A SECRET HISTORY OF ELY; Historians Shed Light on Fascinating Iron Age Origins of City Suburb

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), October 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

A SECRET HISTORY OF ELY; Historians Shed Light on Fascinating Iron Age Origins of City Suburb


IT MAY be one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in all of Wales - and it is nestled unassumingly in the middle of a Cardiff estate.

The St Mary's Church site at Caerau Hill is home not only to the ruins of the church, but is also standing within the grounds of a huge Iron Age hillfort and next to a medieval ringwork.

And the tranquil site could soon be the focus of widespread attention, with a major heritage project in affiliation with Cardiff University due to get under way and rumours of interest from Channel 4 history show Time Team. We're expecting to silver and shiny swords. are looking evidence of how they lived, they experienced Local historian Sue Brooke and her husband David have been researching the area for the past six years and run educational visits to the site for schoolchildren.

Pet shop owner Sue said: "It is one of the biggest hillfort sites at least in southeast Wales, and probably in Wales."

David, 55, said the site was the "best-kept secret" in the capital.

"It's never been excavated and it's quite unique in Britain in that respect," he said.

Sue told the Echo the area was a "blank canvas" in terms of what could be discovered.

"We're not expecting to find gold, silver and beautiful shiny swords. What we are looking to find is evidence of the people, how they lived, how they experienced life and how that links in to the people here."

The 53-year-old added: "There's still lots of stories of different kings of Wales that would have been here and lots of myths and legends around the place."

The church - first built between 1254 and 1291, restored in the 1950s and now in ruins - and its graveyard are also home to a number of stories and mysteries.

Sue recently discovered the grave of a World War I soldier from a Canadian regiment in the church grounds.

"Things like that set you off," she said. "Was he buried here or was his death just commemorated here?" Sue's research has included looking at records of people who lived on or around the site - and included some intriguing findings.

"Itwas quite exciting. I foundmembers of my own family living here in 1871. They were my great-greatgrandparents."

The couple, who have six children between them, have run numerous education days at the site. Activities for children at the site have included dressing up in historical outfits, and even a session on medieval hair and beauty.

David, who manages a safety training academy, said: "The kids might think it's old and boring but with young people it's about making them learn without them realising they are learning, and that's where the events come in like the dressing up - they love it. …

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