Excavation Report for May 20 – 21 2017.

After a short rain shower, two Diggers commenced operations in the Workshops (Area D) at Cwmbyr. We cleared more shale from the pile of ironwork and soon found a concrete floor. More ironwork and sheets of perforated zinc with interwoven iron sheets appeared from the debris. Clearly at the close of the mine or just after iron from the site was gathered into certain buildings for removal from site. In this case, some metal was left for us to study. One interesting casting could either be from a Trommel or a “Blow George.”

The concrete floor proved to be divided into boxes by walls of plaster blocks set on edge. These walls appear to have stood less than 50 cms high. The use of these structures provided much to discuss over the weekend with no conclusive ending. More excavation discovered a second area of partitioning and further extensions of the concrete floor. Did expect the workshop to be a Blacksmiths, but so far, we seem to be in a store, yet on the north side of the building we have a bread oven, i.e. domestic.

With more diggers on the Sunday, the clearing of the floor level was pursued with vigour, exposing more of the Tuyere found during our April weekend. Under the grey shale was a fine dark brown layer of decayed wood was revealed. This soon developed into the shape of a pair of bellows and still attached to the Tuyere. Several short flat headed nails along the edges of the bellows showed how the leather had been secured. At the broad end of the bellows an iron loop suggested it was operated by a cord being pulled by hand to create the blast for the Blacksmith’s fire. However, no signs of a fire or ironworking have been found in the workshop, so we are still left with what appears to a storage area.

To add to the storage impression, a round dark red object of 23 cms diameter was discovered under the shale. When turned over it was the wooden base of a small barrel, suggesting the dark red material was dried red lead paint. The wooden sides of the barrel had decayed leaving the base and the paint.

A doorway south into building “E” revealed a floor area of burnt clay and wood, very suggestive of the building having been burnt down.

Much remains to be done at Cwmbyr to improve our knowledge of the site and its uses. Quite sizable areas of shale require moving to permit work on other areas of the workshop floor. The bread oven needs to be explored with the possible site of a chimney and fireplace nearby to discover.

Many thanks to the hardy band of diggers who help to make a weekend in mid Wales so enjoyable.

Nigel A. Chapman. May 22 2017.