Traces of medieval and modern life unearthed in Haverfordwest

The excavations have revealed the iron foundry’s casting pits and a deep stone-lined cistern filled with roofing slates.

Evidence of a 19th- to 20th-century iron foundry, as well as human remains and artefacts thought to be associated with a medieval friary, has been uncovered by DAT Archaeological Services during investigations at an urban site in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire.

The excavations, carried out on behalf of Pembrokeshire County Council in advance of redevelopment work at Western Quayside, have revealed the iron foundry’s casting pits and a deep stone-lined cistern (or well) filled with roofing slates. The archaeologists have suggested that these slates may have come from the foundry following an explosion at the site in 1902 (the foundry itself was abandoned a year later).

IMAGE: Pembrokeshire County Council.

As for the medieval remains, the archaeologists have so far excavated 17 burials from a 14th-century cemetery which they think may have been linked to the town’s Dominican friary (known as St Saviour’s), whose precise location has never been clearly determined. The team has found several fragments of roof ridge tile, however, which may have come from the friary, as well as carved stonework and decorated floor tiles dating to the 15th or 16th centuries, including one armorial tile emblazoned with a cross inside a shield and another tile featuring a pale square diamond with a reversed ‘S’ at its centre (above). The archaeologists hope that their excavations will eventually reveal the remains of the friary buildings.

Fran Murphy, Head of Archaeological Services at Dyfed Archaeological Trust, commented: ‘This is the first major archaeological excavation to have taken place in the medieval town of Haverfordwest and will tell us so much about the continuous development of this thriving town through the ages, and its vital connection with the Western Cleddau River. It will give us insights into how people lived and died, their occupations, even what they ate and drank, and prove a valuable source of information for years to come.’

For updates and photographs of the excavations, see Dyfed Archaeological Trust’s Instagram page (@dyfedarch).