1991:118 - Fethard, Tipperary

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Tipperary Site name: Fethard

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

Author: Georgina Scally, Castle Cottage, 103 Rathgar Road, Dublin 6.

Site type: Town walls

ITM: E 620746m, N 634948m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.465580, -7.694693

During 1990, a local group entitled ‘The Friends of Fethard’ initiated substantial reconstruction work along the stretch of very fine medieval town wall which overlooks the River Clashawley in Fethard, Co. Tipperary. It was their intention to rebuild the wall-walk of the town wall back to its original plan, reconstruct one of the mural towers, and also to discover, through archaeological investigation, the original plan of the lower parts of the wall which had been covered underground through time.

Seven trenches were opened for investigation. Trench 1 was opened in order to establish the extent of the wall-walk, as the town wall had been breached in this area and consequently, there was no trace of it remaining over ground. It was established that the wall-walk did continue, and most likely extended as far as the adjoining mural tower at the east end. A wall of unknown date was also exposed; it enclosed the stretch of town wall which had been breached in earlier times.

A second trench, again located on the interior of the town wall was excavated in order to establish if a stairway ever existed leading from the old ground surface on to the wall-walk. It was established that no such stairway ever existed in this location.

A third trench was located on the interior of the wall, adjacent to the mural tower at the western end. The deposits accumulated over a lower doorway were removed which in turn exposed a stone wall abutting the tower at a 90 degree angle. A stone drain, a later intrusion, cur the northern extent of this wall.

Two trenches were located inside this mural tower, the purpose being to establish if the town wall pre-dated the construction of the tower, and also to determine its internal plan. Trenching was commenced but abandoned soon after as the internal dimensions of the tower were too restricted for trenching, and it was agreed that open plan excavation would be necessary in order to answer the necessary questions.

Abutting the exterior of the town wall, at the eastern end, an animal pound had existed since at least 1710 AD. However one of its walls was of a considerably earlier date as both the masonry and the existence of a splayed slit-window indicated. Two test trenches were located in this area, the purpose being to delimit the full extent of the structure associated with this wall, and also to establish its function. Few traces of the full extent of this structure were uncovered. Up until recent years this area had been used as a dumping ground, mainly for builders’ rubble, and it seems likely that when it was subsequently cleared and levelled, foundation stones may have been removed. Rising water from the nearby Clashawley River also severely hindered visibility. However it was established that the wall in question was bonded into the lower part of the medieval town wall and part of a garderobe chute was also exposed.

No further archaeological investigation has taken place here since, as the committee of the ‘Friends of Fethard’ decided to concentrate on the completion of the reconstruction of the wall-walk and mural tower. However it is their hope that at some future date, finance permitting, a more comprehensive archaeological excavation will take place.

Trial trenching was undertaken over a period of nine days in January/February 1991 and funding was provided by the ‘Friends of Fethard’.