1990:006 - *English St./Market Sq., Armagh, Armagh

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Armagh Site name: *English St./Market Sq., Armagh

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

Author: C.J. Lynn, Historic Monuments and Buildings Branch, DOE(NI).

Site type: Gardens, possible ecclesiastical/urban site

ITM: E 687433m, N 845402m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.349798, -6.655113

The hillside site lay some 120m downslope to north-east of the Cathedral and a little closer to the reputed site of the Abbey of SS Peter and Paul to the west. Five small evaluation trenches forming a T plan were hand-excavated in 1989-90. Three of these at the upper side of the site revealed the line of a ditch, probably of later medieval date, curving around the hillside. All of the trenches revealed features of archaeological interest, such as large pits, postholes, gullies and slight hollows retaining small patches of soil undisturbed by recent cultivation. All of the features, however, were truncated to some degree and appeared in the surface of subsoil, below an average of 1m disturbed garden soil (in which was found a real of Ferdinand and Isabella. struck in Segovia: R. Heslip, pers. comm.). The only dating evidence, in a few of the features, was provided by sherds of medieval everted-rim cooking pottery. Some of the features could be earlier or later than the later medieval period, but there was no real evidence for Early Christian or prehistoric activity on this hillside site. While no structure of dramatic interest was found, the evaluation was sufficient to show that the area could not safely be surrendered to development without further investigation.

In August 1990 a large irregular area at the south side of the site about 8m by 20m was machine-cleared of topsoil under archaeological supervision. This excavated area did not incorporate any of the earlier trial trenches, but the picture revealed by hand excavation to subsoil of the larger area was consistent with the evaluation. A random-looking scatter of varied features occupied the area, ranging from vague shallow hollows, perhaps relics of the earliest phases of spade cultivation, to a well-defined linear trench, interpreted as a drain angling across the hillside, containing substantial quantities of everted-rim ware and part of a glazed ridge tile of medieval type.

From the presence of pottery sherds it appears that some at least of the pits and gullies are of late or post-medieval date. The character of soil infilling other features is similar and provides no hint that any of the dug features could be of Early Christian date. Some features, however, which are certainly of medieval date contained a few residual finds of Early Christian period type, for example sherds of souterrain ware, a speck of amber, three tiny glass rods (one of twisted blue and white glass) and chips and cores from the manufacture of lignite rings.

Evidence is beginning to emerge that there is a greater concentration of surviving remains and perhaps even an occupation layer’ at the lower end of the site, 40m upslope from the present English St. frontage. This may only reflect the vagaries of preservation on the sloping site rather than any ancient zoning of activity, even though a similar picture emerged in excavations downslope from Castle Street carried out in 1976. Over the entire site the scattered remains are difficult to interpret, but are sufficient to encourage perseverance with the small-scale operation in the hope that coherent patterns might emerge. In progress.