Llyn Cerrig Bach

Temple Or Shrine

A large hoard of Iron-Age objects was uncovered in 1942 during the construction of Valley Airfield, about five miles south-east of Holyhead on Anglesey Island. The area chosen for the airfield was dotted with small meres and peat bogs, one of which was Llyn Cerrig Bach, an ancient lake reduced by the passage of time into a marsh. The initial discoveries were made as blocks of peat were removed from the site to provide a core for the landing-strips nearby, and the following year under the supervision of Sir Cyril Fox, many pieces of metalwork and “great quantities” of animal bones were recovered before work had to be abandoned in the face of construction work. Because of the time limitation priority was given to the recovery, preservation and identification of the manufactured metal items.

When closely examined the metalwork objects were found to be of very high-quality workmanship, the majority of which originated not from Anglesea or nearby Wales, but were in fact fabricated in places identified as far afield as the north-west and south-east of England; there were even some pieces of Irish manufacture. This important collection has been dated for the most part to the first century BC, which probably shows that the site had declined in importance prior to the Claudian invasion of 43AD.

The consistent high degree of craftsmanship of the recovered objects, and the location of the finds on the bed of an ancient lake strongly suggest that they were votive deposits. The veneration of water deities was widespread among many ancient peoples of northern Europe, and the ancient custom of appeasing the spirits which they believed inhabited all streams, rivers and lakes is well known. This is continued even in modern society, by the romantic – or superstitious – amongst us, who commit coins into wishing-wells, public fountains, and deplorably, even the seal-houses and aquariums of modern zoological gardens.

The Iron-Age hoard may be evidence that Llyn Cerrig Bach was an ancient religious centre and a place of pilgrimage for many of the Iron-age peoples of Britain, but the wide geographical base of manufacture may alternately be explained if we accept the simple premise that the local Iron-age chieftains on Anglesey mainly offered-up valuable pieces obtained from other tribes through trade or tribute, preferring to retain objects of local manufacture for their own use; the sheer amount of pieces from the south-east of Britain argues in favour of the former view however.

Although large amounts of bone were recovered during rescue operations, the Second World War was in full-swing at the time, and the archaeological team were given little opportunity either to study these finds in any detail or even to preserve them. This sad fact means that we do not know whether the deposits contained any human bones, thus providing the elusive evidence of ritual human sacrifice on Anglesey. The metalwork recovered from Llyn Cerrig Bach is now housed in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

References for Llyn Cerrig Bach

  • Roman Britain by Peter Salway (Oxford 1981);
  • Druids by Anne Ross (Tempus, Stroud, 1999) p.39.

Map References for Llyn Cerrig Bach

NGRef: SH3075 OSMap: LR114

Roman Roads near Llyn Cerrig Bach

None identified

Sites near Llyn Cerrig Bach