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The site of St Patrick’s Chapel is a sandy, grassy mound lying between the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and a beach immediately to the north of a car park at Whitesands Bay, St Davids. Surprising little is known about the chapel prior to recent excavations.
In January 2014 the site was damaged when a series of almost continuous storms hit the west coast of Britain. Dyfed Archaeological Trust and the University of Sheffield, with financial support from Cadw and other organisations excavated the most damaged part of the site over a total of eight weeks in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The excavations demonstrated that a cemetery had been founded in the late eighth century AD and continued in use until at least the eleventh century. A stone-built chapel was built on the site in the twelfth/thirteenth century – this was ruinous by the sixteenth century.
Three more seasons of excavation are taking place as part of the Ancient Connections project. The first of these took place over three weeks in 2019, with two more three-weeks seasons planned for 2021. During the 2019 excavation the foundation walls of the western end of the stone-built chapel were recorded, carefully dismantled and the stone safely stored – the foundations will be rebuilt following completion of the excavation in 2021. Dismantling the foundations will allow for the excavation of the graves and archaeological deposits beneath the chapel during 2021. Outside the chapel the 2019 excavation uncovered several burials, several in stone-lined graves, called long cist graves, including some with crosses lightly scratched on the covering slabs indicating the Christian beliefs of the people buried on the site.
Members of the local community as well as volunteers from further afield are participating in the excavation under the supervision of professional archaeologists. Beyond direct engagement with the participants on the excavation, community outreach is an important element of the project and one member of staff is dedicated to giving guided tours of the excavation to visitors. It is anticipated that 6000 visitors will be shown around the site during each three-week excavation season.
To learn more about our excavations visit us at:
The Dyfed Archaeology Trust welcomes volunteers for the St Patrick’s Chapel digs in 2021. Due to the high level of interest in volunteering on dig sites, details for how to find out more about this opportunity will be advertised here once dates have been confirmed for the digs.
Date: July 2019 – March 2022
Funded by: Funded by The European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales co-operation fund and Cadw
In Partnership with:
Dyfed Archaeological Trust, The University of Sheffield, the PCNPA
Interim and final project reports. (Click to download)
‘Dig diaries’ of each year’s excavation
Guided tours are provided during each season of excavation
Talks to local and national groups and societies
Short items on TV news and programmes
Learn More at: www.dyfedarchaeology.org.uk