Remains of 240 adults and children unearthed at ex-department storeOctober 11, 2022
Archaeologists reveal remains of up to 240 adults and children unearthed on site of former department store: Skulls and bones with battle injuries are dug up from medieval priory dating back 600 years
- Experts found the skeletons in what is believed to be an ancient burial ground
- Bones were first discovered at the site earlier this year by a group of builders
- Archaeologists then took over the dig, before unearthing the medieval friary
- Many of the bodies are suspected by experts to be victims of an historic battle
Archaeologists have revealed that the remains of 240 adults and children have been uncovered at the site of a former department store that unknowingly sat above a 600-year-old medieval priory.
Experts found hundreds of skeletons in what is believed to be an ancient burial ground of the mysterious friary of St Saviour in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire – founded by a Dominican order of monks around 1256 .
Bones were first discovered at the site earlier this year by builders digging foundations for a redevelopment project at the former Ocky Whites department store, which closed in 2013.
A team of experts subsequently took over the dig, before unearthing the medieval friary dating back 600 years.
Archaeologists have described the site as a ‘hugely significant’ complex with reading rooms, stables, and even a hospital.
It is believed that the site may have been used until the early 18th century.
Around half of the remains are that of children, which experts say highlights their high mortality rate at the time.
Many of the bodies are also suspected to be victims of an historic battle after they were found with head injuries consistent with wounds that could have been caused by arrows or musket balls.
A team of archaeologists pictured excavating at the long-lost holy site in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire
Some of the bones discovered during the dig, where remains of more than 200 people were uncovered
Bones were first discovered at the site earlier this year by builders, before the dig was taken over by experts
Archaeologists have described the site as a ‘hugely significant’ complex with reading rooms, stables, and even a hospital
Historians have said believe the site is the ancient burial ground of the mysterious friary of St Saviour
The team of archaeologists are pictured with bones, items and other artefacts discovered during the dig
One theory is that the site is a mass grave following a raid on the town by Welsh prince Owain Glyndwr, in the early 15th century.
Site supervisor Andrew Shobbrook, from Dyfed Archaeological Trust, said the injuries were consistent with signs of battle.
He said: ‘It’s quite a prestigious place to be buried. You have a range of people, from the wealthy to general townsfolk.’
Mr Shobbrook added: ‘We know that the town was besieged in 1405 by Owain Glyndr and they could be victims of that conflict.
All the bones are being analysed before they will be reburied at local consecrated grounds.
Tiles and other artefacts were also found in the dig and are now being stored in a nearby disused shop, where they are being dried and cleaned.
Archaeologist Gaby Lester said: ‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would involved in something so big.
‘The site is showing itself to be massive part of the history of Haverfordwest and Pembrokeshire.
Tiles and other artefacts were also found in the dig and are now being stored in a nearby disused shop
The items will are now being dried and cleaned by experts after being extracted during the dig
The old Ocky Whites building is currently being redeveloped into a three-storey local food and beverage emporium
‘It can be slightly overwhelming at times but it’s also quite humbling to be part of that person’s journey.’
The friary of Dominican Order is believed to have stood in Haverfordwest for about three centuries.
The Dominicans, or Black Friars, had a different agenda to most monastic orders in that they went amongst the population, preaching, praying and teaching.
DAT Archaeological Services started work at the site known as Ocky Whites in February and is scheduled to be at the site until next January.
The old Ocky Whites building is currently being redeveloped into a three-storey local food and beverage emporium with bar and rooftop terrace.
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