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Lost City of Trellech found under a field in Wales

Ian Harvey

Trellech, a 13th century lost Welsh city, may be slowly coming to light from under the earth of a farmer’s field.  Bringing this city back to the light of day is not, however, being accomplished by a massive archaeological team from a distinguished university, but rather by the enthusiasm of an amateur archaeologist called Stuart Wilson.

Wilson, a toll collector who earned an undergraduate degree in archaeology, listened to a farmer recounting tales of how moles on his land were bringing bits and pieces of pottery up to the surface in their molehills.  This fascinated Wilson, and in 2004 he spent his entire life’s savings, £32,000, to buy a 4.6-acre field from the farmer and begun to dig.

Under the earth in a farmer’s field Photo Credit
Under the earth in a farmer’s field Photo Credit

Wilson has worked with over 1,000 volunteers over the years to unearth eight buildings.  Artifacts uncovered, in addition to the buildings, include bronze buckles, a gold plated buckle, various wooden objects, pieces of pottery (including one almost complete pot that is over 600 years old), leather shoes, and other iron and stone items.  One find that was far older than the town was a flint knapping kit that Wilson believes dates from the Neolithic period.

In an interview with The Guardian, Wilson explained that this year he would be working to finish uncovering a manor house surrounded by a moat, but that working to bring the entire city back to the light of day would probably take the rest of his life.

Financing for the project, which has cost an estimated £200,000 over the past 15 years, has been funded largely through online donations where, for the sum of £50, you can purchase an archaeologist’s pack, be given a tour of the site, and be allowed to help on the dig.

The original town of Trellech lies in the hills above the River Wye valley between Monmouth and Chepstow.  The buildings that have been uncovered so far at the dig have all been built of stone, which may well have given rise to the name of the town – “Tre” means town and “llech” means stone, so putting them together gives the town of stone or Trellech.

This medieval town was founded in 1245 A.D. by the De Clare family, with the principal aim of producing iron.  Iron was an important commodity in the 13th century as it was used to produce weapons, armor, and other military equipment.

The town rapidly grew to hold around 10,000 inhabitants or around a quarter of the population of London.   In 1314, the De Clare family died out, and the town rapidly fell into decline; war and plague eventually led to its almost-complete collapse, Fox News reported.

Trellech shown within Monmouthshire Photo Credit
Trellech shown within Monmouthshire Photo Credit


The history of the British Isles and especially of Wales has been significantly enhanced by the work done on this site.

Stuart Wilson took a huge gamble when he bought a farmer’s field instead of a house so many years ago, but the treasures that he has brought up are priceless.

Read another story from us: The Middleham Jewel: outstanding example of medieval craftsmanship found near the Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire

This story of a man who was mocked but went on to prove his gut feeling to be correct has the makings of a fairy tale.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News