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St Davids Cathedral Close: Close Wall and Sites of Former Gateways

A Scheduled Monument in St. David's and the Cathedral Close (Tŷddewi a Chlos y Gadeirlan), Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8823 / 51°52'56"N

Longitude: -5.2695 / 5°16'10"W

OS Eastings: 175080

OS Northings: 225464

OS Grid: SM750254

Mapcode National: GBR C5.RPLQ

Mapcode Global: VH0TD.MY3F

Entry Name: St Davids Cathedral Close: Close Wall and Sites of Former Gateways

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2080

Cadw Legacy ID: PE018

Schedule Class: Monument

Category: Wall

Period: Medieval

County: Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)

Community: St. David's and the Cathedral Close (Tŷddewi a Chlos y Gadeirlan)

Traditional County: Pembrokeshire

Description

The monument consists of the remains of a wall and sites of former gateways dating to the medieval period that bounded the cathedral close of St David’s in which the cathedral, all its offices, houses of the members of the chapter and their gardens lay. It served to divide the cathedral close from the town of St David’s, controlled the movement of traffic and people between the two and provided some security for the wealth that lay within. Comprising a stone battlemented wall of c 1,100m length, there were four entrance gates: Porth y Tŵr (Tower Gate) on the east, Porth Padrig (Patrick’s Gate) on the south, Porth Gwyn (White Gate) on the northwest and Porth Boning (Boning’s Gate) on the north. The earliest reference to one of the gates was made in 1172, when the Canons met Henry II at the Porth Gwyn implying that the Close was already enclosed in some form at that time. In 1287 Bishop Bek (1280-93) ordered the Canons to enclose their houses and in the Black Book of St David’s of 1326, the pasture within the walls is mentioned. An ordinance of Bishop Gower (1328-47) of 1344 referred to the 'new close' and one of his successors, Bishop Fastolfe (1353-61) credited Gower with building the close. Yet in 1379, the tithes of the church at Knowlston, Gower were assigned by Bishop Houghton (1362-89) to the repair of the walls and gates as they were dilapidated and to a great extent ‘consumed by age’. Probably from the mid 16th century, the wall was not actively maintained and various sections were demolished, breeched and robbed of stone. By the mid 18th century, three of the medieval gateways, Porth Padraig, Porth Gwyn and Porth Boning had been demolished leaving Porth y Tŵr, leading from the town into the close as the only survivor. The sites of the other three gates are marked by the points where roads still enter the former boundaries of the close.

The remains are described in a clockwise direction beginning at Porth y Tŵr. Here only a short and reduced section of the original fabric survives against the tower, where its full height is visible as a scar against the side of the gateway. A small, semi-circular structure built against the outside of the wall is probably the base of a domed well head. From here the wall continues as fragmentary remains in a much reconsolidated form acting as the revetment to gardens at the rear of houses along Goat Street before turning and in a form taken not to be original fabric runs up to the site of Porth Padraig.

The best preserved stretches of medieval wall are from Port Padrig to a point where the River Alun is crossed; both wall walk and parapet survive in parts. At the river on the line of the wall is a small tower constructed over a vault above the mill leat. A narrow doorway at the northeast corner leads into a room at ground floor level in which there is a slot for a grill or portcullis to prevent access from the leat. Small rectangular arrowloops survive in the south, west and east walls which look along the outside of the wall. This room also has a rubble barrel vault. Leaving the river the wall initially survives only as mutilated sections of corework or as only the lowest courses, but after c. 15m it rises briefly to full height with the walkway present. The following c 45m show a complex pattern of rebuilding and consolidation over some original fabric before the wall begins to climb up hill, narrower than the wall it abuts and where only the lowest courses survive. On the steepest slope, it is replaced by a low mound of earth and rubble indicating its line. The narrow wall re-appears at the top of the slope to join a corner tower, the ‘Pigeon House’. The outer walls of this are steeply battered and of heavy rounded cobbles and may be of thirteenth century date. The interior is D shaped in plan with a narrow doorway just off centre. The internal arrangements may have been superimposed on the earlier foundations. No nesting boxes are visible. From the tower the wall heads northeast, the lowest courses are initially visible for 4.5m after which the line is assumed to follow a later earthen bank until the site of Porth Gwyn is reached and where there are a few ephemeral traces at ground level.

From the site of Porth Gwyn the line of the wall continues to be obscured by a later bank, though here the width of this suggests it may contain the base of the original wall. It then is overbuilt by mid 19th century walls, where original foundations may also survive, before reaching the site of Porth Boning set to one side of the modern lane where part of its medieval jamb survives in a pier of stonework on the west side.

There are no visible remains of the eastern side of the Porth Boning, and the line of the wall along the lane is hidden by a tumble down later fieldwall. The wall turned a right angle at the present gateway into the Archdeacon of Cardigan’s ground and ran across a paddock to a surviving stretch of wall approaching the River Alun. This was proved by a small scale excavation in 1989 and the wall appears to have had a clay matrix along this stretch. The river is crossed by a single semi circular arch within the wall after which the line of the wall, no longer visible rises up the hill; its line was proved by slit trenches in 1985. It then re-appears in a completely reconstructed form which does not seem to exactly follow its original line before a final length of the wall toward Porth y Tŵr in which there is one substantial breach and the site of St Mary’s Well. The wall apparently truncates before the octagonal belfry built against the north side of the gate.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of construction practices and medieval ecclesiastical organisation. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of associated archaeological features and deposits.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive, it does not include the extent remains of Porth y Tŵr or the adjacent belfry.

Source: Cadw

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