Medieval Field of Dreams; History Buff Who Bought Plot of Land on a Hunch Uncovers a City

Daily Mail (London), January 4, 2017 | Go to article overview

Medieval Field of Dreams; History Buff Who Bought Plot of Land on a Hunch Uncovers a City


Byline: Tom Payne

WHEN Stuart Wilson saw a couple of bits of old pottery in a field, he had a hunch there might be more, a lot more, to be unearthed.

So he spent his PS32,000 savings on the plot of land... and started digging.

Some 13 years on, his hunch has proved more than correct - with the discovery of an entire medieval city beneath his field of dreams.

The site, near Mr Wilson's home in Monmouthshire, South Wales, has revealed the ruins of a settlement called Trellech.

A quarter the size of London at the time, Trellech was a major 13th century population centre, growing fast by supplying iron weapons to the allies of Edward I as he waged war on the Welsh.

Just as rapidly, it declined and it is believed to have been abandoned by the 15th century.

The discovery of Trellech is so important that volunteers have come from all over the world to help with the dig every summer since 2005. Visitors over the years include archaeologists from Japan, America, Holland and Germany.

They have now uncovered the remnants of eight buildings on the 4.6acre site and survey work in the field suggests there are as many as 50 houses waiting to be discovered.

Mr Wilson, 37, told yesterday how he parted with his savings and lived with his parents so he could buy the field.

At the time he was working as a toll booth worker on the Severn bridge and dabbled in archaeology in his spare time.

He bought the land at auction in 2004 and now plans to turn the ruins into a tourist attraction with a camp site and an exhibition centre.

Mr Wilson, from Chepstow, said: 'I should have really bought a house and got out from my parents, but I thought, "to hell with my parents, I shall buy a field instead". People said I must be mad.'

He added: 'This is a massive settlement dating back to the 13th century.

'At its peak, we're talking about a population of maybe around 10,000 people. In comparison, there were 40,000 in London, so it's quite large.

'This population grew from nothing to that size within 25 years.

'Now it took 250 years for London to get to 40,000 people, so we're talking a massive expansion. And that's just the planned settlement. The slums would have been quite numerous. There you would be talking even 20,000 plus. It's a vast area.'

Structures unearthed so far include a fortified manor house, an administrative building and a series of outbuildings next to the city's market.

Items uncovered during the dig include a jug, a roof finial for 'scaring off witches, pewter, bronze cauldrons, silver coins, lead weights and fragments of wood and leather. …

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