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Village History and Reconstruction

Ownership of the land around Cosmeston has changed several times since the Normans came to Wales. 


Here you can read a brief overview of those changes and who or what might have had the biggest influence on the village.


11th century A.D.

It is not known who owned the land around Cosmeston before the Normans came to Wales. It lay in the rich agricultural lowlands of the Welsh kingdom of Morgannwg which, towards the end of the 11th century A.D., was conquered by the Norman lord, Robert Fitzhamon and was established as the Lordship of Glamorgan. 


Among his followers were the de Costentin family from the Cotentin peninsular in northern France. They are the first known lords of the manor of Cosmeston and gave their name to the village, Costentinstune (the place of the Costentins).


The Costentin family built the original manor house and perhaps a few dwellings or small farms, but for the next two centuries it appears that little further development occurred and unusually, no Norman church was ever established in the immediate area.


By 1317 the manor had passed from the hands of the de Costentin family into those of the de Caversham family who, in turn, passed it on to the Herberts in 1550. Ownership of Cosmeston is connected with that of Cardiff castle.

Picture of John 4th Earl-of-Bute with wife Charlotte and Cardiff castle in background


In 1766, when John the 4th Earl of Bute married Charlotte Windsor, the lands became the property of the family, who directly or indirectly would have the greatest influence on them.


It was the Bute family who built the road that runs through the middle of the country park and past the village, the Mile road running from Cogan Hall farm at the North to Swanbridge, which was at one time a small port for ships carrying goods across the Bristol Channel to Somerset.


By 1824, all that remained of Cosmeston village were four isolated crofts and the Little Cosmeston Farmhouse as shown on the Marquis of Bute's detailed maps of the time. It is quite possible that the majority of the villagers were wiped out during the Black Death plague of the 1340s.

The uncovered foundations of the medieval buildings1978

Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Medieval Village has been in the ownership of the Vale of Glamorgan Council since 1978. 


It was during the development of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park in 1978 that excavation work undertaken by Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust revealed the remains of 13th-14th century stone buildings which led to a long term research programme being commissioned.


The Trust uncovered the remains of a community over 600 years old, and so began a unique archaeological project to restore the medieval village of Cosmeston. The importance of the medieval village at Cosmeston lies in its scale as most other excavations have been limited in both size and duration. 


At Cosmeston the archaeologists have had the opportunity to excavate over long periods of time and these excavations have led to the full-scale reconstruction of a medieval village on its original site and foundations. The excavations have been interpreted and presented by archaeologists and the Vale of Glamorgan Council to provide an authentic picture of the settlement discovered at Cosmeston.


Painstaking excavation work revealed the remains of foundations that have lain buried for hundreds of years, where there once stood a flourishing community. The excavations also discovered interesting finds these included, a metal knife, quantities of medieval pottery and animal bone and two prehistoric quern (grinding) stones.


The demesne was a part of the manorial lands supplying the lord with many of his luxuries. At Cosmeston, this land contained an orchard, fishponds and a dovecote. The excavated remains of the dovecote are located in the field west of the village across the mile road. 

Partly reconstructed dovecote


During the process of excavation in the mid 1980s, the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust, in conjunction with the Local Authority, decided to reconstruct some of the excavated buildings. This has become one of the most exciting features of the project. 


Parallel walls of limestone are filled with rubble. Daub (a mix of cow muck, clay and straw) acts as a cushion, levelling the stones and helping to bind them together. Upon the walls a timber roof is raised with large ‘A’ frames as the main supporting structure.


‘Withy’s are woven in to the main roof timbers to form a base for the thatch. A thatch of reed from the surrounding wetlands - or even straw if this is not available - are tied to the roof. After archaeological excavation and interpretation, the fabric of the buildings was reconstructed to provide a view of medieval life. 


Although there can often be no certainty as to the original identity of a specific building, all the archaeological, architectural and historical information is used to recreate the village structures as close to the originals as possible. At Cosmeston, a well-matured area has been interpreted as a garden and been planted as such to include a variety of herbs for both flavouring food and medicinal purposes.

Students from Cardiff University history and archaeology department standing at the dig site2011 onwards

During the dig in July 2011, several aquamanile fragments decorated with a ram's head were discovered at the site of the manor house. These vessels were used by guests to wash their hands at the dinner table. Read the BBC news article. 


Excavations are still ongoing at cosmeston medieval village. The Vale of Glamorgan Council and Cardiff University of History and Archaeology have held digs onsite to discover more about the archaeology of this unique site.


Discoveries made during the digs include; the location of an ancient track way which may have been used for watering livestock in the nearby Sully Brook and a section of wall which may have related to a building known as Cosmeston castle.