1974:047 - CARRICKFERGUS TOWN, Antrim

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Antrim Site name: CARRICKFERGUS TOWN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number:

Author: Mr. T. G. Delaney, Department of Antiquities, Ulster Museum

Site type: Medieval and Later Urban sites

Period/Dating:

ITM: E 741221m, N 887393m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.714766, -5.808165

Work continued in Carrickfergus on two sites, with development work observed at several other points. The work was hampered by the severe weather, and forced to a halt in November 1974 for lack of money.

Site 3: Joymount- The 16th century town ditch has been located in 1973 in two cuttings across its eastern and northern fronts. In 1974 the NE angle of this defence was sought and found, and its continuation southwards to the shore was established. In all of these cuttings along the east, traces of the earlier stone wall found in 1973 were encountered on its inner lip; this is now interpreted as the precinct wall of the Franciscan friary.

At the north-east angle of the ditch was found a projecting three-quarter-round stone setting in the ditch fill; this may represent the flimsy footings of a small bastion as shown in the map of c. 1580. The cutting across the northern line of this ditch was continued and extended southwards. Here a rampart of earth formed the inner defence, based on a massive platform of boulders. After the early collapse of this rampart the ditch was recut on a slightly divergent line.

To the south of this rampart a new and hitherto unsuspected ditch was located, 4.5m wide and cut to a depth of 1.5m into the natural clay. An earthen rampart had stood on its inner lip, but had been largely dispersed by ploughing, and survived only where it had collapsed into the ditch. At one point this collapse sealed a series of wooden posts at the interface with ditchfill, indicating a former palisade or revetment of wood at this point. This ditch, which ran across the later defences of both periods, dates to the 13th or 14th century. In the SE corner of the site the red clay which has been laid down to seal the absolute C16th town ditch extended to the east in a deposit over 1m thick which abutted a heavy revetment of oak planks retained and braced by timber beams although surviving to a height of only 1m, this represented the remnant of a clay platform c. 2.5m high, which was deliberately slighted soon after construction and sealed by the building-level of the 1610 town wall. Dendrochronological dating by Dr. Baillie also indicated a date within the 1st decade of the 17th century. This is interpreted as a temporary gun platform built to accommodate one or two light pieces commanding the E coastal approach pending the completion of the 1610 town wall.

Several burials of late date were located in the S area of the site. Further information on these and on a hitherto unknown Medieval cemetery was retrieved when the site was destroyed in 1975, and will be described in the next Bulletin.

Artefacts found include the usual wide range of both local and imported Medieval and later pottery; fragments of floor tile, roof tiles of stone and clay. A small but detailed ceramic model of a bee, apparently used in metalworking, remains without parallel. Metal objects included iron knives and nails, horseshoes, spurs, and the like, with pins and buckles of copper alloy. The ditch-fills produced many fragments of leather shoes, and the plentiful organic remains and deposits await analysis.

Site 4: 33-37 High Street- In 1973 the destruction of three Victorian properties revealed the presence of the late 16th century town wall, and many fragments of Medieval carved stone, while the streeward wall of the No. 33 cellar was tentatively identified as that of a re-used tower house. Work began in August 1974 and was concentrated on the street frontage.

Here the clearance of rubble revealed a complex of late walls and sewers. Beneath No. 37 one definite tower house was soon exposed; although its S wall had been robbed

out in the 19th century. A rectangular building, its N wall at least 6.5m long and 1.25m wide, standing to a height of over 1.5m. The eastern return was 7m long. To the west, a N-S wall c. 45cm thick and 4.6m long may have been a partition wall within the building, the west wall of which remains to seek.

The identification of the wall in the cellar of No. 33 remains a question to be pursued in 1975; heavy late disturbance may make this impossible.

Clearance of bulldozed rubble on the site of No. 37 revealed a layer of stiff red clay. This sealed a layer of charcoal associated with some large pits, one of which contained a piece of oak dated dendrochronologically to 1550 A.D. The same layer produced most of a large two-handled green glazed jug.

Other finds include quantities of medieval and later pottery and glass, a lead weight-box, a penny of William and Mary and two jettons; finds of more recent date comprised live Mills bombs, .303 rifle ammunition, and a .38 revolver.

Work was observed at three other points in the town — at 19 Market Place, a shop with out-offices was destroyed without warning. Inspection showed that these 19th century buildings had terraced back into the hill on which St. Nicholas’s stands, rendering most of the N. side of West Street archaeologically sterile. The insertion of a petrol tank at the rear of No. 23 Lancasterian Street showed the survival of organic deposits to a depth of over 1m below modern fill. Destruction of a house plot at 46 North Street had robbed out any surviving stratification before being observed. It is hoped to complete work on the 33-37 High Street site in 1975, and to complete an overall survey of what other sites will be affected by the present phase of development.