Clwyd-Powys Archaeology


Basingwerk Abbey

The Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust is starting a two week investigation of the land adjacent to Basingwerk Abbey, Holywell, on behalf of the Greenfield Valley Trust and Flintshire County Council.

The original Basingwerk Abbey was established in 1131 by Earl Ranulf of Chester as a Savignac monastery. It was later adopted by the Cistercian order and moved to its current location in 1157. In 1240, Daffydd ap Llywelyn granted the church of Holywell and the pilgrimage shrine chapel of St Winifred’s to Basingwerk, the two sites being linked by a pilgrimage trail along the valley to the southwest of the Abbey. The Abbey was dissolved in 1536, and subsequently left to ruin with the grounds being divided and redeveloped during the industrial revolution, during which part of the Abbey buildings were reused as a tanning yard, before eventually being abandoned in the early 20th century. Today the site forms part of the Greenfield Valley Heritage Park and Museum. The abbey is also a Scheduled Monument (FL001). 

During an archaeological evaluation in 2015 for the expansion of the Greenfield Valley Visitor Centre, evidence for Roman activity was discovered which included a post hole and ditch containing finds that dated to the 1st and 2nd century AD (Dodd, 2015). Furthermore, there have been additional Roman artefacts discovered within the Abbey grounds such as coinage (Guest & Wells, 2009), suggesting the possibility of Roman settlement activity.

Earlier this year, CPAT undertook a geophysical survey to determine the archaeological potential of the land immediately surrounding the scheduled Basingwerk Abbey which revealed several potential hotspots of activity, with possible buildings detected. Roman as well as medieval remains have been found in the area in the past, and the current work will help enhance understanding and management of the site.

The investigation will comprise a series of trenches that have been agreed with Cadw and the Clwyd-Powys archaeological planning advisor and excavation of these has  begun. Already we have found a fragment of decorated tile (right).

The excavations at Basingwerk will be conducted with volunteers under the supervision of CPAT archaeologists, with school visits and a public open day on Friday 20th October 2023.

Please contact Greenfield Valley Trust for more information

Basingwerk Abbey from the air in 1987

A decorated tile found during the initial machining of trenches at Basingwerk