Final tally of bodies unearthed at Pembrokeshire archaeological dig tops 300
One of the most comprehensive archaeological digs in the history of Haverfordwest has drawn to a close having revealed over 300 bodies
Dyfed Archaeological Trust has completed the excavation which has uncovered finds believed to be nearly a thousand years old at the old Ocky White shop site on the town’s Bridge Street.
When Pembrokeshire County Council began work on the new food market being built in the centre of the town, the trust began investigations, quickly finding large numbers of skeletons on the demolition site.
Site supervisor Andrew Shobbrook, from Dyfed Archaeological Trust, confirmed that 307 skeletons have been found, with roughly 50 per cent of them being children.
The trust also released details of its latest finds – a replica pewter bowl and a patterned dish found in the arms of the skeleton of what is believed to be a priest.
The information unearthed by the dig, which has gone on for over six months, will be invaluable in painting a picture of Haverfordwest’s past, according to Mr Shobrook.
Speaking to the BBC he said that one theory behind the sheer number of bodies was that the victims were from the last Welsh war of independence.
“We know that the town was besieged in 1405 by Owain Glyndŵr and they could be victims of that conflict,” he said.
“It’s quite a prestigious place to be buried. You have a range of people, from the wealthy to general townsfolk.”
In 1405 a French force sailed to Pembrokeshire to join up with Owain Glyndŵr’s forces, landing at Milford Haven. Henry IV demanded that the Welsh Marches rise up to resist the oncoming force.
The French attacked Haverfordwest, defeating an army there but did not manage to take the castle itself. They then moved on to Tenby, before plundering and burning Carmarthen alongside Owain Glyndŵr’s own forces.
The demolished department store in Haverfordwest is believed to be the site of St Saviour’s Priory, which was founded by a Dominican order of monks around 1256. But many of the bodies found there have been battle-scarred.
About half of the remains discovered are of children, but this only reflects the high mortality rate for the young at the time. It is thought the graveyard was in use up until the 18th century.
Gaby Lester, an archaeologist working on the site, said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be involved in something so big. The site is showing itself to be a massive part of the history of Haverfordwest and Pembrokeshire.
“It can be slightly overwhelming at times but it’s also quite humbling to be part of that person’s journey.”
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