1987:15 - Dundrum Castle, Dundrum, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: Dundrum Castle, Dundrum

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

Author: Elizabeth O'Brien

Site type: Castle

ITM: E 719515m, N 724800m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.260074, -6.208660

This excavation, funded and serviced by the Rathmichael Historical Society, was undertaken on behalf of the owner, David Newman Johnson, who intends to restore the castle. The first season of excavation was of one month's duration (August 1987).

The castle, built c. 1590 to replace an earlier castle which had been vacated c. 1490, consists of a three-storied main building (8.25m by l0.25m external measurements) with a tower (5.25m by 7m externally) which projects from the eastern end of the north-west-facing wall of the main building. Beneath the now demolished remains of a modern extension to the north-east-facing wall of the main block there is some evidence for the existence of older wall footings.

Excavation concentrated on the area around the base of the walls of the tower building and part of the older wall footing, i.e. Cuttings Nos 1 to 4.

Cuttings 1 and 4
These cuttings formed a right angle, Cutting 1 being the area around the base of the north-east-facing wall of the tower, and Cutting 4 being the area around the base of a possible older wall footing.

Removal of accumulated rubbish and soil revealed a pronounced batter at the base of the north-east-facing wall of the tower incorporating a garderobe chute ope. Two projecting stone walls, located 1.5m on either side of the garderobe ope, delimit the extent of the latrine pit. The wall on the northern side of the pit was 2.5m long and consisted of a well-built stone revetment against an earthen backing. The wall on the south side was 3.5m long and 1.75m thick where visible (a wall of the later extension had been built over the wall at this point). Located in the body of the south wall, at right angles to the line of it, were two parallel stone-lined slots which continued beneath the base of the wall of the destroyed extension building and emerged at the far side. Each slot was 3.5m long by 0.5m wide by 2.75m deep (max. remaining). The backs of both slots slope at an angle of approx. 300 from top to bottom. One of the slots has an ope at its base, with a further drop of approx. 2m opening into a small crude stone chamber (not yet fully excavated).

These slots form part of the truncated structure of a counter-balanced drawbridge associated with the earlier, possibly 13th-century, castle at the site. The late 16th-century latrine pit was formed by re-using part of the fosse or moat associated with the drawbridge, the late 16th century tower having been built over a stone-filled portion of the fosse or moat.

Cutting 2
This is located along the base of the north-west-facing wall of the tower. At a depth of approx. In, a finely cobbled surface associated with the tower was uncovered.

Cutting 3
This is located at the angle of the south-west-facing wall of the tower and the main building.

An area of paving measuring 5m by 3m was uncovered in this cutting. Subsidence towards the centre of the paved area is probably due to the fact that it was laid over the fill of the earlier fosse/moat (to be investigated further).

Small circular gun-loops were exposed near the base of each wall.

Finds include sherds of North Leinster cooking ware and a green glazed jug strap handle (l3th/l4th-century); a bronze strap distributor (lSth/l6th-century type); one George III coin dated 1781; one George IV token; one half of a token bearing the letters E W; three bronze thimbles; sherds of North Devon gravel-tempered ware (l7th/l8th-century), and Bristol/Staffordshire ware (l7th/l8th-century); glazed ridge tiles and roofing slates; fragments of clay pipes; one Jew's harp; fragments of glass, china ware, etc.

Also recovered from accumulated topsoil in Cutting 3 was the face portion of a human skull with the cranium sawn off. As this find was not from an archaeological context, it is now the subject of a police enquiry.

It is envisaged that the drawbridge/moat area will be investigated further next season.

121 Barton Road East, Dundrum, Dublin 14.