill to the south of the site. What a beautiful view from there. Our volunteers surveyed then surveyed two grids of resistivity and two grids of magnetometry. A good set of data collected.
We also undertook the survey of the edge of the receding cliff by GPS. To enable us to do this safely Richard Hamilton of Atlantic College was on site to attach us to the land by anchored ropes and harness. The volunteers then continued the topographic survey of the site with great detail. 

Many thanks to everyone who gave their time, skill and enthusiasm, to the project today. Looking forward to tomorrow!A GGAT archaeologist surveys the cliff edge at Cwm Nash to help plot erosion rates.

Cwm Nash Geophysical Survey – Day 1

Day 1. What a fantastic start to the Cwm Nash Geophysical Survey (if you’re unfamiliar with the background to this project you can read all about it here).  Despite the freezing temperatures and bracing wind our volunteers were brilliant and soon got to grips with laying out our survey grids using a GPS system and also managed a few grids of high density resistivity survey.

Volunteers learning how to carry out a geophysical survey at Cwm, Nash

The results are looking good! Our lunch was eaten quickly, trying to get as much shelter out of the wind as we could with the added pleasure of a lovely visit from the particularly interested and knowledgeable landowner. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Volunteers learning how to carry out a geophysical survey at Cwm Nash


Why so quiet on the Western Front?

People have been asking why it’s been so quiet on the GGAT news front.  This is because we’ve all been so busy!

Here’s a little taster of what the Trust has been up to.

Our Arfordir Co-ordinator, Rachel, has been busy training volunteers in the Year 3 study area, which runs along the Vale of Glamorgan Heritage Coastline to Penarth.  Through a number of guided walks the volunteers have been taught about the numerous archaeological sites along this stretch of coast, as well as emphasising the potential threats caused by current and future coastal erosion.  The groups have also been taught how to recognise various types of archaeological sites and have been trained in basic recording and photographic techniques used by archaeologists.  Attendance has been good at these events with a keen interest shown by the volunteers.  If you’re interested in learning about this project visit the Arfordir pages on the GGAT website ( or follow the link (Arfordir pages).  To see what the groups have just been up to visit our Facebook page here.

The second year of the Second World War Airfields in Southeast Wales project is drawing to a conclusion.  The Trusts WWII enthusiast Paul has recorded lots of new sites, which you can get a sneaky peek at by visiting our Instagram feed

Meanwhile in our Projects Division, Charley James has just written the first malt kiln tile report for the excavations at Vulcan house, Merthyr Tydfil.  She has discovered that some of the tiles are from a well-known manufacturer, Sealy & Co., based in Bridgewater Somerset.

Remains of one of the malt kiln tiles from the Vulcan House brewery

Remains of one of the malt kiln tiles from the Vulcan House brewery

While Martin Tuck is undertaking a review of the numerous archaeological works that have taken place within the environs of the Roman fort at Neath.  This review funded by the Welsh Government/Cadw focuses primarily on the civilian settlement or vicus, and will supplement the forthcoming reports on the extensive excavations that GGAT carried out between 2010 and 2012. Learn more about the excavations

National Eisteddfod-Day 3

Day 3, and the atmosphere at the Eisteddfod starts to pick up.  A busy day on Heritage row, with the number of people stopping by for a chat and to browse our display panels steadily growing. Visits by our past and then present Chairman all add to the mix (congratulations to Frank Olding on the launch of his new book of poetry and Ray, I’ll see you on Thursday).  

 Our stand today included a living history display by a medieval armorer and the production of chainmail went down a storm, and of cause all in Welsh.  In the afternoon there was a well attended talk at the Amgueddfa Cymru stand on the redevelopment project at St Fagans, this proved to be an excellent opportunity to hob-nob with the great and the good in Welsh heritage and to raise the profile of the Trust…also there was free coffee and cakes!

 Ken’s now legendary archaeological walk (which takes place at 4pm everyday) unfortunately had to proceed without a representative from GGAT, luckily Mark Lodwick from the National Museum was on hand to discuss all things Bronze Age.

National Eisteddfod-Day 2

Sunday on the Maes started slowly and somewhat damp, however, the smiling faces of Sue and Charles Hill gracing the GGAT stand soon raised the spirits. 

 The Bronze Age seemed to be the theme of the day on Heritage row, with GGAT making pigmy cups, the National Museum creating ancestor figures, while in the afternoon Cadw demonstrated how to build coil pots  – children visiting the Maes never had it so good! 

Ken from the National Museum accompanied by Paul from GGAT led a walk in the afternoon out to Maes Gwyrdd to visit the location of one of the Bronze Age barrows and to discuss the early history of the Maes site and Cyril Fox’s excavations during the late 1930’s.

 With the sun finally gracing the runways of Llandow day 2 came to a splendid end…and I didn’t get wet on the cycle home!

National Eisteddfod-Day 1

The first Saturday of the National Eisteddfod is always a quiet one, and today was no exception. This year all the main heritage bodies can be found next to each other in the same row.  This works really well, as hopefully we can all work together to promote not only each others work, but more importantly Welsh heritage.  GGAT (under the banner of the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts) is sandwiched between the Peoples Collection and the National Museum, having Ken Brassil next door is great , his enthusiasm and passion for archaeology is unbounded and contagious!
I arrived at the Maes this morning in glorious sunshine, this however did not last and the rain soon made its presence known, which was good as it tested how waterproof our section of the tent was.
View of the rain from GGAT's stand at the National eisteddfod
The afternoon saw a constant stream of visitors to our stand, the Trusts new Airfield display panels and 2012 Discovery & Learning booklet went down a storm, and lots of interesting discussions about the archaeology of the area took place. Tomorrow day 2.

Archaeological recovery of Human Remains at Cwm Nash

Towards the end of Summer 2011, the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust, funded by Cadw, recovered the remains of a single burial that had been eroding out of the cliff edge at Cwm Nash, Monknash, Vale of Glamorgan. These had been spotted by a member of the public who alerted the Trust to their presence. Below is an account of the recovery and analysis of the remains by Fay Bowen, who was part of the team that carried out the the fieldwork.

Location of the excavation

Location of the excavation

The day started out as rather pleasant and sunny, if a little bit chilly. There were three of us from GGAT, namely Rob Dunn, Paul Huckfield and I.  Very kindly, John a regular volunteer at the Trust, came along to make sure no passers by were endangered by the excavation or any falling material. We arrived at the car park and nervously waited for our High Ropes instructor Richard Hamilton to arrive. We gathered our equipment, including a ladder and harnesses and walked down to the beach to find the bones that were eroding out of the cliff edge. It was at this point that we realised exactly just how high up they were, right at the top of the 7m tall tufa cliff! For me in particular this was pretty daunting as I am rather frightened of heights.

The grave cut at the top of the 7m tall tufa cliff.We went back up to the top of the cliff and Richard put our minds at ease and explained exactly how safe it was going to be. So we donned our helmets and harnesses and Richard secured the rope into the top of the cliff. Richard and John then secured us to the ropes, allowing only enough length to go as far as we safely could, which was right at the cliff edge. Before the excavation began Rob bravely (if begrudgingly!) volunteered to take the pre-excavation photographs, which normally is just a little point and click, making sure the scale is correctly positioned. But this was somewhat different. He had to climb down over the edge of the cliff and lower himself onto the ladder that John securely held at the bottom. The top of the ladder was about 6ft below the cliff top, so this was no easy feat. I had my hands covering my eyes because the thought of doing such a thing really frightens me, but I did have a peep! He did a really good job and managed to position himself to take a few photos showing the bones and the grave cut. He could see that the grave had actually been dug into the tufa cliff.

The next task was drawing the profile of the grave cut. This was also a bit different to normal circumstances, as due to the wind and height we were unable to set up a string line and the safest way was to do it from the cliff top. This meant we had to use the tapes and measure down from the top of the cliff to record the depth of each deposit and the shape of the grave cut. This entailed poor Rob dangling over the cliff again to take measurements and me drawing them once he had shouted them back to me. Seems like he drew the short straw!
We then began the excavation. The wind had picked up and trying to deturf the thick dune-like grass was very difficult. We endeavoured with the conventional spade and sometimes even with the mattock to lift the more stubborn pieces that had anchored themselves to the cliff. We thought this was pretty difficult, but we didn’t realise what was coming next! The best way to continue the more delicate part of the operation was to take it in turns to lie on our stomachs with our heads at the cliff edge. This meant we could see the protruding bones at the cliff edge and slowly remove the grave fill to expose them. The problem was that the wind and rain had picked up so much that any soil loosened would blow up the cliff directly into our faces. So we took it in turns. It was very interesting and a brilliant day’s work, but it was very challenging, as despite our safety glasses our eyes were filling with mud, as were our mouths, noses and ears!! As we removed each bone John helped us bag and label them ready to take back to the office. We managed to recover the lower limbs and part of one hand. Needless to say when we finished we were all looking forward to a nice cup of warm tea, but it was all worth it. The excavation means that no more of these remains will be lost by erosion in the near future. We really appreciate the local people that saw the bones and reported it to us, as otherwise more would have been lost.
Once back at the office the bones were prepared and sent off to a specialist to tell us everything they could about the individual. Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy of Wessex Archaeology kindly looked at the bones for us. She found that he was a man over the age of 35 and estimated his height at about 1.71m (5′ 7″). She found a difference between the tibiae suggesting stresses possibly related to activity, along with small lateral squatting facets on both tibiae, (this means that there were marks indicating the repeated bending of the ankle joint from squatting). It seemed from his finger bones that he suffered from advanced osteoarthritis and the knees and ankles may also indicate that he was beginning to suffer in these areas too. The shape of the femur shafts suggested strong stresses on the muscles of the back of the thighs, whilst the left tibia had more distinctly ‘twisted’ shaft in comparison to the right.
The recovered remains of the lower limbs and part of one hand from the individual we christened 'Cliff'.
It is not the first time bones have eroded out of the cliff here. The first time was in 1982, when a human long-bone was found (GGAT HER 01584s). The next time it happened was in 1990, when part of a human skull was picked up. Three years later, the landowner told the Trust that there had been more erosion again, and we made plans for an archaeological investigation. The excavations revealed three adults buried in an east-west line. The middle of the three also had disarticulated remains of at least two other people and a skull had been carefully placed at the western end. Only the lower part of the burials remained, as unfortunately the upper parts had eroded out of the cliff. But some these bones were recovered from the base of the cliff. The finds didn’t really give any dating evidence, but were thought to be Post-medieval in date (1485-1901), which matched the early Post-medieval date given by radiocarbon dating.

Local history shows that this area of land was part of the Lordship of Ogmore, until the Norman Robert Fitzhamon seized power over the whole of Glamorgan in the late 11th century. He then gave the land to Neath Abbey. At this time there was already a church nearby, which was probably the parish church. When the church was given to the monks, the right to hold burials and baptisms was taken away, so people had to use Neath Abbey instead. The building then became a chapel.
The burials that have been found on the cliffs at Cwm Nash probably date to somewhere in the Post-medieval period (1485-1901). One theory is that the area was used as an ‘unofficial’ burial ground by the local people of Monknash from 1542 to 1607, who didn’t want to be buried somewhere other than their local area. A license for burial was eventually given to St. Mary’s Church, Monknash in 1607, so most people would have been buried there from then on. But it is possible the Cwm Nash burial place was still used by some local people who refused to accept the Anglican Church (these people were also known as Recusants). They may have also preferred Cwm Nash because it was associated with the nearby well and grange. Another theory is that the people buried here were not put here by choice. It is quite possible that the people found buried at Cwm Nash were the unfortunate victims of shipwrecks, their bodies having been washed ashore and kindly buried by the local people who found them. Sadly there were a large number of shipwrecks just off this piece of coastline during the Post-medieval period, and this sort of thing was not uncommon. Now the bones have been analysed plans will be made to rebury them.