18th Century Inscribed Stone found in Welshpool
Right: Datestone found during building work in Welshpool.
Earlier today, Wednesday 1st March, workmen told us here at CPAT of an 'interesting stone' they had found whilst demolishing an old store building located in a public alleyway, Hopkin's Passage, just round the corner from our offices in Welshpool. Your intrepid archaeological reporter was despatched to investigate...
This 'stone' turned out to be an inscribed datestone, presumed to be originally from a local building. This reads: Evans/ Edm.d. Mary/1723. We take this to mean "This building has been erected (or rebuilt) for (or by) Edmund and Mary Evans, in the year 1723". This was not a portion of a gravestone.
Left: View of whole site from above. The stone was found in the upper right corner where the foundation trench is now cut.
The border to this inscription is a cut groove, with an outer bevelled edge. The back has been left rough-cut to help bind it to mortar used to fix it in place in some recessed panel. It is likely this was once located high up on a public-facing wall. It measures 65cm (25½ inches) by 40cm (15¾ inches) by 10cm (4 inches) thick, and is made of local mudstone (similar to a gritty shale or slate). The photo here shows how it looks just after it was found.
You will see it is broken into three pieces, but these are older breaks not made by the workmen and it must have been in this condition before or just after being placed in the ground. It was found face-down in the floor make-up layer of the store building. I have included a shot of this for your interest.
This store may have earlier been a small workshop or even a lowly dwelling, as evidence of a fireplace, flue and space for a 'copper' used for heating water, could be seen in one remaining wall. It is doubtful whether an inscribed stone of this quality had anything to do with a humble building such as this, other than being its last resting place.
Right: Surviving gable end wall of former store. Note evidence of hearth (on the right hand side) and chimney flue (above) suggesting that it may have once been a dwelling or workshop.
The quality of the overall workmanship of the mason who made it is very high, with beautifully cut, curly letters typical of an early 18th century date. The border groove and bevel is also nicely cut - straight as a die! The overall condition of this piece (apart from the breaks) is very good, with little or no sign of wear - as one might expect, indicating that this was never reused as a door threshold or floor slab (at least, not face-up).
Who Edmund and Mary Evans were, and where they lived in 1723 in not known to us. Perhaps you can help? Presumably, they were from Welshpool, but this is not clear.
You will be pleased to know that the owner of the small storage building - now demolished - has agreed to incorporate the datestone into the front wall of the new replacement store that he is having built on the same site. Although this may not be this stone's original location, it is fitting that the populace of Welshpool may look upon, appreciate and ponder over this intriguing snippet of local archaeology.
Phil Copleston, 1st March 2000