1991:069 - 'Dunurlin Church', Na Gorta Dubha, Kerry

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kerry Site name: 'Dunurlin Church', Na Gorta Dubha

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 042:041 Licence number:

Author: Mícháel ÓCoileáin, Abha na Dala, Daingean Uí Chuis, Co. Chiarraí

Site type: Medieval church

ITM: E 434086m, N 604956m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.171446, -10.425716

During an eight-week period in the months of July and August, excavations took place at Dunurlin medieval church near Ballyferriter. The licence was issued to supervise the removal of masonry and box tombs within and around the church.

The church is situated on a raised area in the north-west corner of the graveyard. Apart from sections of the west gable, none of the walls were visible before work commenced.

Dunurlin was one of 19 parishes established by the Normans in Corca Dhuibhne. The dates for the construction of these churches range from the 12th century to the 16th century. In the Calender of Documents relating to Ireland 1293-1301, it is mentioned that the church at Dúnúrlann belonged to the 13th century but it is likely that repairs took place during the following centuries. The cut stone found during excavations would concur with this, as most of it points to a second phase of construction possibly in the 15th century.

According to Smith it was in ruins in 1756. In 1841 substantial sections of the northern, southern and western walls remained. During excavation the western gable, the north and south walls and at a later stage, the remains of the eastern gable were revealed. Parts of the walls were well preserved as they had been used to form one side of stone-built tombs of a later date. However above the height of 2m the walls had been robbed.

Two doorways, one in the southern wall and one in the northern wall, were revealed. They were of fine cut stone 0.8m and 1.23m in width respectively. The archway stones for the southern wall were located close by and one archway stone for the north doorway was later found in the graveyard.

A window base was found also in the north wall to give light to the altar area. Other features include a water-font inside the south doorway and a socket to hold a timber bolt also in this doorway.

Over 110 pieces of cut stone were uncovered. The majority relate to an early form of gargoyle system to take water from the roof of the church. Other cut stones include a window sill and a head stone both possibly from the east window which was a double light, cusped, ogee-headed window.

A grave slab with the names ‘Terry Rice Ferriter’ and ‘Mahonah’ and the dates 1551, 1642, 1722 and 1767 had been visible within the church before excavation. It is probably a memorial stone.

Finds from the area were few. They include clay pipes (19th-century type), a 1928 Saorstat Éirinn shilling, a possible whetstone, some perforated stone and parts of rosary beads. A fragment of a rotary quern (upper stone) was found in the graveyard.

The church was 19.4m in length (outside wall to outside wall) and 8.3m wide. The walls of the church were sturdy and well built with finely cut quoin stones. They vary in width from 1.17m up to 1.3m. The area inside the church was in a chronic state of disorder, the tombs were all lowered to the level of the threshold stones in the doorways. No stratigraphy survived as the area was constantly disturbed with burials up until quite recently.