North West Wales

Castle dig uncovers burial site and possible ancient church in Harlech

building found at Harlech
Image caption The building found could be a 16th century church

An archaeological dig near a castle in Gwynedd has uncovered human remains and what could be an old church building.

The dig is part of work to develop a new visitor centre at Harlech Castle which is a World Heritage Site.

The bones still need to be dated but the finds match information already known about the old Castle hotel site.

Cadw - the body which looks after Welsh historical monuments - held an open day there on Saturday.

"The dig is part of the redevelopment work for a new visitor centre and has unearthed a building which could be a church and also human remains in a Christian east/west orientation," said Dr Iestyn Jones from Archaeology Wales which has been commissioned by Cadw to carry out the work.

Dr Jones said the discovery, when added to other known facts about the area, pointed to it being a church dating from the 16th Century or earlier.

"An old local name for it is 'chapel yard' and there is a John Speed tithe map from 1610 which shows a church opposite the castle, with a note saying it was in extremely poor condition - which would suggest that it was a much older church which was by then disused."

Human bones have also been previously uncovered at the site, and this is noted in a travel journal written in 1808.

"However, there is no record of a link between the church and the castle, but the usual set up of a castle would be to have a church nearby, along with a market and mill - and all these elements are found in Harlech."

Dr Jones described the find as "extremely interesting" but said more work now needs to be done to check the various elements.

There are also plans to date the bones.

Harlech Castle is one of Edward I's fortifications in north Wales although there is mention of Harlech - which is in a prominent strategic location near the coast - as a site in the Welsh folk tales the Mabinogi.

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