Dusty’s First World War


Dr Stephanie Ward working with year 8 pupils from Michaelston Community College at The Glamorgan Archive.

This is my first blog for CAER, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce myself and our latest activities. I’m Steph Ward and am a lecturer in modern Welsh history at Cardiff University. I’m working with CAER Heritage’s Dave Wyatt and recent graduate Dan Jewson on a new CAER heritage project which is exploring the First World War history of Ely. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, ‘Dusty’s First World War’ is aiming to uncover the origins of the Ely housing estate and the history of the Dusty Forge. We are working closely with Michaelston Community College, Healthy Wealthy Wise, local artists, ACE and other community groups within Ely and Caerau throughout the summer and autumn. We plan to have a permanent exhibition at the Dusty of our findings and to remember the impact the Great War had upon the area.

The Ely estate was originally designed as a garden village in the 1920s. Originating with Ebenezer Howard in the late nineteenth century, garden cities or garden villages were designed to bring together the best of town and country living. The rapid development of Victorian industrial cities like Cardiff led to often appalling housing conditions rife with overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. Howard called for housing to be placed outside of the city, surrounded by plenty of green spaces for family and community recreation. The first garden village was established in Letchworth, Hertfordshire and was a wonderful example of spacious housing, large gardens and green spaces all within commuting distance of a major city. In Cardiff, the City Council bought the land on which the Ely estate now stands from Green Farm and Red Farm, developing its own garden village in the west of the city following the end of the First World War. The Ely garden village was therefore established as a model housing estate providing ‘the homes for heroes’ in the aftermath of this deadly global conflict. This is the untold local story that we want to explore in our project.

To get things going, in May 2016, we took a group of Year 8 pupils from Michaelston Community College to the Glamorgan Archives for a day of workshops and research into Ely’s origins. We had a very successful day with them, discovering how the Ely estate was designed as a garden village and thinking about the utopian ideas behind its development. The pupils studied the original plans of the estate and the architect’s drawings of the earliest houses. They then designed their own garden villages as utopian versions of Ely in a workshop with me. With Dan, the pupils role played as 1920s housing officers allocating families to new homes after the war. They also all had an opportunity to animate their own films about their findings with CAER artist Paul Evans and film-maker Jon Harrison. You can check out their film HERE.


Role playing as 1920s housing officers with Dan Jewson.

What was really interesting was how the pupils had a lot of ideas about how Ely has changed over time. They were keen to discuss whether they think the principles of the garden village have survived in Ely and also about how they think their area could be improved. It really was a great start to the project and we are looking forward to working with the same pupils again in the autumn, when they will carry out an oral history project.

Following our initial activities with the school, the Dusty’s First World War team’s next big initiative was to take a roadshow to this year’s Ely Festival and had a fabulous day there! We took along OS maps to show how the estate developed. We had loads of interest and input from local people who were willing to share their memories and who have lived, or whose families have lived, on the estate since the 1920s and 1930s– so if you visited us then THANKS!


‘Dusty’s First World War’ at The Ely Festival.

The project still has lots to do, but one thing is already very clear: the people of Ely have a great sense of pride for the estate and feel very connected to their local history. We will be working to continue to uncover this hidden history of Ely over the summer, but we need YOUR HELP!

Dan has planned a whole range of activities and we are looking for volunteers with memories and artefacts of the Dusty and the early housing estate. If you would like more information about how to get involved please contact Dan Jewson JewsonD@cardiff.ac.uk.

The Model Village :: Part 1

Jon Harrison filming the Model Village workshop at The Glamorgan Archives

Jon Harrison filming the Model Village workshop at The Glamorgan Archives.

On 9th June 2016 CAER Heritage Project lead artist Paul Evans and film maker Jon Harrison led the first of two Model Village creative workshops at The Glamorgan Archives with students from Michaelston Community School. This was the first stage in the creation of The Model Village film for the Connected Communities Utopia Festival at Somerset House

Featuring as part of a intensive, full day of activities within the archives entitled Past Detectives, the Model Village workshop was also designed to draw connections between research into Welsh Garden Villages with Cardiff University researcher Dr Stephanie Ward and the CAER Heritage Project Dusty Forge WW1 project with Dan Jewson.

After a brief collaborative drawing exercise the young people developed their own individual cartoon characters – inhabitants for the Ely Garden Village – and worked on scripts for their characters. These characters were then scanned into iPads and imported into a user-friendly app that allowed them to create short animation sequences. Photographs from the Ely estate were used as backgrounds or scenery for these sequences.

Characters designed by the young people are scanned into the iPad to help create animation sequences.

Characters designed by the young people are scanned into iPads to help create animation sequences.

The young people then carefully rehearsed their scripts and recorded their films/animation sequences, making the characters move in rhythm with their words.

Working in pairs, the young people record their animation sequences in pairs.

Working in pairs, the young people record and review their animation sequences.

Selected animation sequences from this workshop will be featured in The Model Village film, along with an interview with Dr Stephanie Ward made at the Glamorgan Archive, and film sequences from the Ely estate made by local film maker Viv Thomas and Jon Harrison.

You can check out the finished film HERE.


Romanobritish :: Ping Pong Portals to the Past

Jane Holland, Assistant Head Teacher at Woodlands with the completed 'Romanbritish' table tennis table.

Jane Holland, Assistant Head Teacher at Woodlands High School with the completed ‘Romanobritish’ table tennis table.

Caer Heritage Project artist Paul Evans has been busy recently, completing work on our Romanobritish table tennis tables or ‘Ping Pong Portals to the Past’.

Paul used a carefully chosen selection from dozens of designs created during three days of intensive artistic workshops with students from Woodlands and Glyn Derw High Schools – see the following links for further details of these lively creative sessions:

Session I

Session II

Session III

One of the many designs created by young people from Woodlands and Glyn Derw during the Romanobritish creative workshops.

One of the many designs created by young people from Woodlands and Glyn Derw High Schools during the Romanobritish creative workshops.

Using these designs Paul has created 16 hand cut stencils that were used to transfer the designs onto two table tennis tables, one to be permanently sited at Michaelstone Community School, the other at Woodlands High School.



Testing the layout – hand cut stencils in place at Michaelston Community School.


Stencilling complete - The Michaelston Table.

Stencilling complete – The Michaelston Table.

RomanoBritish :: Session III

Roans v Britons table tennis ...

Romans v Britons table tennis …

The third and final Romanobritish workshop, which took place at Glyn Derw High School in late October 2015, was all about focussing on the output of the Romanobritish project – a design for our ‘Ping Pong Portal to the Past’.

We began the day with the enjoyable but challenging task of creating a cartoon ‘Romans v Ancient Britons’ table tennis match. Romanobritish lead artist Paul Evans handed out an example of what such a match might look like, but our young people had no problems creating their own, individual, unique interpretations of this scene.

Question is who would win? Answers on a postcard to CAER Heritage Project please!

Developing Celtic designs based on animal themes ...

Developing ‘Romanobritish’ designs based on animal themes …

Next we turned our attention to developing a series of Romanobritish symbols or motifs for our table tennis design, using a collection of images of beautiful Romanobritish brooches as inspiration …

Bringing it all together - our Romanobritish table tennis design emerges.

Bringing it all together – our Romanobritish table tennis design emerges.

Finally, we collected all of the ideas, drawings and motifs developed over the three days of workshops and transferred the best of these onto A0 sheets of paper laid out to scale with table tennis markings.

All of these will now feed into the final designs to be developed by lead artist Paul Evans over the next month. These will then be transferred onto the outdoor table tennis tables sat Woodlands High School and Michaelston Community College sometime during the first few weeks of 2016.




RomanoBritish :: Session II


A tribal emblem for the 'Salmon Tribe'.

A tribal emblem for the ‘Salmon Tribe’.

Day two of the RomanoBritish project was once again packed full of creativity.

After a review of last week’s activities we warmed up with a customised version of the surrealist parlour game Exquisite Corpse. Although this has a rather alarming title, it’s actually a very simple, fun and creative drawing game involving paper folds.

Our first game of 'Exquisite Corpse' ...

Our first game of ‘Exquisite Corpse’ …

After the first stage, during which we created some spectacular mixed-up monsters, we applied the same format to the Romans and the Brits.

A mixed up (hybrid) Roman/Britain ...

A mixed up (hybrid) Roman/Britain …

The next activity took us outdoors and onto Trelai Park where the Ely Roman Villa is buried*. Measuring out a 30m line – where 1mm represented a year, 1m a thousand years – the young people were each allocated a millennium, made a sign for this year on paper, and then physically spaced themselves along it to scale. This really made us think about the huge distance that we need to go back into deep time to encounter the very earliest cave art that we explored in RomanBritish Session I .

Measuring out our 30,000 year timeline.

Measuring out our 30,000 year timeline.

Once we had established our timeline we located the millennia to which our examples of ancient art belonged, drew them onto luggage labels and tied them in place.

Attaching examples of ancient art to our timeline .

Attaching examples of ancient art to our timeline .

Returning indoors we then looked further into the culture of ancient Rome.

‘Carpe diem’ … Seize the day!

The Romans have developed something of a reputation amongst historians for ‘colourful graffiti’ so we decided to turn this idea its head and create some colourful, contemporary, ‘graffiti style’ versions of Latin phrases. These were created collectively, each of the young people designing their own Roman graffiti letter which were then compiled into classical sayings.

We then explored the mosaics that were used by the Romans to decorate various surfaces.

A mosaic under construction ...

A mosaic under construction …



One a number of beautiful mosaics that were produced in this part of the workshop.

*Roman Villa site: In 1894 a first century Roman villa was discovered on Ely Racecourse and excavations were carried out in 1922. The site of the villa is still visible as an unmown area in the middle of Trelai Park, although the excavations have been covered over. The site is a scheduled ancient monument.


RomanoBritish :: Session I

Our first collaborative - based on ancient hand stencils ...

Our first collaborative art work – based on ancient hand stencils …

Romanobritish is a new project that is being run in partnership between Woodlands School, Glyn Derw High School, Caer Heritage Project lead artist Paul Evans and Dr David Wyatt from Caer Heritage Project. The aim of the Romanobritish is to co-produce designs for playing surfaces of two table tennis tables that will be permanently sited within Woodlands and Michaelston Community Schools.

These ‘playable artworks’ will act as ‘ping-pong portals to the past’ with eye-catching designs based on artistic motifs from the Romanobritish cultural period that began after the Roman conquest around AD43. The first session, however, focussed on art that preceded this time and amounted to a whistle-stop tour of artistic prehistory.

The Romanobritish project will feature a number of collaborative artworks during the course of the project and our first piece was based on the theme of very ancient hand stencils which feature in the most ancient cave paintings, dating back some 40,000 years. These hand stencils were originally created using blown paint but we decided to use felt tip pens to trace our hands. Everyone in the class room – teachers, class room assistants and young people each traced their own hand onto the paper and decorated in with patterns based on the very earliest rock art and spiral motifs that appeared in the Neolithic.

Decorating our cave-art 'hand stencils' ...

Decorating our cave-art ‘hand stencils’ …

We then looked at Palaeolithic representations of animals and considered the conditions under which they were made – in the dark, deep in the ground, from memory. We each drew an animal from memory using charcoal – a material that would have been quite familiar to our ancient ancestors – again creating a group artwork, representing our collective identity.

Drawing animals from memory.

Drawing animals from memory.

The final creative task for a very busy morning was to make an individual artwork in homage to the Bronze Age . After looking at images of golden masks, we made a simple, mask-like form in plasticine. We then used another soft, shiny metal – aluminium foil – to mould around this.

Moulding aluminium foil around our 'Bronze Age' mask.

Moulding aluminium foil around our ‘Bronze Age’ mask.

Dr Dave Wyatt then made a short presentation on Caerau hill fort and its place in Romanobritish culture to the group which prompted lots of lively discussion.

Dr Dave Wyatt leads a lively discussion on Romanobritish culture.

Dr Dave Wyatt leads a lively discussion on Romanobritish culture.

The session was finished off with the young people being offered the chance to handle some recent finds from the dig – some of which had been buried out of sight for over 2,000 years.

We are grateful to the staff and pupils of Woodlands School and Glyn Derw High School for making this a very special day.




The Caerau Hillfort Dig 2015

A blog by Exploring the Past student and volunteer Midnight

On Monday 6th July I returned to the archaeological dig at Caerau Hillfort for the third year in a row. Together with my trusty support worker, and with trowel in hand, I was rearing to go.

Unlike previous years where the weather has been baking hot and extremely bright, the Monday was grey, overcast and we even had a few showers. However, this helped keep the dust from the digging to a minimum.

As there was insufficient space for me to layout for digging in Trench 3, I was assigned to sieving. I was using a large rectangular sieve set in a tripod structure to go through the buckets of soil from Trench 3 to start with. I didn’t find anything, unfortunately, but others have found pottery shards and the like in Trench 3 over the last 2 weeks.

Sieving at Trench 5a

Sieving at Trench 5a

After the break I was assigned to Trench 5a and with my lovely assistant Ellen (I do hope I’ve spelt that right), we used a similar large sieve to go through the soil coming from Trench 5a. Whilst Ellen found numerous bits of pottery and even a small fragment of bone, I only found a thick pottery sherd. Dating of these sherds is hesitant at present and we await the arrival of a pottery expert to assist with this.

Despite the showers and slightly lower temperature, today was productive and insightful, and I eagerly awaited tomorrow’s adventure!

Tuesday 7th was a wet world! As the wind guested and clouds moved across the sky, one minute sunny, the next gray; I sat under a small gazebo and washed finds from Trench 3. To wash finds you need a tray with the finds in, a tray with some newspaper laid down, a bowl of clean water and a toothbrush. Gently brushing the find with a damp toothbrush, the soil and debris on the find is removed to reveal what lies beneath. Warning, never dip the find in the water!

Cleaning finds under the Gazebo

Cleaning finds under the Gazebo

I worked mainly on different types of pottery and some bone fragments. The pottery was interesting and I mainly cleaned three types; thin, black ware; medium dark brown ware and thick coarse ware. We await a pottery specialist to accurately date there fragments but as they were found in a Roman age midden it’s fair to say they may be Roman in age. Some of these fragments had slightly visible patterns and faint ridges or lines as well as edges.

Cleaning finds is as important to an archaeological dig as the digging itself. Without careful logging, cleaning and preservation of the finds we would have little idea about the use and relative age of the site. It’s also exciting to hold something in your hand that may have last been held 100’s of years ago and wonder if it was a precious, cared for possession or if it was a ubiquitous transportation vessel and given as little thought then as the thought we give the bottles we drink out of today.

Digging square 33 in Trench 3

Digging square 33 in Trench 3

Wednesday was all about ‘square 33 and the hidden treasure’! Despite the rain and the gooey chocolate cake like mud, I was laid out in trench three, digging a Roman midden! We used a slightly different technique to dig here, excavating the midden in squares so that all finds could be recorded accurately.

I was allocated square 33 which was 50×50 cm and asked to dig down 10 cm’s; sieving as I went. At first the going was tough and the site seemed barren. However, I did find (after a couple of hours of digging) a small fragment of white bone, possibly animal; and a little while later a large fragment of Oxford pottery.

Digging is obviously the most important part and main focus of an archaeological dig. It’s important to be careful while digging not to accidentally destroy finds with over enthusiastic use of the trowel. It’s important to note this as one digs down through time.

Bone fragment

Bone fragment

While I didn’t finish my square in the time allocated, overall today was a productive and exciting day.