Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource) - A Welsh Documentary Heritage Website
Identified by The National Library of Wales as an 'Important part of Wales' documentary heritage' Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource) - A Welsh Documentary Heritage Website
Identified by The National Library of Wales as an 'Important part of Wales' documentary heritage'
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Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource)

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Channel 4 Time Team at Kenfig

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History Section


The Buried Medieval Town of Kenfig - 3 day Archaeological Dig (August 2011)


Learn about Time Team, cross-referenced information on Kenfig town's history, Live Time Team Twitter News Feed, photos of day 3 and Official embedded Time Team video footage from YouTube.

Location Map - Kenfig, South Wales

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The Channel 4 Time Team spent 3 days at Kenfig (Wed 10/Thu 11/Fri 12 August 2011) on an archaeological dig/filming expedition to locate the medieval buried town of Kenfig in the sand near Kenfig Castle.

About Time Team

Time Team is a British television series shown on Channel 4 since 1994. Created by Tim Taylor and presented by actor Tony Robinson, it features a team of specialists carrying out an archaeological dig in three days, with Robinson explaining the process in layman’s terms.
Time Team has had many companion shows during its run, including Time Team Extra, History Hunters and Time Team Digs. The series also features special episodes, often documentaries on history or archaeology, and live episodes. Time Team America, a US version of the programme, has been broadcast on PBS from July 2009, and co-produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting and Videotext/C4i.
Time Team was developed from an earlier Channel 4 series Time Signs, first broadcast in 1991. Produced by Tim Taylor, it featured Mick Aston and Phil Harding, who both went on to appear on Time Team.
Source: Time Team Wikipedia

The Buried Medieval Town of Kenfig

Background History

Site Plan - Kenfig Town, Castle & Church (Gray 1909)
Site Plan - Kenfig Town, Castle & Church (Gray 1909)

Kenfig Town & its Peoples

The town, protected by its castle, initially covered an area of 11 acres. As the town developed, this area increased to eighty acres with further settlements springing up outside the town walls. For the price of a shilling per year a burgage plot could be purchased within the town, the money swelling the purse of the local lord.
The burgesses who took advantage of these burgage plots formed themselves into guilds so that they could control the town’s trade. A charter was granted and this bestowed upon the burgesses a number of rights, including the right to hold a fair for 8 days commencing on the 24th July. In addition, a fair was held on the Tuesday of Whitsun week.
Despite numerous attacks by the indigenous people, Kenfig became a prosperous town. The burgage plots provided a home to Walter Molendinarius, the miller, and his daughter, Amabilia, to Adam the baker, Philip the cook, Nicholas Rotarius, the wheelwright and Henry the forester, among many others. Also housed in the town was Alice, an anchoress, who resided in a cell, a narrow chamber, built against the wall of the chancel of St James’ Church.

Kenfig Town - Under Attack

Attacks in Chronolgical Order



First recorded attack by the Welsh - burned the town.
An attack destroyed part of the town's defences and the town mill. There was severe damage to the castle - timber for its repair was brought to Kenfig from Chepstow. Records from Margam Abbey state that this attack was the second in just over 12 months. Hywel ap Maredudd of Miskin attacked and burnt the town. An attack by Morgan Gam of Avan took the town and most of the castle - he was thwarted when the garrison made a last ditch stand in the keep. Hywel ap Maredudd attacked and burned down the town for the second time.
Attacked by Hywel ap Meredith (Morgan Gam’s cousin)
Attacked by Llywelyn the Last
A Welsh uprising is listed in a survey of Glamorgan - this doesn't include details of Kenfig Borough. There was widespread destruction in the Kenfig vicinity during this time.
During the rebellion of Llywelyn Bren a large area of the town was destroyed - 42 burgages were left in ashes. There was damage to the castle, which was held. A coalition in rebellion against the crown devastated the town, capturing and destroying the castle.
Kenfig was damaged when a group of important barons turned against Hugh le Despenser and attacked his property.
The last reference to an attack was in 1405 – it is believed that the forces of Owain Glyndwr may have attacked Kenfig castle, but this may only be legend.


There are eight listed attacks above – there appears to be some discrepancies surrounding dates listed by Kenfig Society and those supplied by BCBC Education documents. These are to be addressed in the near future.
Kenfig was attacked, again, in 1232. This attack was led by Morgan Gam of Afan. The chronicler of Margam Abbey notes that at Easter, 1232, the people of Kenfig received warning of the impending attack and so were able to lead their cattle to a place of sanctuary. Morgan Gam’s men rushed into the town and attacked the donjon. They met with stiff resistance and a bloody battle ensued. The men within the donjon defended bravely and Morgan was compelled to return to the mountains.
It is easy to think that such attacks were inspired by ideology, but the reality was that many of these attacks were motivated by a basic need: the need for food. Relatively speaking, the burgesses in the town led comfortable lives while the people outside, the people of the vills, were largely impoverished; they were literally fighting for their lives. Despite their desperation, Morgan and his men spared the women and the children who had taken refuge in the town’s church, thus suggesting that the ‘rebels’ retained a degree of control and coordination.
Further attacks were reported throughout the 1200s and into the 1300s. Most of these attacks were perpetrated by the Welsh, while some were carried out by barons opposed to the Despenser family; the Despensers being the lords of this particular manor.

Kenfig - 14th Century


Basic understanding

The Time Team undertook a geophysics survey of Kenfig. Learn more about Geophysics below.
In the 1340s it was recorded that there were 144 burgage plots in Kenfig. This compares with Cardiff, 423 plots, Cowbridge, 276 plots, Newport, 228 plots, Llantrisant, 145 plots and Neath 128 plots. By 1375 the number of burgage plots in Kenfig had reduced to 106, the arrival of the plague in 1349, in 1361 and in 1369 being largely responsible for the diminished number.
Water has played an important part in the development of Kenfig; indeed, the medieval town probably owed its existence to its coastal location. Before the advent of the railways in the 19th century it was easier to transport people and produce by water. From the days of Rome, Kenfig traded with the Mediterranean, with Iberia and with Ireland. As well as assisting trade, the River Kenfig also provided protection to the town and the castle. When the castle was built, the river was diverted to form a moat around the castle and the inner bailey adding a natural defence to the town’s stone walls. Springs and wells provided fresh water and some of the springs were noted for their healing properties.
One of the springs claimed a cure for bone fractures while another provided relief to people suffering from eye problems. The greatest expanse of water within the borough of Kenfig is the pool. Situated to the south of the town the pool is fed by freshwater springs. Covering an area of over eighty acres in medieval times, Kenfig Pool was a home to several varieties of fish, thus making the pool a rich source of food.
On the 2nd November 1365 John Philip of Kenfig, Rees ap Gruff Gethyn of Afan, Howel ap Gruff Hagur, Jevan ap Philipot, Thomas de Browneswolde of Afan and others were cited for unlawful fishing in Kenfig Pool. The case was brought by Margam Abbey and the defendants were compelled to stand before the Dean of Groneath.
At the proceedings Rees ap Gruff Gethyn confessed that he helped himself to the fish, claiming that he did so justly because the fishery had belonged to his ancestors. He went on to admit that after the Normans had conquered the land they had presented the fishing rights to Margam Abbey in compensation for damages the abbey had sustained due to raids by Rees’ ancestors some 217 years previously.
On the 22nd June 1366 Rees stood trial before a jury of twelve men at Glamorgan County Court. At the trial Margam Abbey won 40 shillings damages, Rees was fined three pence and it was confirmed that the abbey, and not Rees and his contemporaries, held the rights to the fishery.
A charter, issued by Thomas Despenser on the 16th February 1397, reaffirmed the burgesses rights as issued in earlier charters with additional provision made for the encroaching sand. Storms and sand had been a recurring theme with lightning striking the town and gales carrying the sand on to the streets of Kenfig. Efforts were made to try and control nature with sedges planted in an attempt to hold back the sand. However, these efforts were only partially successful as the charter issued by Thomas Despenser demonstrates, for he felt obliged to grant the burgessess extra tracts of land.
Nature was having her say, and she would be the ultimate winner, but not before the town had endured a further assault, led by Owain Glyn Dwr in 1405. Once again, the town was left in ruins and the burgesses were left to pick up the pieces and this they did, carrying the town into the middle of the 15th century. By 1450 the streets of Kenfig were choked with sand and the residents were seeking fresh pastures, relocating further inland. A settlement was established to the east at Pyle and, in 1470, the church of St James was rebuilt there.
With its costal location, its river and its fertile land, Kenfig has long proved attractive to settlers. From the Romans to the Normans they came, some in peace, many in war, all leaving their mark. As is the way of the world, the man with the biggest sword, the man with the most money, assumes control and he rules, sometimes with justice, sometimes with benevolence, but often with greed and corruption. And medieval greed and corruption bred resentment which fed the frequent revolts against the town of Kenfig. People fought each other to the death over that strip of land, a strip of land that is now at peace with nature.

Photos of Archaeological Dig at Kenfig

All photos in this section were taken by Mr Rob Bowen

Landscape Photos

There are 45 photos in this section
All photos in this section (Landscape & Portrait) copyright © 2011. Mr Rob Bowen. All rights reserved. These were taken on Day 3 of Channel 4 Time Team's excavations at Kenfig. View Intellectual Property for more details.
This section on Kenfig's website is aimed at documenting Channel 4 Time Team's actual visit to Kenfig in 2011 as this website project is being archived for posterity through both the National Library of Wales & British Library.

Portrait Photos

There are 28 photos in this section


History of Kenfig & surrounding areas - Prehistory to the Present Day


  • Bronze / Iron Ages & Roman Era
  • The Monastic Era (1147-1536)
  • The Mansel Era (1536-1750)
  • Talbot Era (1750-1941)
  • War Years / Sir David Evans-Bevan
  • The County Council Years


    Online Resources

    Further Info



    • Bridgend County Borough Council Library & Information Services
    • Glamorgan Archives - Borough of Kenfig records (c.1396-1998)
    • The Story of Kenfig (book) - A. Leslie Evans
    • Rob Bowen - Local Community Group

    Webpage Author

    • Rob Bowen - Local Community Group, 2011

    Twitter News Feeds

    Time Team - YouTube

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (01) Tim's Intro

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (02) Cassie Sets The Scene

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (03) Jimmy's Terrain Troubles

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (04) A Word With Nick & Alice

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (05) Geophys Analysis

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (06) Field Walking With Tracey

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (07) Alice Explains Our First Find

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (08) Trench Update With Tracey

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (09) Phil Loves Jugs!

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (10) A Word With A Botanist

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (11) Afternoon Site Discussion

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (12) Raksha Trench Update

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (13) Planning Trench Three

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (14) Cassie's Trench 1-2 Update

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (15) The Rain Comes Down

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (16) Tracey's Sensitive Predicament

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (17) Raksha At Trench 2

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (18) Tom At The Bottom Of Trench 1

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (19) Expanding the Survey

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (20) Cassie's New Trench

    Time Team at Kenfig

    (21) Emma's Long Day In The Office

    Kenfig - The Complete History (e-Resource) - An important part of Wales' documentary heritage



    War Years



    The Coast

    Pictorial History

    Exclusive Pictorial History of the old Kenfig Borough ENTER