Apotropaic symbols scratched into the building’s stones, designed to ward off evil spirits, are rare glimpses of images made by the common people of the time.
An object that has come up recently in the research on Nevern is the shaft of a key, a slide key for a padlock, with inlaid spiral decoration. Keys like this only turn up on 12th century sites such as York, Winchester, Castle Acre. Unnecessarily decorated and expensive, they were probably mainly owned by aristocratic ladies safeguarding things which they wanted to keep safe: perhaps documents, jewellery, clothes or shoes. This one comes from the 1195 destruction levels of the castle—so possibly it belonged to Angharad FitzMartin. It’s so very rare to find something which has the possibility of being related to a specific individual from the past. But that is the value of Nevern Castle: prominent enough in the 12th century to have recorded history, but without later 13th and 14th century contamination, so that a decade of archaeology allows us to see the physical evidence—the reality of a 12th century past. Dr Chris Caple