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About Prof Robert Silvester

I studied archaeology in joint honours with history at the University of Exeter, graduating in 1972. After a stint as an archaeological field officer in Devon, and then for twelve months on the re-assessment of the Meare East lake village for the Somerset Levels Project, I worked in Norfolk for the Fenland Survey for seven years. In 1989, moved across country to Wales where I was deputy director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust until my retirement in February 2016.

Almost inevitably, my research interests have transmuted during a professional life that has extended over more than four decades. In my years in Devon, Iron Age and Roman settlement were major interests, but the move to Norfolk fostered a change both in approach from fieldwork and excavation to fieldwalking – six years of it! – and an intensifying interest in the archaeology of the historic era and the development of the historic landscape. Leaving the lowlands of East Anglia for the hills of Wales involved a further shift, particularly towards fieldwork projects in the central and northern uplands of the country, but also a range of other projects so numerous that I’ve almost certainly forgotten some of them, though most have been embedded in the medieval and post-medieval eras. An assessment of all the historic churches in east and north-east Wales in the 1990s was instrumental in me taking on the role of archaeologist for the diocese of St Asaph; and more recently being appointed as one of the seven commissioners on the Cathedrals and Churches Commission which advises the Representative Body of the Church in Wales on heritage-related issues.

Another Cadw-funded programme in Wales focussed on deserted rural settlements of medieval and early post-medieval date, and a series of papers on the subject led to my doctorate from Exeter and, currently, my presidency of the Medieval Settlement Research Group. Other roles at present include being a trustee of the Powysland Club, Wales’ oldest county society, and reviews editor for the journal Archaeologia Cambrensis, though I recently gave up a similar role for the journal Landscape History after more than twenty years in the post.


In the world of churches, my research interests focus on a long-standing interest in eighteenth-century memorials in the churches of east Wales, and a more recent appreciation of the carvings in some church roofs of north-east Wales. With medieval settlements, it is the development of such sites in the landscapes of Wales and the English border counties that take my interest. Finally evolving from my work in the Norfolk fens thirty years ago, the value of historic cartography and particularly estate maps in unravelling the landscape has become a major pre-occupation and has led to an interest too in the maps themselves and the surveyors who compiled them. 

Published Work

Silvester, R. J., 2019. Meredith Jones: An Eighteenth-Century Breconshire Mapmaker, Brycheiniog, 50, 25–55. 

Silvester, R. J., 2019. Medieval field systems in north Wales, in R. Comeau and A. Seaman (eds) Living off the Land. Agriculture in Wales c.400-1600 AD, Oxford: Windgather Press, 93-111. 

Silvester, R. J., 2019. Buckley potteries and their relationship with Buckley Mountain Common – cartographic evidence, in N. W. Jones The Buckley Potteries. Recent Research And Excavation, Oxford: Archaeopress Publishing Ltd, 7-11.

2018 (with S. Rippon and P. Dixon). Rural settlement and buildings. Overview: the form and pattern of medieval settlement, in C. M. Gerrard and A. Gutiérrez (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 171-92.  

2018 (with W.J. Britnell) Hillforts and defended enclosures of the Welsh borderland, Internet Archaeology 48

(with H. Hanniford) The warren on Norbury Hill, Trans Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society 93, 1-6  

2018 (with M. Athanson) Two legal maps from Shropshire, Trans Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society 93, 45-52  

2018 An early eighteenth-century map of Whitford Common by Joseph Hawley. Journal of the Flintshire Historical Society 41, 79-106

2018 Roman roads in Wales, in N. Hodgson, P Bidwell and J Schachtman (eds) Roman Frontier Studies 2009. Proceedings of the XXI International Congress if Roman Frontier Studies (Limes Congress) held at Newcastle upon Tyne in August 2009. Oxford: Archaeopress Archaeology, 93-98

2018 (with N. Jones), Tŷ-uchaf, a seventeenth-century farmhouse at Cwm Llêch, Pennant Melangell. Montgomeryshire Collections 105, 51-70.  


BA (Exeter); PhD (Exeter); FSA.