This is the second part of an ongoing series by Heritage Action member Sue Brooke. As Sue herself said as an introduction to the first part of the series:
“I was brought up in the Caerau area. I went to school here and brought my children up here. As a kid I used the Caerau Hillfort area many times as a short-cut to what I now view as beautiful walks towards Michaelston-le-Pit. I had no idea what this area contained until many years later when I moved to a new house built in to what I now know are the Iron Age fortifications of Caerau Hillfort. I’ve spent quite a few years finding out about this hillfort and, on the way, have collected quite a lot of bits and bobs of research. I started to write this down and it has grown and changed many times as my knowledge increased. Many people have helped me with this – I haven’t done it on my own.
The area has been the target of vandalism, particularly to the old church which stands in one of two, possibly medieval, ring works. One day I was there with my son moaning on about the damage that kids had done – I knew it was kids as they had kindly left their names written in marker pen on the remaining archway. My son pointed out that the kids just didn’t know the value of the site. How could they as no-one had told them. That was fair comment. This has been written just as a brief look at what happened in order to do just that and what was to lead eventually to the site starring in its very own Time Team episode.“
All images are the author’s own.
‘It’ was a large, muddy field full of lumps and bumps. It was quite possible to see the ditches and the ramparts within this field. The defensive lines of the ditches have been mentioned in many articles as multi-vallate but seeing them for the first time was quite amazing. The ramparts themselves are still very obvious. We took loads of photos and actually realised that some kind of encampment was here, in this field and not in the second ring work near the church, as impressive as this is. This field, a kind of triangular shape had a walled spring or well in one corner and appeared to have been left just as it was. Of course, horses and cows had been kept there, the evidence of them was all around my feet, but to me, a complete but enthusiastic amateur it appeared untouched.
I think the words ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘amateur’ are relevant here. I was of course completely bitten by the bug. I wandered around the area, looked at all the available books I could find and generally bored people to death on the subject. Then I began to get the hang of historical research methods. I found some information was simply being repeated in other publications and not founded in new research. I got the hang of following references and made sure that everything I wrote was my own work and verified by me rather than just regurgitating work of others. My written research had changed quite a few times since I started it. Here it changed again.
I couldn’t understand though what the Romans would have been doing here. I’m afraid that history lessons in school came and went. I couldn’t remember a thing about the Romans. I was really lucky in that a colleague, Jeff O’Sullivan was a history graduate! Thank you to Jeff who explained things, (often at a very simple level, bless him), and led to me gaining a greater understanding of this rather complicated period in history. He also believed in what I was trying to do.
By now I’d amassed loads of work and experience and confidence. I decided to write it down what I had in some kind of order. Then it started to grow. CADW (Welsh word meaning to keep or preserve) is the Welsh Government’s historic environment service so I thought I’d drop them an email. They were absolutely brilliant in helping me. They sent me as much information as they held, including copies of maps. They explained that the area was a Scheduled Ancient Monument (deserted medieval village) and what that meant. So, with this new found confidence and, thanks to this CADW information I began to write yet another draft in relation to early life in Caerau.
Then I stumbled across the Portable Antiquities Scheme. When out and about we had picked up some bits and pieces that I needed to be interpreted, I wanted them to be included in my book if they were relevant. So, another email went out to Mark Lodwick, the Finds Liaison Officer based within National Museum of Wales. He replied and invited me to forward my work to him. He would have a look at it then we would meet to discuss it in more detail. So I did and we met.
Mark is an amazing person to talk with. Bearing in mind he was faced with a complete novice, albeit an enthusiastic one, he was very patient, encouraging and overall very knowledgeable. He had gone to the trouble to read and make notes on my research. He was able to point me in the direction of books I may like to read and also people I may like to contact. He didn’t for one minute think I was potty; in fact he was really interested.
When talking with Mark my carefully photographed stone walls turned, as if by magic, into evidence of revetments, possibly Iron Age. My V shaped very steep ditch was interpreted as the entrance to a hillfort. My ‘very-shiny-when-wet’ stone turned into a whet stone.
In fact, he managed, if that was at all possible, to make me even more enthusiastic. Thank you so much.
to be continued…