Llys Rhosyr (Palace of the Princes) - Sarah Woodbury

Llys Rhosyr (Palace of the Princes)

Llys Rhosyr is the only excavated palace of the Welsh princes in Wales. A llys (the term used for a high status Welsh secular site) stood at Rhosyr on Anglesey, and was excavated by the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. At least three major buildings have been found, in addition to other ancillary structures; a well preserved perimeter wall also exists.

One of the buildings was, as one might expect, a large hall; the hearth place was off-centre, and an adjoined range of rooms lay along the side. The Rhosyr hall was discovered to be equal in size to the largest previously known hall in Gwynedd (the Bishop of Bangor’s residence in Llandudno). Despite the layout being similar to contemporary English halls, the Rhosyr excavations seem to suggest that the Princes lived “a curiously un-luxurious lifestyle”. The buildings are rather basic – probably being built of timber on dry stone footings, and may have been roofed in thatch for the early part of their use.

Small finds include ring brooches, a spur, strap-ends, a small knife, pottery (including examples from eastern England and Bordeaux) and a few coins (minted at London, Canterbury, Gloucester and Berwick). The latter two finds may be indicative of long distance trade.

Despite these rather meagre finds for a royal site, it is certain that Rhosyr was a royal court: Welsh Gwynedd was divided into a number of administrative areas each housing a royal township, and one of these was known to have existed at Rhosyr. According to Neil Johnstone: “There can only be one high-status dwelling on the royal estate, and it belonged to the Prince”.

After the death of Llywelyn and the Fall of Wales, the llys at Rhosyr was dismantled and became derelict. 18th century Antiquaries mentioned seeing the sand covered, ruined walls at Rhosyr, but by the turn of this century, nothing survived to be seen of the llys except the name of the field in which it once stood – cae llys (“field of the court”).

SOURCE: “Welsh royal court found in sand” British Archaeology 18 (October 1996).


2 Replies to “Llys Rhosyr (Palace of the Princes)”

  1. First, I love your books! Secondly, and more specific to this video of Llys Rhosyr, I was among the first group to start excavating here (1994-ish) when it was determined that this was indeed a royal Llys. I was waiting for my family to join me for a vacation and needed something to do. I found out about this excavation, so volunteered. At the time I was just entering a graduate program in anthropology at Wake Forest University. Thank you for your love of Wales and her history!

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