1990:122 - Ballynerrin Lower, Wicklow

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Wicklow Site name: Ballynerrin Lower

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

Author: Georgina Scally, c/o 81 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 4.

Site type: Burial site

ITM: E 731223m, N 894192m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.778518, -5.960152

In late October 1990, the remains of two skeletons were discovered during site clearance for a development of 16 new houses on high ground to the west of, and overlooking, Wicklow town. As a result, a number of test trenches were opened in order to delimit the extent of the burials, together with any other archaeological features occurring on the site. Each of the test trenches was 0.7m wide and varied in length from c. 3m-34m.

A further five skeletons were uncovered, each one orientated east-west, fully extended with their heads lying to the west. In four of the five cases, the skeletons were dug into a sterile yellow clay and were consequently in a poor state of preservation, with only traces of their lower body bones being visible. No finds were recovered within these deposits. Overlying this yellow clay, a stony gravel deposit was laid, into which a single extended skeleton, in an excellent state of preservation, was uncovered. A number of sherds of Leinster cooking ware were retrieved from this deposit.

In one of the trenches, a mortar-bonded stone feature was exposed, set into the clay deposit to the east, and the gravel deposit to the west. About 0.7m wide, it extended north-south for a distance of c. 0.8m, turned to the east, where a clean face could be identified, and extended for a further length of c. 0.5m. It did not extend into any of the adjacent test trenches. A number of sherds of medieval pottery were recovered from the gravel deposit abutting this feature to the west.

Further to the north a number of shallow stone features were identified, set into the dense yellow clay, with no evidence for mortar bonding. They consisted of one course of stones and were 0.4m-0.45m wide with a maximum identified length of c. 3.5m.

Further to the north and east of the burial area, a number of test trenches, orientated east-west, were dug down to bedrock, which occurred 0.3m-0.7m below present ground surface. A number of north-south cuts were noted in the bedrock. About 0.8m-1.1m in width 0.08m-0.3m in depth and continuing downslope in a northerly direction, their full extent remains undetermined due to the trial trenching being terminated before they were fully exposed. They were filled with dry loam and charcoal, within which a number of sherds of Leinster cooking ware were recovered. In one of these features a partially damaged medieval relief tile was embedded into the loam fill. The design on the tile is quite distinct, albeit incomplete; a horse with rider, bridle piece and reins, two birds, and possibly a deer with antlers can be identified. Traces of a green glaze can also be seen.

The site has not yet been fully archaeologically resolved. A full excavation of the burial area may take place some time in the future, or alternatively, an area of open space may be located over the burials, thus leaving them undisturbed. Trial trenching was funded by the developer.