OS Grid Reference: SH 49717 86134. At the eastern edge of Coed cae’r-gaer woods near Rhos Lligwy, Anglesey, stands the well-preserved ancient settlement of Din Lligwy, dating for the most part from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD when it was occupied by a Romano-British tribe, though the first settlers here were people from the late Iron Age period. Set within a walled enclosure there are a couple of hut circles, rectangular structures, and a gatehouse-type building at the entrance. The site is located to the east of the A5025 road about 1 mile west of Moelfre, and not far from the east coast of Anglesey. A little to the northeast of Din Lligwy is Hen Capel Lligwy, a ruined medieval chapel while just over to the east stands the Lligwy Neolithic burial chamber. There is a car-parking area and information boards on the lane over to the east of the site, and a footpath run to the west for 300m, passing close to the ruined chapel, and then to Din Lligwy ancient settlement which nestles in a woodland clearing.
The ancient settlement or village of Din Lligwy covers about ½ an acre and measures roughly 56m x 53m and is pentagonal-shaped (with five-sides). It sits upon a limestone plateau at the edge of a low hill. Although its limestone walls were built for a partly defensive (fortified) purpose at the time, its more likely they were simply built to ‘enclose’ the buildings, but they obviously followed the standard pattern of earlier Iron Age construction. Inside the enclosure walls are two well-preserved hut circles, or round-houses, built from large limestone slabs around the sides, and also four rectangular-shaped buildings, one of which was perhaps the chieftain’s house, while beside the original entrance (NE side) another building that was probably a gate-house; the entrance (SW side) is later as is the little exterior building. The enclosure walls are a staggering 4-5 feet thick.
Jacquetta Hawkes in her work ‘A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales’, says of this site that: “Within a stout enclosure wall, there is a group of houses, two of them circular, but the rest rectangular in plan and all spacious, splendidly built and almost intact. Nearly all the walls show a massive construction with an inner and outer facing of large slabs and a packing of smaller stones. Din Lligwy shows signs of having buildings of more than one period, but it is known to have been inhabited during the Roman occupation down to the fourth century A.D.; it must surely have been the stronghold of some chieftain of unusual standing—one would like to think that the lord himself lived in the larger round house, a place quite worthy to rank as a Celtic palace.”
The author Christopher Houlder writing in 1978 says of Din Lligwy: “The two round huts used as living quarters are likely to have been part of an open settlement of early Roman date, included in the strong pentagonal enclosure in the late IV century A.D. Six hearths in two of the rectangular buildings show that they were used for iron workshops, but one was a gatehouse.”
We don’t know much about the people who lived at Din Lligwy apart from they were Romano-British, but they were probably subservient to the Romans and almost certainly supplied the army with iron weapons and tools made in their own smelting workshops. In this case, then, they were very useful to the Romans and so were more or less left in peace. To the people of Din Lligwy though this situation ‘served as a means to an end’. Then at some point between 385-400 AD they abandoned their settlement/homestead. The Roman army withdrew back to Gaul at about the same time. “There is no evidence that this outstanding site was lived in after about AD 400”, according to Harold Priestley (1976). The site was excavated between 1905-7 when “finds here have included Roman pottery and coins which may be an indication that the occupants were on friendly terms with the Romans”, says Chris Barber (1987).
Hen Capel Lligwy (Old Lligwy Chapel) over to the northeast is a ruined 12th century chapel with some interesting Norman features. On the opposite side of the lane to the east (at OS grid ref: SH 50135 86039) is the Lligwy Neolithic burial chamber or cromlech. This has a huge capstone that is said to be 18 feet in length, and weighing 28 tons, according to Janet & Colin Bord (1994). “When excavated, the remains of 30 persons were discovered together with animal bones and pottery”, says Harold Priestley (1976).
Sources of information and related websites:-
Barber, Chris, More Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London, 1987.
Bord, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books, 1994.
Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd., London, 1975.
Houlder, Christopher, Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber & Faber, London, 1978.
Priestley, Harold, The Observer’s Book of Ancient & Roman Britain, Warne & Co Ltd., London, 1976.
© Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.