Skeletons: Remains of 240 people under Haverfordwest storeon October 11, 2022 at 5:07 am

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Remains of more than 240 people, half of them children, are found at medieval priory in west Wales.

Archaeologists working on the site

The remains of more than 240 people, including children, have been unearthed by archaeologists working on the remnants of a medieval priory found beneath a former department store.

The “hugely significant” discovery was made under the old Ocky White building in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.

Archaeologists believe the ruins are from St Saviour’s Priory, founded by a Dominican order of monks in about 1256.

One expert said it offered a “window into medieval Haverfordwest”.

Ocky White was a popular store for more than a century before its riverside premises closed in 2013.

Remains including skull and jaw bone

Site supervisor Andrew Shobbrook, from Dyfed Archaeological Trust, described the priory as a significant complex of buildings with dormitories, scriptoriums – rooms devoted to writing and manuscripts – stables and a hospital.

“It’s quite a prestigious place to be buried. You have a range of people, from the wealthy to general townsfolk,” he said.

It is believed that the graveyard could have been used until the early 18th Century.

Scaffolding erected on site of Ocky White store
Scaffolding erected on frontage of former Ocky White store

About half of the remains are those of children, which is said to be a reflection of their high mortality rate at the time.

All the bones will be analysed by a specialist before being reburied on consecrated ground nearby.

Some of the remains have been found with head injuries, consistent with having been in battle, and the wounds could have been caused by arrows or musket balls, according to Mr Shobbrook.

Boxes and bags of remains and artefacts
Tiles have also been found at the site
Skull and fragments of bones

One theory is that the victims could date from an attack led by Owain Glyndŵr, who was the last native Welsh person to hold the title Prince of Wales.

It was a joint assault by Welsh and French forces, who had united to battle English occupation of Wales.

“We know that the town was besieged in 1405 by Owain Glyndŵr and they could be victims of that conflict,” said Mr Shobbrook.

The remains and other finds, including tiles, are being stored at a nearby disused shop after being cleaned and dried.

Andrew Shobbrook and Gaby Lester

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would involved in something so big,” said archaeologist Gaby Lester.

“The site is showing itself to be massive part of the history of Haverfordwest and Pembrokeshire.

“It can be slightly overwhelming at times but it’s also quite humbling to be part of that person’s journey.”

The site is being redeveloped to become a food emporium, bar and rooftop terrace.

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