Chirk Castle Excavations 2021
In September 2021, over a period of 11 days, CPAT delivered a third season of community excavation at Chirk Castle. The project, with continuing additional funding support from the AONB and National Trust, aimed to further explore a range of buildings associated with the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century history of the site.
An evaluation in 2019 revealed the remains of buildings depicted in eighteenth century mapping and paintings, and this area was further explored in 2020 revealing a rich sequence of workshop buildings and associated industrial features. Based on limited dating evidence it was initially concluded in 2020 that the workshop buildings appeared to have been built as part of the reconstruction of the castle after the Civil War.
A combination of both an improved training environment and volunteer skills base allowed the 2021 excavations to be more intrusive.
Subsequently the rooms within the north wing of the building were uncovered and floors, drains, pits and culverts were excavated revealing both the date and nature of the underlying foundation material. Although in-situ dating material was sparse, limited to a few lead weights, fragments of clay pipe and contemporary ceramic, there was evidence of altered partition walls and backfilled drains giving testimony to multiple phases of occupation and use. The earliest phase dated from the late 17th century continuing into the 18th century.
The original 18th century mapping indicated that the building had a south wing. Therefore the 2021 excavations were extended to include an area south, downslope of the main trench. Within two of the trenches were revealed the partial remains of an exterior wall, 0.6m wide, with associated internal clay floors. The nature of the build and orientation, east to west, suggests this to be evidence of the south wing of the building. Unfortunately, the location of our trenches appears to have placed our investigation over the exterior southernmost wall, only partially revealing the internal floors and subsequently removing the opportunity to investigate associated rooms and further possible workshops.
This concluded the 2021 excavation at Chirk Castle. As part of a longer-term strategy, the National Trust are considering the possibility of reconsolidating and displaying the building remains together with appropriate interpretation boards. To this end the remains were covered with protective matting and the trenches subsequently re-instated with minimal covering to facilitate the possibility of further work on the site.
Following the success of the previous years volunteer experience, CPAT again delivered a number of on-line workshop/induction sessions covering the historical background, results of previous excavations, project aims followed by a guide through the necessary site safety regulations and safe working practice. Volunteers were also able to participate in the ever popular ‘Finds Workshop’, where individuals are afforded the opportunity to help with post excavation processing. To summarise, a total of 23 people volunteered over a period of 11 days, accruing 624 working hours on site. This included participation in the Open Days helping with site tours and general engagement with the visiting public. Upon completion of post excavation analysis the results of the 2019-21 excavation of the ‘West Building’ at Chirk Castle will be presented in a formal CPAT report, forthcoming 2022.