1991:079 - KILKENNY: College Park, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: KILKENNY: College Park

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

Author: Heather A. King

Site type: Historic town

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 651039m, N 656043m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.653181, -7.245662

Trial trenching was carried out at Kilkenny College in March 1991 in advance of the proposed renovation of the former College for use as Kilkenny County Council Offices and the construction of a new office building and linkway east of the College. It was funded by Kilkenny County Council.

The College is situated in the Parish of St John on the east bank of the River Nore. The site consists of the former college buildings and an associated area of open parkland. It is bounded on the east and south by the River Nore, on the north by the culverted millrace of the former Magdalen Mill and on the west by John Street. The house itself is Georgian, constructed in 1782, and is reached through a recessed entrance gate from John Street. The greater part of the site lies outside the suggested line of the medieval defences of St John's (Bradley 1975-6) but part of the site straddles the line of the wall and it includes two or possibly three burgage plots which fronted onto John Street.

From an archaeological point of view the site could be divided into three sections.

1. The street frontage and entrance way linking the street with the former college
This part of the site was the location of a private house built by the Seix family in the late 16th or early 17th century which was altered in 1666 by the Duke of Ormonde to accommodate the first Kilkenny College. It is shown on Rocque's map of Kilkenny (1758) and can be identified as a Tudor-style building on an 18th-century illustration of Magdalen Castle. It was taken down sometime after the construction of the present building in 1782. It was anticipated that its foundations would survive below street level. A cutting 4.2m x 1.3m was opened immediately inside the entrance gate and a mortared wall of roughly coursed rubble limestone, faced externally, was exposed. The wall 1.2m wide, averaged 0.12m in height above a plinth which was 1.64m wide and 0.9m high. A possible cross wall and a layer of cobbling were also located. 15th/14th-century pottery was found in the layer above natural. The interpretation of the cutting was that a layer of 13th-century deposits was cut through by the construction of the Seix house and following its demolition in 1782 a layer of cobbles was laid down.

Further cuttings in the College backyard provided evidence for a layer of 13th-century refuse and a later box drain.

The proposed development will not interfere with these deposits but it is envisaged that the present gateway will be reset and widened slightly to accommodate vehicular traffic more easily. As it incorporates two rebuilt late 16th or early 17th-century door frames it has been recommended that these should be retained in the new gateway.

2. The line of the town defences which is straddled by the College
Two cuttings were made to locate the line of the defences. One was completely disturbed but a stone wall of limestone rubble 0.7m wide and 0.8m high was uncovered in the second. To the east (externally) the stratigraphy was disturbed by sewage trenches and on the west the wall was resting on brown garden soil. The narrowness of the wall and the fact that it was built on brown garden soil suggest that the wall may be a boundary wall rather than the defences of St John's.

3. The area of parkland outside the line of the medieval defences
This area, comprising about six acres, is to be extensively landscaped so a large number of trial trenches were opened to check the stratigraphy. The trenching revealed that the area has always been subject to winter flooding and would have been unsuitable for building purposes. Dumps of redeposited 16th- 18th-century material were found in some cuttings along with the insertion of modern drains which suggest repeated attempts to raise the level of the land and drain the ground.

Bradley J., 1975-6, The Town Wall of Kilkenny OKR Vol.1 No.2, 85-103; ibid., No.3, 209-18.

Skidoo, Ballyboughal, Co. Dublin