MEDIEVAL MANOR HOUSE AND CHAPEL
The Trostrey Excavation Group started excavating the site at Penpergwm in 2006. The site proved to be the remains of a medieval moated manor house and chapel. Although having earlier origins its use during the 13th and 14th Centuries was confirmed by a large collection of high status glazed pottery known as Monnow Valley Ware, only produced between 1250-1350.
The trapezoidal shaped site was found from the air (photograph below) and forms a low, man-made platform 700mm above what was once a wet field. Excavation confirmed the enclosure is bounded by defences comprising a double ditch and bank, topped with a double row of postholes, suggesting a palisade with raised walkway behind, elevating defenders. The Manor was approached by a causeway and bridge across the moat.
The first building uncovered was found to have the 900mm wide stone walls robbed down almost to the foundations, probably as one event at the abandonment of the estate. Generally only 2-3 courses remained though in some places none was left while in others there were as many as 5 courses. This building had been a church or chapel and was internally 4.6m wide by 10.6m long. Dating evidence was sparse consisting of a few pottery sherds, some bronze pieces and some small pieces of flat window glass. Although built of stone it had timber framing within the walls, indicated by pad stones at regular intervals to support a heavy sandstone roof of which there was much evidence.
Beneath this was an earlier timber-framed building measuring 4.6m by 9.2m. This may have been the missing Celtic church of Lann Coit founded by King Iddon after the battle of Llantillio Crossenny in 600AD. Lann Coit Church was within the Bishopric of Llandaff but the estate may have become a Grange after a land swap with Dore Abbey in 1228.
The later Norman stone church probably dates from the middle of the 12th century and seems to have been in use until the middle of the 14th century.
The earliest part of the Manor House was ‘L’ shaped with one wing measuring 14.6m by 6m and the other 19.8m by 6.8m. A millstone was used as a foundation to support the double column load at the internal angle. It was built of timber and probably dates from the 12th century and may have been the seat of Dyfnwal ap Caradog whose son Seisyllt was notoriously murdered by William de Braose at Abergavenny Castle in 1177.
The estate included the ancient manors of Castell Arnallt and Parc Lettis. In the 14th century Dyfnwal Manor was part of the estates of the lords of Abergavenny and in 1325 was gifted to their relation, Sir William de Hastings, who retained it, together with Castell Arnallt and other manors near Raglan, until his death in 1349. Sometime between 1250 and 1350 the re-entrant on plan was in filled by a stone extension with walls 1000mm thick because plenty of pieces of Monnow Valley ware were found in this part of the building.
Two reports about the site were published in the Summer of 2011 by the Trostrey Excavation Group. They are available to download on our Publications page.