1989:063 - Broad Street/Curry Lane, Abbey C Ward, Limerick

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Limerick Site name: Broad Street/Curry Lane, Abbey C Ward

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

Author: Kenneth Wiggins, c/o Planning Dept., Limerick Corporation, Limerick.

Site type: Medieval/post-medieval urban

ITM: E 558160m, N 657044m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.662958, -8.618518

The site was located within Irishtown, the southern of Limerick’s two medieval walled precincts. A new housing development was planned for an area adjacent to Gratten Street, which had been cleared of earlier dwellings. Archaeological excavation was undertaken because of the site’s position on Broad Street, the main thoroughfare of Irishtown. However, trial holes revealed the street frontage to have been cellared in the 19th century; excavation therefore was confined to the rear of the area, further east towards Curry Lane, where medieval levels were relatively undisturbed. The work was funded by Limerick Corporation and lasted seven weeks.A mechanical excavator took off the surface concrete and unstratified rubble up to 1m in depth; a trench measuring 20m (north-south) by 8m (east-west) was established.The earliest evidence for occupation consisted mainly of unlined pits cut into the subsoil, a few of which were quite large. One of these features contained cess material, another some compact peaty deposits, but in general the pits were backfilled with loose garden soil. These early contents were associated with pottery sherds of 13th-14th-century date. A thick covering of homogeneous garden soil was then introduced, except at the higher south-west corner where some random spreads of ashy material and silty clays containing animal bones and wood fragments had been deposited.The garden soil accumulation was cut by a few more pits, and also by two walls of medieval origin. One of the walls was aligned east-west and divided the trench in two; it survived to a maximum height of 0.5m. Associated with this wall was a second which extended south along the east limit of the excavation for a distance of 5m, and survived to a maximum height of nearly 2m. Both walls were made of faced, unmortared limestone, and underwent rebuilding during the medieval period.Evidence for later medieval activity included a dense group of timber stakes driven into the garden soil directly over one of the largest early pits. The purpose seems to have been to consolidate ground that would not otherwise have supported the weight of a substantial structure. An unrelated wall-footing which consisted of a single east-west line of stones was situated a little to the east.Post-medieval occupation was represented by a large stone-lined drain, which had an excavated length of 3m, an internal width of up to 1m and was 1.2m deep. There was evidence for widely-spaced timber supports within the structure, and also for timber-beam roofing. The cess infill contained sherds of 17th-century pottery. The bottom of a barrel pit was also excavated.Machine clearance of demolition debris to the west of the trench exposed the base of a clay-pipe kiln. It survived as a circular brick-built surface with a diameter of 1.67m. Three flues made of brick radiated out from the kiln centre. These remains were covered by a destruction layer of stones, mortar lumps, and brick fragments, replete with many clay-pipe pieces. The markings on the pipe bowls suggest that the kiln was destroyed at the end of the 19th century.The excavation demonstrated that there were no dwellings fronting onto Curry Lane in the medieval period. The area was characterised initially by desultory pit-digging, and was probably under cultivation much of the time. Subdivision at a later stage, represented by the central east-west wall, created two properties which would have fronted onto Broad Street to the west. In the northern of these properties some structural development is implied by the presence of timber piling and by a wall footing. In the southern, there was little remaining apart from some scatters of dumped material. The advent of major housing development in the 19th century caused quite extensive destruction of the later medieval/early post-medieval levels.