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St Patrick's Chapel, Whitesands Bay

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Map ReferenceSM72NW
Grid ReferenceSM7337027230
Unitary (Local) AuthorityPembrokeshire
Old CountyPembrokeshire
CommunitySt Davids and the Cathedral Close
Type Of SiteCHAPEL
St Patrick's Chapel and its associated cemetery is situated in sand dunes overlooking Whitesands Bay. The chapel building was reportedly decayed by the 16th century. The building was first excavated in 1924, when a cross-incised stone was found. Erosion continued to affect the site, with human remains being periodically exposed. Graves were excavated in 1970. Human remains were exposed during the severe storms of 2013/2014, and a large-scale rescue excavation was undertaken by Dyfed Archaeological Trust and the University of Sheffield, followed by two further seasons of excavation in 2015 and 2016. Excavation revealed over 90 burials, with radiocarbon dating suggesting that the cemetery was in use from at least the 6th century through to the 11th century AD. The chapel is thought to date to the 11th century. Both years of excavation were recorded during RCAHMW aerial reconnaissance.
The cemetery was found to overly a possible Bronze Age funerary cairn constructed of water-worn beach boulders, and parallel soil marks, thought to represent an episode of ploughing, may be contemporaneous with the structure. A rectangular enclosure measuring 9m north-south x at least 4.2m east-west is thought to have been a cemetery enclosure and the earlier burials were located within it. The cemetery was found to have a total of eight burial phases, the first five consisting of graves cut straight into the sand. Cist burials began later, at around the time that burials began to be placed outside the cemetery wall, to the north, south and west of. Quartz pebbles were associated with some of the cist graves, particularly the infant burials. A total of four cross-incised stones, were found in association with the burials. One of these was in situ, at the head of a cist grave radiocarbon dated to the 7th- to 9th-century: the only known example from Britain of an in-situ early medieval grave marker. Another had been reused as a lintel slab for one of the infant graves. The chapel was constructed on top of the rectangular cemetery enclosure at a point when the walls had been filled in by wind-blown sand and the area contained within them had become a platform, over which a layer of rubble had been placed. A series of mainly infant graves had been dug through and into this soil and rubble, and the chapel may have been contemporary with some of these. A large number of small finds were revealed, including amber beads, crucible fragments, a blue glass bead and a Hiberno-Norse ring-pin.

Sources include:
Dyfed Archaeological Trust, 2016, Excavation at St Patrick's Chapel 2016: Interim Archaeological Report
University of Sheffield Department of Archaeology, 2018, Preserving Pembrokeshire's Past: The St Patrick's Chapel Excavation Project

N Vousden, 26 November 2018
application/pdfDAT - Dyfed Archaeological Trust ReportsDyfed Archaeological Trust report no 2016/59 entitled "Excavation at St Patrick's Chapel 2016 Interim Report.". Prepared for Cadw by K. Murphy, M. Shiner, H. Wilson and K. Hemer, September 2016.
application/pdfDAT - Dyfed Archaeological Trust ReportsDyfed Archaeological Trust report no 2016/61 entitled "Turnpike and Pre-Turnpike Roads. Medieval and Early Post-Medieval Sites. Scheduling Enhancement Project 2016.". Prepared for Cadw by Duncan Schlee and Huw Pritchard with Marion Page, April 2016.
application/pdfDAT - Dyfed Archaeological Trust ReportsDyfed Archaeological Trust report no 2015/35 entitled "Excavation at St Patrick's Chapel 2015 Interim Report.". Prepared for Cadw by K. Murphy, M. Shiner and H. Wilson, November 2015.