Broadcast 10 October 2010
Tregruk Castle in south Wales is today largely forgotten. An enormous ruined structure, it sits on a hilltop amongst dense woodland; nothing survives within the enclosing walls, but there is a massive keep gatehouse at the south-west corner, and a large residential tower at the north-west corner. In the medieval period, however, the castle formed part of the enormous estates of the de Clares, a powerful Welsh Marcher family, and this was an exceptionally large and well appointed residence, which survived in a habitable condition well into the 17th century; the defences were re-used during the Civil War.
No archaeological work had previously been undertaken on the castle, and Time Team aimed to test some of the theories recently advanced, based on surveys and documentary research, as to its date and development. It was thought that the existing stone castle replaced an earlier (12th century) motte and bailey ringwork in the early 14th century by Earl Gilbert de Clare.
Trenches were dug, mainly on the western side of the castle, within the Great Gatehouse and West Gate, and inside the residential tower, but also within the interior of the castle.
There were very few finds from any of the trenches, and so it has proved very difficult to prove or disprove the existing theories about the castle. However, a few sherds of 12th or 13th century pottery from a trench dug at the West Gate may hint at a pre-14th century foundation for the castle. Within the gatehouse and residential tower, two phases of building were identified, of which the earliest could relate to Earl Gilbert de Clare’s construction of the castle in the early 14th century.
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