Updated Oct. 2001 (see below)
July 2001. In recent weeks there have been reports that remains of one of Henry Morgan's vessels have been found in the waters off Haiti (better known by some as Hispaniola, the haunt of pirates and buccaneers in centuries past). The Hall is now a public house and the landlady was kind enough to show me the ancient cellar of the house, with its mysterious walled up doorways and barrel vaulted ceiling. We talked about the history of the house for a while and then took a walk outside to inspect a curiously wrought stone which had been found in the course of recent building work.
(Incidentally, for those with a special interest in such things, the stone has what appear to be leaf shapes on the curved side panels and the design illustrated here is repeated on the opposite face. In cross section, the stone is rectangular rather than drum shaped, so it would not appear to be a column capital.)
I took the stone to three experts in south Wales. It is fair to say that they were all slightly puzzled by it. The first thought it to be a relic of a medieval religious building. The second thought that it looked Roman and the third, at first sight, thought it might be part of a wheel headed cross. On careful examination, he noticed that a smooth surface at the top of the stone did not seem to exhibit the tool marks he would expect on a stone of great antiquity and suggested that it might be of 19th. century origin. This beady-eyed gentleman also found a hole in the base of the stone which seemed to have been drilled in modern times.
Further research into the history of the Hall seemed to be called for and the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust were able to furnish some very interesting information in the form of a digest of an article which appeared in an archaeological journal of 1911. It appears that the Hall stands on the site of a 12th. century monastery called "Little Keynsham", thus named because of its connection with Keynsham Abbey. Around 1810 a stone coffin was found in a metre wide wall in the course of creating a new doorway. For some reason, this was claimed to contain the remains of the Welsh hero Llewelyn, who was killed in a battle near Builth and whose head was sent to King Edward I at Conway.
A survey of 1940 concluded that the cellars and some parts of the walls were ancient and noticed a carved oak fireplace bearing the date 1587.
It therefore appears that an Elizabethan manor house was built on the site of a disused monastery and that the present building represents an 18th. or 19th. century modernization. This, of course, lends support to our first expert's theory of the medieval origin of the mysterious stone - but the apparently modern tool marks remain unexplained (for the moment).
The River Rhymney, just a few hundred yards from the Hall.
|John Weston / Data Wales 2001|
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