The Capel Garmon Firedog

  • A farm worker discovered this artefact in 1852 near Carreg Goedog farm, Capel Garmon, near Llanrwst, Conwy. It was found lying on its side, with a large stone placed at each end and deeply buried in peat.
  • It's placing and unbroken state suggests that it was a deliberate deposit. Was this possibly as an offering to one of the Celtic gods or goddesses? There was a strong tradition of votive metalwork deposition within lakes, bogs and rivers in Wales.
  • Firedogs, perhaps paired, would have been placed either side of the central hearth within a roundhouse. Their function could have been decorative symbolising the status of the household.
  • At either end of the firedog is a representation of an animal's head and neck. It resembles that of a horse or bull and possibly represents a mythical beast.
  • The blacksmith who made this firedog was a master craftsperson, highly skilled at shaping and working iron. The skill of the blacksmith was highly respected within the community. Iron was then a new material, first used in Wales at the very beginning of the Iron Age (750BC).
  • Iron was a valuable material to Iron Age people, involving much effort and hard work to create. Such is the intricacy of the Capel Garmon firedog that it would have taken over a year to make from the smelting of the iron to the finished piece.
  • It is difficult to know how old the firedog is. Its discovery in the nineteenth century denied careful investigation of the burial place. Comparison of this firedog with others found in chieftain burials in south-east England suggests a date in the Late Iron Age (c. 50BC-AD50). These chieftain burials also include wine amphorae, exclusive wheel made pottery and other objects of high status.
  • The Capel Garmon firedog is about the same size as the Dulux dog. It measures 1060mm in length, 756mm in height and weighs over 9kg.