Once upon a time, back in the Middle Ages, a large, thriving Welsh city existed between Monmouth and the village of Trellech. Its size was astounding for the day—it had 10,000 inhabitants (for comparison London had 40,000.) Another 10,000 souls may have lived in a shanty town along its edges.
What makes Trellech’s size particularly startling is that it reached this number in a mere 25 years, meaning that vast numbers of people must have been flooding into the area. This was undoubtedly something to do with the powerful de Clare lords, who held the local lands and used Trellech for smelting iron for their personal army.
Then…something happened. It possibly began with a devastating raid over poaching deer, which destroyed a large portion of the town. Then the Black Death roared in during the 1300’s, causing the population to drop dramatically. More trouble followed in the early 15th century when Owain Glyndwr was on the rampage in those debatable borderlands. By the time of the Civil War, the city had been completely abandoned, and soon nature reclaimed what was once its own, and grass grew over the walls of once mighty Trellech.
By modern times, it was mainly known through a few medieval documents and in local legend, its precise location lost and subject to much speculation, with many believing it was sited under the modern village of Trellech.
No one seemed terribly interested in definitively locating it and finding out if it was as extensive and important as claimed, although some earlier surveys were indicative. But then an enthusiastic young archaeologist, intrigued by the story of the lost city, decided to use his life savings to buy the fields where folklore said Trellech stood.
And it turned out, when the trenches were dug, that legend, this time, was correct.
The project is ongoing, so if anyone is in the area and wishes to join in this summer, there are details in the second link.
Besides the archaeological site of the city, the nearby village of Trellech is itself worth a visit, with its Holy Well dedicated to saint Anne, the Grade I Church of Saint Nicholas, a castle motte called the Tump, a 16th C pub, and three enormous Bronze Age standing stones (Harold’s Stones) which are aligned on the Midwinter sunset.