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Llantarnam Abbey – Nothing to see here…

July 16, 2016

So I haven’t blogged for a while, who cares eh?

I finally put forward an article to get published. And it has. Is it there to be challenged? Of course, if you feel my work is incorrect, please do – that is what archaeology is all about. You can find it in the latest publication of the Monmouthshire Antiquary. I will put the article up within its entirety  after I have explained my latest thoughts.

This blog post has nothing to do with the journal whatsoever. Please do not, on any account,  link each one with the other.

Is it a big thing getting published?  – No it is not.

If you carry out archaeological research it should be a requisite that you publish – otherwise what is the point?

Am I happy? –  No I am not.

The medieval landscape that Llantarnam Abbey created, and developed, for over 300 years is still being destroyed as each development goes by. The latest cock up is as big an archaeological cluster-fuck as you can get. It is to do with the development of the  site at the old comprehensive school in Llantarnam.

This is a brutal read; but people have to be  accountable for this, currently they are not. This is not a finite resource we are destroying here, there will not always be something to investigate, post development archaeology confuses the issue.  The quiet approach of ‘lets make sure this does not happen again’ is fine with a lot of people; but when that is conveyed verbally, it gets forlornly forgotten. And it has, again. People never remember a punch in the face if it never actually happens. Well, take this on the chin and bloody well buckle up – do your jobs properly please. This is getting embarrassing now.

This site is situated on the grange of Ysgubor Cwrt, now re-named as Court Farm. It is a big old grange, the home grange no doubt, with lots of archaeology left within Cwmbrâns developed landscape.  It is  a pleasure to investigate both in the field and cartographically if you are of the monastic landscape persuasion.  It had a farmhouse, barns – hence the name – and a few mills. It straddled a canalised brook and river (The Dowlais and Afon lwyd) which then fed long mill leats, that were probably utilised as  canals to deliver grain to the said mills. The leats could also easily have been used as  watering channels for cattle and sheep, utilised as fisheries, while providing the necessary fluid for water meadows on a wide scale. After all of that, the water from both systems had been managed and curtailed into the grounds of the outer court of the abbey and by means of a sluice gate, they  undoubtedly flushed the latrines of the inner court before being guided back into the lwyd. All handy stuff for the abbey, and something they (Cistercian abbeys) were well accustomed to on a european wide scale.

That being said, you can imagine my excitement when I asked for the archaeological desktop report… I had visions of excavations, community projects, environmental  analysis (which would be a first, but lets not forget the developer is paying for this), and all round archaeological investigation. I was excited, and rightly so. It is  ripe for archaeological investigation.It offers up an archaeological cherry that an archaeologist should want to bite. But they didn’t. They were blind to the fruit being offered. To them it was an acorn…

The archaeological desktop report is fascinating – because there isn’t one. I am very tempted to copy and paste the replies I received off both the Gwent Glamorgan Archaeological Trust and the planning department at Torfaen County Borough Council. I won’t though, you’ll all think I am making them up. Yeah, things are that bad. It is a sad state of affairs when a landscape medievalist, who relegates his archaeology to hobby  level,   has to blog because those that are supposed to have knowledge do not do what they are paid for. Various people, within organsiations, are not doing what they are paid to do.

I have received some mind boggling replies to my enquiries on this,  ‘There was not a need to compile one as there was no archaeology watching brief carried out while the school was constructed’ The planning officer from TCBC said that she ‘didn’t see the need for one’. It really is outstanding stuff and is top drawer if you like to to pat professional  incompetence on its back. You know that first edition Ordnance Survey they carried out? Scrap it, it is obviously worthless.

It is poor, fraudulent, archaeology. It all stems from archaeological identity; how archaeologists view a site.

It is why I wasted thousands of words explaining it. Stop it archaeologists, you have a job to do, one of those is not looking back at the investigative history of a site. Unfortunately, those who have the power to  act do not have a comprehensive understanding of a medieval landscape. For shame.

I’m glad I have got through this post by being ultra polite. The  article will follow.








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