Hundreds of skeletons found beneath old Pembrokeshire department store

Archaeologists find remnants of medieval priory under former Ocky White store in Haverfordwest

The remains of more than 240 people, including about 100 children, have been discovered beneath a former department store in Pembrokeshire among the ruins of a medieval priory.

Archaeologists believe they have discovered the remnants of St Saviour’s Priory underneath the former Ocky White store in Haverfordwest, which closed in 2013.

The priory has been described as “a significant complex of buildings” with dormitories, scriptoriums, stables and a hospital.

The site supervisor, Andrew Shobbrook, from Dyfed Archaeological Trust, said: “It’s quite a prestigious place to be buried. You have a range of people, from the wealthy to general townsfolk.”

The remains will be analysed before being reburied on consecrated ground. Some of the bodies have head injuries, consistent with battle injuries, and the wounds could have been caused by arrows or musket balls, Shobbrook told the broadcaster.

Among the ruins of the former priory are the remains of 240 people. About half the remains are those of children, a reflection of their high mortality rate at the time, the BBC reported. One theory is that the victims could date from an attack by French and Welsh forces, led by rebel leader Owain Glyndŵr.

“We know that the town was besieged in 1405 by Owain Glyndŵr and they could be victims of that conflict,” Shobbrook said.

Archaeologist Gaby Lester said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be involved in something so big. The site is showing itself to be massive part of the history of Haverfordwest and Pembrokeshire. It can be slightly overwhelming at times but it’s also quite humbling to be part of that person’s journey.”

It is thought that the site may have been used as a burial ground all the way up to the 18th century.

The friary of Dominican Order is believed to have stood in Haverfordwest for three centuries. The Dominicans, or Black Friars, had a different agenda from most monastic orders in that they went among the population, preaching, praying and teaching.

DAT Archaeological Services started work at the site known as Ocky White in February and is scheduled to be at the site until next January.

The site is being redeveloped to become a food emporium, bar and rooftop terrace.


Jamie Grierson

The GuardianTramp

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