Ancient History at Carreg Samson: Warpool Court Hotel’s Peter Trier Talks Evidence
People on holiday often want to learn about the local history of a place.
"Evidence of an ancient past and pre-historic people in Wales is all over the country," says Warpool Court Hotel owner Peter Trier. "With 150 Neolithic ‘dolmens’ in Wales, it’s easy to stumble across one."
A dolmen is a single-chamber stone tomb consisting of two or more large vertical stones which support a horizontal stone across the top, known as a capstone. In Pembrokeshire, the most famous example of a dolmen is Pentre Ifan in the Preseli Hills. But another of the most significant structures is located a half-mile west of Abercastle, about 20 minutes from Warpool Court Hotel. Situated high on a cliff overlooking Abercastle Harbour and the Irish Sea you’ll find Carreg Samson (also Carreg Sampson, Samson's Stone, or the Longhouse). Carreg Samson's impressive capstone is about 15 feet long (4.5m) and 9 feet wide (2.7m). It’s not known how or why the ancient inhabitants created these structures but radiocarbon dating shows many appear to have been created between 4000-3000BC. Often the structures were originally covered with earth or smaller stones, which have washed away over time.
Archaeologists examining these dolmen believe they tell us more about the ancients peoples’ cultural beliefs about death and the afterlife. It's generally accepted they were used as tombs or burial chambers because human remains have been found in or close to them, but it’s not possible to know for sure that the remains were placed when the stones were originally erected.
The name Carreg Samson arises from a local legend. It’s said that a Celtic Saint named Samson created the monument by flicking stones from the island in Abercastle Harbour with his little finger. St. Samson, one of seven founder saints of Brittany, was born in Wales around the year 485 and is considered one of the greatest Celtic missionaries to come from the British Isles. According to his biographers, St. Samson "cured lepers, restored sight to the blind, cast out demons and guided many to the path of salvation." He has been cited as an example of a Celtic wandering missionary monk.
Before Christianity arrived in Wales, archaeological evidence shows the existence of a variety of religious beliefs and rituals such as those practiced by Druids. Initially banned, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire by the end of the 4th century. Then, out of the Roman empire's collapse, a "Welsh" people emerged based on Christianity and a common language.
The 5th and 6th centuries have been termed the "Age of the Saints" with intense Christian activity. St. Patrick is recognized as the most famous "Welsh" missionary who focused on converting Irish to Christianity, as well as St. David in Wales. In fact, St. David is the only native-born patron saint of the countries of Britain and Ireland.
Wales' Celtic saints were often men or women of noble rank - kings, princes and chieftains, who abandoned lives of privilege to live a monastic life. In Wales, being declared a saint was locally conferred; the Roman Catholic Church does not appear to have officially declared any medieval Welsh saints. A Papal mission led by St. Augustine to unify Christian peoples was rebuffed by Welsh bishops. It was Viking attacks in the late 8th century that brought Welsh and English Christians together.
If you’d like to come and discover historic sites during your holiday on the Pembrokeshire Coast, why not book one of our luxury rooms or a stay in our private, self-catering Garden Cottage here at Warpool Court Hotel? Simply book online, send us an email or give us a call on 01437 720300.