1991:083 - Rothe House, Kilkenny, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: Rothe House, Kilkenny

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

Author: Andrew Halpin, Archaeological Development Services Ltd., The Power House, Pigeon House Harbour, Dublin 4.

Site type: Urban post-medieval

ITM: E 650426m, N 656165m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.654334, -7.254715

In March 1991 Archaeological Development Services carried out an archaeological excavation on behalf of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society at Rothe House, Kilkenny. The site was the third (westernmost) house in the Rothe House complex, currently being restored. The insertion of a new floor with damp course necessitated the excavation of the floor area of the house to a depth of c. 0.45m below present ground level and the excavation aimed to assess the archaeological potential of the surviving floor area. Three areas within the house, in the west, south-west and north-east sectors respectively, were excavated and a further area, the base of a much-altered garderobe chute in the south-east angle of the house, was also briefly investigated.

Rothe House was built by John Rothe, a wealthy Kilkenny merchant (d. 1620), but it is thought that the complex was not erected in one operation. The third house would seem to be of more recent date than the other two, as it is referred to in Rothe's will (1619) as 'the newe house or building next my garden'; a date of 1610 has been suggested for its construction. The will also provides information on the function of this house; it refers to 'the great kitchen', the 'gyle (brew) house' and the 'kyll' (kiln?) located there. The extremely large stone fireplace which still survives, although much altered, in the south wall is clearly part of the 'great kitchen'. However, two fine cut stone fireplaces on the first floor and a multiple garderobe at attic level above indicate that the house was also intended for use as a residence.

The excavation indicated that the original floor of the house no longer survives, with the possible exception of an area of flagstone paving around the fireplace at the south end. Even this paving is likely to be later than the house, as a floor surface apparently associated with it was clearly of recent date. All other features encountered were either earlier or later than the original construction of the house. Two pits partially underlying the walls and clearly predating the construction of the house were found, although they produced little of note. They cannot even be dated; a date between the construction of the first and third houses, c. 1594-1610, is possible but they could be much earlier. The fact that the only early (i.e. contemporary with, or earlier than, the house) features discovered were pits confirms that the original surface has been removed, leaving only features cut deep in the undisturbed natural gravel. Several later surfaces, metalled, cobbled or paved, were found; these point to considerable later activity in the house, which is also reflected in the extensive remodelling visible in the fabric of the building. This later activity resulted in the complete removal of the original floor; in fact, many of the later surfaces were laid at levels almost certainly below that of the original floor. In the north-west part of the house the base of an oven- or furnace-like structure of reused limestone blocks and red bricks, possibly a blacksmith's forge, was discovered; it stood on a floor of red brick set into a large, shallow pit of irregular shape cut into the natural gravel.