Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

A Day in the Life of an Investigator for the RCAHMW – Part III

After finishing my talk for the National Eisteddfod I went back to working on the Atlanterra Project. As part of the work I need to carry out for the project I have to prepare entries for Coflein.

Coflein is the online database for the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW), the national collection of information about the historic environment of Wales. The name is derived from the Welsh cof (memory) and lein (line). Coflein allows access to details of many thousands of archaeological sites, monuments, buildings and maritime sites in Wales, together with an index to the drawings, manuscripts and photographs held in the NMRW archive collections.

The survey work at Maenofferen Slate Mine (see earlier blog post) involved recording all the standing buildings and structures for ‘preservation by record’. Each of the standing buildings or structures is given a number – known as an NPRN – and each of the standing buildings or structures requires a site description entry.

Some of these entries can be quite simple, and describe the general history of the site, and any other documents which might have been consulted in writing the entry. Other entries can be much more complex and describe in significant detail the building or structure and any modifications or rebuilds it may have gone through during its life.

Maenofferen Slate Mine is a very complex site and is still in operation today. Given that the site began working in the 1860s, there are several phases which need understanding and writing up. The rest of the afternoon was spent checking through entries I’d already written, and making sure I’d got an entry for each of the buildings and structures which needed them – and also ensuring that I’d checked all the Ordnance Survey maps on our GIS (Geographical Information System) for anything which might not have been recorded on the maps, plans and photographs I’d already looked at. 

On the train journey home I was looking over a series of articles written on medieval licences to crenellate – which was a grant that gave permission for a building to be fortified. I was trying to see whether any of the castles I am looking at were given licences to crenellate, and I found one – so I’ll have to get the full reference for it so I can use it in my PhD.

The last bit of work I did this evening was to write this blog entry and a final check of my e-mails. Tomorrow is the weekend, but I’ll still be working on the papers I was reading through on the train this morning. And really, that’s why I’m an archaeologist. I’m fascinated by people and how they lived their lives, and I enjoy reading about them whether its the weekend or not.


Spreadsheets, Guidebooks and That Cake With The Sprinkles

I’m currently working as Special Projects and Strategy Assistant at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

At the moment, I’m co-ordinating two publication projects and one exhibition and also help to co-ordinate the organisation’s strategic work. It’s not

Spreadsheets and Post-its

My working life is defined by a series of colour-coded spreadsheets and project monitoring charts. Fortunately, I’m the kind of person who derives great satisfaction from organised lists of things plotted against timescales! This morning, like every other morning, began when I sat down with a strong cuppa and reviewed my project charts.

Next, I sorted through yesterday’s post-its. The post-it note easily tops my list of Desert Island Office Items: every task, telephone number and interesting fact I come across through the day gets scribbled onto a yellow (or pink, or blue) square (yes, they’re colour-coded too). Each morning, I sort out Stuff That’s Actually Important from Irrelevant Stuff That Caught My Oft-Wandering Attention.

Once I’m done with my spreadsheets and post-its, I have a list of Things To Do for the day. This is what I got up to this fine Friday:

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site

In 2009, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal was inscribed on the World Heritage List. It became the third World Heritage Site (WHS) in Wales, alongside the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd and Blaenavon Industrial Landscape. I’m currently working with colleagues and partner organisations to produce an official guidebook to the WHS as a key outcome of the agreed Management Plan.

My day-to-day job involves interpreting existing archaeological and historical records to produce a comprehensive, user-friendly guidebook. I spent this morning adding to my ever-expanding database of images that could potentially be used in the guidebook.

My favourite image from this morning was this early photograph of Valle Crucis Cistercian Abbey close to Pentrefelin Aqueduct. The photograph was taken in 1855. This scan was produced from a rare salt-paper negative held in the Commission’s archive.

Yesterday’s image of the same site later in the 1800s was well creepy, so a rather more pleasant view was welcome!

Inside Welsh Homes

In addition to working on the guidebook, I’m also looking into the Commissions’ records of domestic interiors in Wales. Some of the photographs and records I’m uncovering will feature in an image-based book and a touring exhibition, both of which are due for release in mid-2012.

Just before lunch, I met with Royal Commission photographer Iain Wright to talk about some of the recent colour digital images he’s made that could be relevant. We also discussed a programme of photography for pre-historic and early-medieval sites, to ensure we covered as full a range of historic periods as possible.

The Staff Away Day!

The rest of my afternoon was spent making arrangements for the Commission’s Staff Away Day in September – an important part of our working year as an organisation. We’re planning on visiting several archaeological sites near Goginan in mid-Wales, and possibly taking a look at the records held in the National Library of Wales. If all goes to plan, it’ll be an interesting and insightful day for everyone!

Most importantly, I sorted out tea and cake for the afternoon session of the day. By popular request – well, more of a demand, really – I’ve ordered that vanilla and buttercream icing with sprinkles. Yes, it’s the same one we get at training days.

After Hours

Once I’m done here at work, I’ll be heading home to do… well, more work!

I’m in the final stretch of my MA in Interpretation, Representation and Heritage (a distance-learning course through the University of Leicester) and spend most of my time outside of my job here at the Commission working on my dissertation. I’ll liven up the Friday night diss session with a glass of schnapps as an end-of-week treat! Living the dream!

A Day in the Life of an Investigator for the RCAHMW – Part II

Today I’ve had several different pieces of work to do, which makes it an average day for me.

After my morning cup of tea, I set about checking my work e-mails. The project I work for, the Atlanterra Project, are in the process of submitting the next financial claims for the work that has been done since January 2011. As part of this I have make sure I have all the relevant paperwork ready to upload, and this morning my in-tray contained some of the papers I needed, as well several e-mail attachments of previous project business meetings. Whilst it might not sound very glamorous and archaeology like, the project management element of work like this is very important, if perhaps not the most exciting part of the day. I do enjoy it though, as it helps me plan ahead for the next year of the project and work out how, when, why, where and what I’ll spend the project money on.

The Atlanterra Project is a European funded project with ten project partners from five countries (Wales, France, Spain, Portugal and the Republic of Ireland) working together to preserve and promote post-medieval mining heritage.

Among the work being carried out are projects on the creation of geological gardens; reconstruction and preservation of mining machinery; surveying and archaeologically recording mining complexes and collectively working on how best to provide public access to the information collected and diseminated during the life of the project. My own particular role within the project is to provide expert advice and guidance to the other project partners on ‘Physical and Digital Data Capture, Storage and Tender Specification’. Basically, if you want a site surveying, have you actually considered why it need to be done and what you will do with the data (which could be CAD drawings, CGI animations, or someone with a tape measure, ruler and piece of paper) once you have asked someone to collect it for you?

As part of my work on the Atlanterra Project, I carry out fieldwork surveying and recording mining heritage sites which are at risk. Two of the sites I have been out to survey as part of this work are Maenofferen Slate Mine, near Blaenau Ffestiniog:

and Mynydd Nodol Manganese Mine, near Bala:

After that, I worked on a talk I am giving at the National Eisteddfod next Tuesday. The National Eisteddfod moves around Wales each year, and this year is being hosted in my home town, Wrexham. With that in mind the RCAHMW Education Officer asked me if I could prepare something for a general audience. I decided to prepare something on one of the RCAHMW projects which is being prepared for publication – in some for or another – in the long term. That project is the The Workers’ Houses of Wales Project. You can find details of four of our National Projects here:

and details of my talk at the Eisteddfod here:

Because my first language is Welsh, I’ve also been asked by CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments if I will guide a walking tour of the village of Cefn Mawr, near Wrexham, to explain its character and history. Details of my walk can be found here:


My fifth cup of tea and the archaeology is fine

GGAT logo and QRtag intergratedAfternoon world, I’ve sorted out everybody else now it’s my turn to blog about archaeology.

My name is Paul and I’m the Outreach Officer/Web Manager for the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust.

When I’m not meeting people and promoting the archaeology of the Southeast Wales area or sitting in my cupboard under the stairs drinking tea, which archaeologists tend to consume aplenty, building sites, blogging and tweeting and other Web2.0 shenanigans,  I’m carrying out work for the Twentieth Century Military Standing Sites Project.  The group was set up in 2003 to identify the most important sites in Wales and to work to preserve and promote their significance to a wider audience. The group is made up of the four Welsh Trust, for which I am our area representative, Cadw, RCAHMW, and other interested parties.

I’m just off to carry out a basic photographic survey of a building that is due for demolition and once belonged to RAF ST Brides Major in the Vale of Glamorgan. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

A Day in the Life of an Investigator for the RCAHMW

My name is Spencer Gavin Smith and I work as an Investigator for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments for Wales, based in Aberystwyth. I’m also working on my PhD on the topic of ‘Parks, Gardens and Designed Landscapes of Medieval Wales and the Marches’. So my posts through the day will reflect either my job (which I love), or what I do for academic fun! (which I also love).

Today, as on most days, I’ve checked my e-mails at home to see if I’ve received anything archaeologically or historically useful from my friends in America and Canada. If I have, then I know it’s there for me to look at when I get home from work. I’ve promised a friend some archaeological and historical information on 16th and 17th Century deer hunting practices for her to look at and we can compare to how deer hunting is portrayed in Robin Hood ballads of the same period, so it’s a useful trade of information.

I’ve caught the train to work, so I tend to use the hour and a half to work on any academic papers I have on the go. At the moment I’m writing up, editing or proof reading papers on Medieval Leper Houses in North Wales; Post-Medieval occupation of Castles which had fallen out of use and no longer functioned as castles and the structural history of a medieval parish church in Cheshire.