1991:112 - Holy Trinity Abbey, Trinity Island, Roscommon

County: Roscommon Site name: Holy Trinity Abbey, Trinity Island

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

Author: Miriam Clyne, Templemartin, Craughwell, Co. Galway.

Site type: Premonstratensian Abbey

ITM: E 587492m, N 764215m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.627591, -8.189096

The excavation, from 1st July to 4th September, undertaken in advance of conservation, was funded by the Office of Public Works. The Premonstratensian Abbey on Trinity Island, Lough Key, was founded c. 1217-18. Excavation took place at the west and east of the church, the east range of the claustral buildings, and the sacristy adjoining the north-east of the church.

The west wall of the church, 1.1m wide, was uncovered. To each side of a central doorway the masonry increased in width to 2.45m. The south-west end of the church is extant to almost full height. Up to first floor level is filled with rubble and above there is a small chamber. It was found that the north-west end was of similar construction. Bondstones in the exterior face of the west wall at the south end suggested that the church may have extended beyond its present western limit. Beneath the bondstones portion of a foundation course 2.7in long was revealed with its axis east-west. This incomplete foundation was all that was found; there was no corresponding foundation outside the north-west corner.

The base of the early 13th-century sedilia in the south-east of the church was uncovered. It was delimited by sandstone ashlar blockwork and extended into the church for 0.9m x 3.34m. The covering slabs in the sedilia recess were removed to reveal a tomb inside measuring 2.14m x 0.58m x 0.6m constructed with sandstone ashlar sides and a rough floor of unhewn stone. The deposits inside contained fragmented human bone, some iron nails, modern pottery and glass. The altar, measuring 2.53m x 1.86m, appears to be a late feature. The extant lower part comprised an upper course of worked stone with rubble masonry beneath. Two stone-lined graves were located in the north-east of the church.

Excavation in the east range was concentrated at the two northern chambers adjoining the church and the centre chamber, probably the chapter room. Here the structural features had been obscured by rubble collapse. The north-west chamber was found to measure 4.5m x 2.3m internally, and the larger north-east chamber 4.5m x 3.lm. Abutting the south face of the cross-wall between the northern end chambers, there was a dry-stone wall, c. 1m wide, which can be associated with stone clearance and of recent date. In the centre chamber and outside the east range, there was evidence for a fire as the subsoil was burnt and contained charcoal.

A cutting, 1 .5m x 5m, was opened at the south-east of the sacristy. Abutting the exterior face of the sacristy wall a portion of a foundation, c. 1m wide and 0.35m in maximum extant height, was revealed. The outer limit was located below and probably associated with bondstones in the north church wall.

Sixty-three human burials were recorded, and were found in all the areas opened. They were in simple unmarked pits with the exception of an eighteen-month-old child buried in one of the stone-lined graves. Fifteen silver coins of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were found in the subsoil just inside the west wall of the church. Other metal finds include a bronze ferrule, an iron knife and nails. Pottery ranging in date from the 18th to 20th centuries consisted of rustic ware, unglazed flower pots and white earthenwares. The glass sherds, mainly of bottles, were modern. Four rotary quern fragments were also found.