Many people have their heroes, people that they might want to imitate. Maybe a film star, entrepreneur or scientist. Until now, I didn’t really have anyone… at least not alive but now I have in the unassuming form of Stuart Wilson. 10 years ago we were both pretty similar and we both had just over £30,000 to invest.
Me? I did the responsible thing which I had been doing pretty much since I was born and put a deposit (Downpayment) on a small flat on the edge of London. Stuart, however, did the really smart thing and he decided not to buy a flat but instead to purchase a field from a farmer in Wales as he believed it to be the site of a lost city. In my defence that amount of money barely buys a parking space in London!
There are lots of lost settlements in Britain but Trellech was one of the largest and significant.
Stuart explains …. Out of all the decisions I have made in my life I would say buying the field was one of the good ones. I have to say that even with all the problems that I have had or that may occur, it was definitely the right thing to do. “I should have really bought a house and got out from my parents’, but I thought: ‘To hell with my parents, I will stay at home and I shall buy a field instead,” he said. “People said ‘you must be mad’.”
As well as living with his parents, Stuart has also turned down jobs he may have otherwise applied for in order to keep working on the plot.
He started excavating with a small dig in 2004, said the “quite large” settlement, which dates back to the 13th century, would have had a population of around 10,000 people, making it around a quarter of the size of London.
“This population grew from nothing to that size within 25 years,” he said. “Now it took 250 years for London to get to 40,000 people, so we’re talking a massive expansion.
“And that’s just the planned settlement. The slums would have been quite numerous. There you would be talking even 20,000 plus. It’s a vast area. If you’re working in the fields you are living hand to mouth every single day – it’s a really hard existence. Suddenly, a big industrial town comes here, this is a great opportunity for you. You up-sticks – to hell with your land – ‘let’s move to the industrial town where the opportunity is’.”
He explained the settlement was the home of several Norman lords of the De Clare family, who used it as a place to mass produce iron.Its precise location has not been known for hundreds of years after the city was lost to civil war and famine in the 17th century.
Archaeologists and university officials had supposedly located the industrial city near the present village of Trellech in Monmouthshire, but Stuart disagreed.
“We knew from history that Trellech should have been the largest in the area,” he said. “What they had found was not big enough.”
The city, which lies between Monmouth and Trelleck, is believed to date back to the 13th century and is thought to have been home to around 10,000 people, including Norman lords of the de Clare family who used it as a place to mass-produce iron.
Stuart estimates the project has cost around £200,000 in total over the last 15 years and is now seeking planning permission for an education centre. As we take more on, there’s a greater need to expand our campsite and while there are several campsites within a walkable distance, it would be better to have something here.
All photos are copyright to Stuart Wilson and if you want to learn more about his exciting project and even volunteer then please visit his website.
You can get a good overview of what is going on by watching the video below.