Unexplained Remains of Children Found Near Welsh Medieval Friary Site
A dig to find the location of a 600-year-old medieval friary in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, has resulted in the macabre discovery of countless human remains. So far, nearly 100 skeletons have been dug up near the previously discovered foundations of the medieval friary site, which lies beneath a new Haverfordwest mall complex, and it is expected many more skeletons will be found.
Though exact numbers haven’t yet been arrived at, a tentative figure of 300 skeletons has been suggested by archaeologists. And at least one-third of the remains belong to children under the age of four.
The outlines of the ruins of the Friary of St Saviours, a medieval friary of the Dominican order, where countless, unexplained child remains have been found in an adjacent, separate medieval cemetery. (Andrew Shobbrook / Dyfed Archaeological Trust )
The St. Saviours Medieval Friary: Exploratory Dig Success
Haverfordwest has been long believed to be the site of the 13th-century Friary of St Saviours. Place names such as Friars Vaults and Friars Lane have bolstered this belief, reports the Western Telegraph . But the exact whereabouts of the Dominican order friary have remained a mystery.
The Pembrokeshire County Council decision to acquire the former Ocky Whites department store and knock it down to make way for a new food hall seemed a good opportunity to clear up the mystery.
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The announcement led to the Dyfed Archaeological Trust’s initial assessment of the land beneath the new food hall to learn more about the hazy past of the town and ensure that the mall project didn’t irrevocably damage the town’s medieval heritage . Records of financial transactions preserved in a local church have given archaeologists reason to believe that Haverfordwest was once the site of the medieval Friary of St Saviours.
The Metro quotes Fran Murphy, head of the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, as saying, “We know it’s there because of a series of monastic references, mainly records about money. At its height there were apparently eight friars who were part of the friary before it was dissolved and passed into private hands. It was dissolved in the 1530s with one of the friars scrubbing his name from the list of friars at the priory which is peculiar and might have been a protest to it closing.”
Before its dissolution, however, the Dominican order friary was in existence for nearly 300 years. The Dominicans were one of the four great mendicant orders (ie, they relied on alms to survive) of the Catholic Church . The order was founded in 1215 in Toulouse, France by St Dominic. Dominican friars, or Black Friars as they were popularly known, prioritized active ministry over contemplation and lived and worked among the people praying, blessing, and preaching.
Beneath the new Haverfordwest mall food court construction project lies the foundations of the medieval Dominican Friary of St Saviours, and not far away many unexplained skeletal remains. ( Dyfed Archaeological Trust )
Diggers Find More Than They Were Looking For!
It was in February this year that the Dyfed archaeologists began excavations at the Ocky Whites site, hoping to discover the ruins of the 600-year-old Friary of St Saviours. What they didn’t expect to find were hundreds of skeletal remains , which are, however, not thought to be directly linked to St Saviours.
It is known that the old Ocky Whites department store was built over the site of a 19th-century smithy and an early 13th-century cemetery. And it is from the latter site, the cemetery, that a growing number of human remains are now being unearthed. But it is puzzling that so many of the remains belong to children. Around 100 skeletons have already been found and there is a possibility of another 200, according to the Lad Bible .
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One of the skulls has a puncture wound and indications that the ears were mutilated. Although the cause of death is not yet confirmed, experts believe the puncture may have been caused by a projectile fired at the person, according to the Western Telegraph . According to some scholars this could be evidence of medieval warfare in the town.
Site manager for the dig Andrew Shobbrook is very excited about the opportunity the dig has provided for delving into the history of medieval Haverfordwest. “This is huge for us to find out more about the story of Haverfordwest. There has been very little archaeological extraction in the town and we are unearthing some fantastic finds,” the Western Telegraph reported.
One of these is a shield design found printed on a piece of tile. Experts have not yet been able to decipher the shield design that depicts three oak trees on a white shield. They have made an appeal to anyone who may know anything about the design to come forward and help them learn more about it.
Haverfordwest’s rich medieval past has hitherto been shrouded in mystery. Plans to tear down an obsolete building to make way for a local food and beverage plaza and bar have resulted in some extraordinary discoveries. The archaeological team is scheduled to be at the site until next January and more exciting finds can be expected.
Top image: Dyfed Archaeological Trust diggers standing in front of the boxes of artifacts found at what is thought to be the medieval friary site in Haverfordwest, Wales. Source: Dyfed Archaeological Trust
By Sahir Pandey
Jamshidian, H. 2022. Human remains found in Haverfordwest search for St Saviours . Available at: https://www.westerntelegraph.co.uk/news/20995766.human-remains-found-haverfordwest-search-st-saviours/.
Noble, G. 2022. Remains of up to 100 children have been found at holy site in Wales . Available at: https://www.ladbible.com/news/remains-of-100-children-found-at-holy-site-in-wales-20220912.
Robertson, K. 2022. Remains of up to 100 children found during dig at holy site in Wales . Available at: https://metro.co.uk/2022/09/11/remains-of-up-to-100-children-found-during-dig-at-holy-site-in-wales-17352330/?fbclid=IwAR1QTC2IqDVXbNLwj9gNfBmnBCYXzKsqwtqCMQSNsK3a8S_54qC3ICi6NwM.