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Gwent local history

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90 Spring 2001

Castell Arnallt : a topographical survey /

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CASTELL ARNALLT A TOPOGRAPHICAL SURVEY
by NEIL PHILLIPS
Castell Arnallt is the name given to a large, oblong mound lying in pasture land by
the side of the River Usk, some four miles east south east of Abergavenny, SO 320
100. Its longest axis, east to west, measures just over 150m with its north south axis,
78m. It is situated on ground sloping gently from north-east to south-west, and as
such its height varies being four metres on the north and eight metres on the south.
The long axis can be divided into two areas: the eastern half being a flat-topped
plateau some four metres higher than the western half, which takes the form of an
elongated spur.
Castell Arnallt is included in a report of circa 1767 on the lordship of
Abergavenny' and is considered by Bradney2 as having belonged to Seisyll ap
Dyfnwal, the Welsh leader in Gwent Uwchcoed.3 Henry II had created Seisyll Lord
of Over Gwent with the honour of Abergavenny castle in return for releasing a
hostage, Hugh de Beauchamp. As part of the peace proceedings between The Lord
Rhys and Henry II, Seisyll, The Lord Rhys's brother in law, was persuaded to give
the Honour of Abergavenny Castle to William de Braose.4 The infamous massacre
at Abergavenny castle on Christmas Day 1175 records not only the end of Seisyll
and his son but also later in the day the murder of his family and the destruction of
his home, Castell Amallt,5 There is no known reuse of the site since 1175 other than
for agricultural purposes. The site has not been excavated and has been scheduled
since 1947.
The topographical survey was carried out by the author as part of his Ph.D research
at UWCN. The survey was made with a Topcon GTS 212 total station and results
processed by Civilcad 5.5 software. The resistivity survey was carried out using a
Geoscan RM 15 resistivity meter fitted with 0.5m array. The Geoscan used 20m.
grid squares arranged as seen in fig. 1, readings therefore, amount to 400 per 20m
square. Fig. 2 shows the geoplot interpretation with the contour plot of the site.
Shaded areas a e show up as high resistance curvilinear features that follow the
shape of the hill. Surface stone is evident in some of these areas due to slope erosion.
It is proposed therefore, that these areas form an inner wall or palisade base.
Between d and c there is a large gap, which, in combination with the colour layout
and visible surface features, was interpreted as an entrance. Area f appears to be part
of the entrance feature but the geoplot and surface features suggest that there is a
gap between f, d, and e.
Shaded areas g, h, k, m, n, appear also to follow the shape of the hill in the same
way as a e, and so it is reasonable to interpret them as a second ring of wall or
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