1975:11 - DUNGIVEN, Derry

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Derry Site name: DUNGIVEN

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

Author: A.D. Bratt, Historic Monuments & Buildings Branch, Department of the Environment. (NI.).

Site type: Early Christian Church/ Augustian Priory

ITM: E 669137m, N 908289m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.917542, -6.921631

Excavations took place here in February and March 1975. In the nave, work concentrated on the W. end and in the chancel, on the centre-line and NW. corner.

The earliest occupation yet encountered seem to have been in the SW. corner of the promontory The meagre evidence for this consists of a very small segment of a ditch, aligned NW. to SE. found under the present chancel arch. This ditch was cut more than 1.30m into the natural subsoil (itself 1.10 m. below the present ground level) but neither its full width nor depth was recovered.

The upper fill of the ditch had been cut into for the foundations of the earliest stone-work on the site. The area uncovered was again very limited, and the structure itself reduced to a mere two or three courses, so that its identification as an apse is very tentative indeed.

The stratigraphic position of these foundations (immediately below the present nave footings) links them with a substantial N—S. foundation of basalt boulders discovered 1.15m. E. of the W. wall, and parallel to it. If the two features belong to the same building (and this is not certain) an external length of 13.80m. for the (?) apsidal building would be correct. The basalt boulder footings at the W. end returned to the E. as one build under the N. and S. walls of the standing (Romanesque) nave.

Although built onto those footings, the N. and S. walls of the Romanesque nave projected beyond them to E. and W. to give an overall length of 1 Sm. No evidence for a chancel contemporary with the nave was found and the footings of the nave E. wall, although damaged by later graves, continued unbroken across the present chancel arch. The chancel now standing is generally regarded as built in the early fourteenth century, and there is no reason to believe otherwise.

The walls at the W. end of the nave have suffered considerable alteration at various periods, making interpretation difficult. However, the excavation showed that the tower in the SW. corner of the nave is contemporary with the lowest part of the standing W. wall, and that there are good grounds for believing that both were inserted into the Romanesque nave, probably during the fifteenth century.

The church went out of use in 1711, since when it has been used as a burial ground.