A visit to Strata Florida Abbey on 7th July 2010
Our visiting group are commended for taking part in the face of a very unfavourable weather forecast, in the predicted rain and chill but were rewarded by learning of the full significance of this ‘Vale of Flowers’ monastic site.
Professor David Austin welcomed us by indicating that over the past six summer seasons his teams from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Lampeter University in conjunction with CADW had revealed that there is a ‘big history’ in this precinct and its supporting areas well beyond the immediately apparent Abbey building.
By combining ground investigations, landscape interpretation and documentary research it has become evident that from their being allocated these lands in 1164 by The Lord Rhys, the Cistercian monastic management had developed a multi-activitied commercial enterprise which extended locally well beyond the Abbey building and regionally involved twenty extensive ‘grange’ land areas within an approximate thirty kilometre radius which included the then ‘port’ of Aberarth.
It can be deduced that this was a political development by The Lord Rhys in support of his overall intentions toward forging a Welsh nation. In that this extensive activity continued to thrive at the heart of West Wales for much of the several hundred years from 1164 until the c.1535 general dissolution of the monasteries, this area is of major importance in Welsh history and so could with further archaeological revelation and on-site presentation become of World Heritage Site calibre.
This Cistercian period larger precinct and adjacent landscape has, and will continue to yield substantial ‘in-ground’ and ‘ground -shape’ evidences of the rural activities and industrial processes which show the considerable skills of this monastic management. The post-dissolution adaption and development of the buildings immediately adjacent to the Abbey are being explored as a part of the history of the local gentry and of the general social development in the area.
It is anticipated that there are many future phases of this archaeology for this whole site and it is hoped that its increasingly evident historic importance will be a main enabling factor.