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GRASSHOLM ISLAND SETTLEMENT

Site Details


NPRN 404206

Map Reference SM50NE

Grid Reference SM59820923

Unitary (Local) Authority Pembrokeshire

Old County Pembrokeshire

Community Marloes and St Brides

Type of Site SETTLEMENT

Broad Class AGRICULTURE AND SUBSISTENCE

Period Medieval, Prehistoric

Site Description 1. Flint flakes, burnt stones and fragments of hand-made pottery of Iron Age type were found in `ancient dwellings' on Grassholm before 1951. The first modern archaeological survey on the island was carried out by D.B. Hague, then of the RCAHMW, in 1972. Hague initially visited the island in 1963 with the naturalist R.M. Lockley, who had observed during a visit in 1956 that structures were being revealed by the caustic effect of seabird guano, which was killing the dense mattress of Festuca rubra on the western side of the island and exposing the light soil beneath. The visit was brief and only a rough plan of the settlement was made, but Hague returned to the island in 1972 and, during a five day stay, was able to survey and carefully excavate the exposed remains.

Hague's settlement was comprised of three conjoined structures. In the centre was a rectangular shaped house, 9.5 metres by 8 metres, constructed of mixed orthostats and coursed masonry, and standing c. 0.3 metres high. This was abutted to the south by a slightly larger building, 9.5 metres by 11.5 metres, and to the north by a rounded enclosure, 13 metres in diameter. Field walls were traced radiating out from this cluster of buildings to the north and east.

New aerial photography by the RCAHMW in 2001 and 2011, has revealed even more structures on the island. Nestled between rock outcrops on the eastern side of the island are the remains of walls and rectangular structures, covered by tussocky grass. In the lee of a rock outcrop in the centre of the island is a circular building that is likely to be a roundhouse. The prehistoric pottery and roundhouse shows potential for very early settlement on the island, but equally tantalising is the possibility that the main rectangular structures date from Viking, or Early Christian times. The island seems to have been used as a target for bombing practice by the United States Air Force during the Second World War, leaving bomb craters and fragments.

O Davis, RCAHMW, 30 January 2012

2. The island has been visited for the purposes of archaeological fieldwork and reconnaissance on 13/10/2012 and 14/10/2016 in the company of the RSPB.

T. Driver & L. Barker, RCAHMW, 17/10/2016

BIBLIOGRAPHY & SOURCES

Barker, L., Davis, O.P., Johnston, R. and Driver, T. 2012. Puffins amidst prehistory: re-interpreting the complex landscape of Skomer Island. In W. Britnell and R. Silvester (eds). Reflections on the past: essays in honour of Frances Lynch, 280-302. Welshpool: Cambrian Archaeological Association.
Davies, J.L., Hague, D.B. and Hogg, A.H.A. 1971. The hut-settlement on Gateholm,
Pembrokeshire. Archaeologia Cambrensis120,102-10.
Davis, O.P. 2012a.The archaeology of Grassholm Island, Pembrokeshire. Studia Celtica 46, 1-10.
Davis, O.P. 2012b. A LiDAR survey of Skokholm Island, Gateholm Islet and the
Marloes Peninsula, Pembrokeshire. Archaeologia Cambrensis 160, 115-32.
Driver, T. 2007. Pembrokeshire: historic landscapes from the air. Aberystwyth: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.
Evans, J.G. 1990. An archaeological survey of Skomer, Dyfed. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 56, 247-67.
Grimes, W.F. 1939. National Museum of Wales Guide to the Collection Illustrating the
Prehistory of Wales. Cardiff: National Museum of Wales.
Hague, D.B. 1972a. A Survey and Provisional Account of an early settlement on Grassholm. Unpublished: Within the Hague Archive at the NMRW, Aberystwyth.
Hague, D.B. 1972b. Grassholm. Archaeology in Wales 22, 40-1.
Hague, D.B. 1994. Lighthouses of Wales. Pontypool: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.
Johnston, R., Barker, L., Davis, O. and Driver, T. 2012. Geophysical survey on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire. Unpublished: Archived at the NMRW, Aberystwyth.
Jones, G., Jones, T. and Jones, M. (trans). 1993. The Mabinogion. London: Everyman.
Lane, A. 1988. Grassholm. In N. Edwards and A. Lane (eds). Early medieval settlements in Wales, AD400-1100, 81. Bangor and Cardiff: University College of North Wales and University College Cardiff.
Lethbridge, T.C. and David, H.E. 1930. Excavation of a house-site on Gateholm, Pembrokeshire. Archaeologia Cambrensis 85, 366-74.
Lockley, R.M. 1957. Grassholm: some facts and a legend. Nature in Wales 3, 382-88.
Ordnance Survey 495 card, SM 50 NE 1. Available for consultation at the Commission Library, Aberystwyth.

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