Cosmeston Community Archaeology Project
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Archaeology and history of Cosmeston medieval settlement
The Cosmeston medieval settlement site was discovered during excavations by the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd. in 1977 and 1982, in response to a development threat close to the known site of 'Cosmeston Castle'. Archaeological investigations revealed the remains of 13th and 14th century stone buildings, the Local Authority then invited the Trust to undertake a long term research programme. Cardiff University is now investigating the large archive of archaeological finds from the GGAT excavations as part of the new project, and conducting ongoing investigations such as landscape survey and excavation to increase knowledge about this unique site.

Excavations by Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd. Copyright Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.
Excavations by Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.
Image © Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Formerly in the Welsh kingdom of Morgannwg, Cosmeston lies within the lands conquered by the Norman lord Robert Fitzhammon, and established as the lordship of Glamorgan. One of his followers was the de Constentin family, from the Constentin peninsular in northern France, who became the first known lords of the manor at Constentinstune (Cosmeston) 'the place of the Constentins'. By 1317 the manor had passed to the de Caversham family and then to the Herbert family by 1550. During the 19th century the Bute family, famous for rebuilding Cardiff Castle and the industrialisation of Cardiff's coal port, became the owners of Cosmeston.

Village reconstruction. Copyright Glamorgan Gwent 
              Archaeological Trust Ltd.
Village reconstruction. Image © Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

In the medieval period the manor of Cosmeston was a sub-manor of Sully, forming part of the lordship of Glamorgan, and similar in size to the present day parish of Lavernock.

The administrative centre of the manor was the manor house, which at Cosmeston has been historically known as a 'castle'. In south Wales manor houses of this period were often heavily fortified and 15th century references to Cosmeston mention a tower or corner bastion, it appears to have been abandoned by 1437. Evidence of a manorial garden and dovecot have also been found in the field south-west of the manor house.

Medieval Fair Event at the village 2007. Image © Karolina Ploska.
Medieval Fair Event at the village 2007. Image © Karolina Ploska.

The peasant farmers, who held land from the lord of the manor, usually produced enough food to sustain their families, provide rent for the land, and in a good year a surplus which could be traded for money. At Cosmeston, in common with other local villages, their buildings were made from locally available limestone bedded in courses and mortared with clay. Each homestead was located within a block of land known as a croft, typically 11/2 -2 acres in size. At Cosmeston boundaries of some crofts can be seen as earthworks in a field on the opposite side of the modern B4267 road, the original medieval route being through the village. The farmstead, a group of three buildings grouped around a central yard at Cosmeston, is very interesting as many medieval farms in Wales consisted of a 'longhouse' where people and animals lived at either end of the same building, and not separately as in this case.The enclosed fields of the manorial lord were known as the demesne, over which the peasants could not exercise common rights of grazing, woodcutting or hunting.

This planned and managed landscape is likely to have existed around Cosmeston as a direct consequence of the Norman conquest and settlement of the Vale of Glamorgan in the early 12th century. Other types of settlement also included small hamlets and isolated farmsteads, two of which existed at nearby Sutton and Lavernock.

Cosmeston guide book © Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust

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