Archaeologists in Flint find ditch built by Edward I to defend English against Prince of Wales

By Ben Miller | 16 June 2015

Defensive ditches built to deter Prince of Wales, tobacco pipe and more found in deep trenches in Flint

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
A post-excavation photo of the medieval bank and ditch found in Flint, in north-east Wales© Archaeology Wales
Archaeologists are continuing their investigations into defences which were part of Flint, the fortified town built by King Edward I against the Prince of Wales, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, in 1277.

Archaeology Wales began digging beneath Coleshill Street, in the south-west corner of the old town, following initial evidence at the end of 2014 showing that an inner medieval defensive rampart and ditch could survive from the foundation of the town.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
The beginnings of the medieval defensive bank were visible below the ground surface© Archaeology Wales
“The ditch is turning out to be very deep – more than 1.5 metres in total,” says Kate Pitt, the project manager.

“We are stepping the sides of our excavations for health and safety reasons.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
The brown silt of the filled-in ditch, associated with the banked defences© Archaeology Wales
"Once recorded, the deposits will be removed at the top of the ditch section, and the creation of this step will allow us to go deeper and continue into the earlier deposits lower down at the base of the ditch.

“It appears that the ditch is cut quite steeply downwards, as you would expect for a defensive ditch, making it much harder to cross and attack the town.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
The brown ditch running alongside the yellow-brown bank© Archaeology Wales
“The lower fills of the ditch are of red sandy-silt clay, which may indicate the ditch was filled with tidal water, similarly to the moat around Flint Castle itself.”

Pitt and her team have consulted Stuart cartographer John Speed’s map of the town, published in 1810, to aid their research.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
Excavation through the defensive bank in the southern area of the site© Archaeology Wales
“It is seen that the town’s defensive ditches do run up close to the estuary, so material may have washed in with the tides,” she says.

“In the southern area of the site, a trench through the defensive bank is underway.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
Archaeologists say the cleaning process was time-consuming and meticulous© Archaeology Wales
"This is to give information on the construction methods and materials of the bank ramparts.”

A ditch of clay-like red deposits has produced a tobacco pipe and slipware pottery from the 17th and 18th centuries.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
The bank extended across the site to the south© Archaeology Wales
A late 19th century public house, The Three Pigeons, demolished to allow for the widening of the street in 2002, was also identified at an early stage.

Archaeology Wales used shovels, hoes and trowels to clean the yellow-brown medieval bank, standing more than a metre high beneath the pub debris.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
Each layer has been numbered and recorded in detail© Archaeology Wales
A backfilled, mixed soil trench led to the excavation of the wall.

“A large section through the ditch has been excavated for a good look at the shape and depth of the defensive ditch and adjacent bank together,” says Pitt.

“It became apparent that the medieval bank survived and extended across the site to the south.

“The ditch is intersected with the brick walls of the pub.

"We hired a tracked excavator to reduce the pub walls across the site.

“The machine worked from the central concrete foundation of the pub remains.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
The Three Pigeons was constructed in around 1880© Archaeology Wales
"This was a chosen vantage point where we could gain access without churning up any archaeological deposits.”

Edward created Flint as one of a series of towns offering economic strength amid hostile regions of conquered Wales.

A photo of a brownfield archaeology site in a town centre surrounded by excavators
An overhead image of a medieval culvert following the removal of capping stones© Archaeology Wales
Flint’s medieval symmetrical street pattern appears to have survived until the 1960s, when redevelopment shaped parts of the town.


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Badly written, you say. John Speed was what in 1610?
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