1992:003 - ARMAGH: English St/Abbey St, Armagh

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Armagh Site name: ARMAGH: English St/Abbey St

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 12:55 Licence number:

Author: Declan P. Hurl, Environment Service, Historic Monuments, DOE (NI)

Site type: Urban

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 687432m, N 845602m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.351595, -6.655055

The development of the grounds of a Georgian house off Upper English St in Armagh into a tourist and heritage complex required several seasons of exploratory work in 1989-91, directed by Dr C. Lynn and Mr N. Crothers. (Excavations 1989, 12, 1990, 12-13, 1991, 5). In January 1992, we were informed that this work would be extending into the grounds of the neighbouring 18th-century Meeting House, now abandoned; this necessitated a rapid excavation of the area.

The 12th-century Augustinian Abbey of SS Peter and Paul was reputed to be the source of the stone for the Meeting House and had apparently stood in this area. An exploratory excavation, headed by Mr N. Brannon, uncovered 16% of the garden in 1976, locating some potentially medieval features and a collection of finds ranging greatly in age and type, unfortunately from the same contexts.

The excavation took 10 weeks and examined a further 43% of the garden with 3 trenches, amounting to 170m2, with the stratigraphic depth ranging from 0.5m to 2.3m. The uppermost layers consisted of imported garden soil containing a variety of finds: the pottery alone comprised coarse wares, green-glazed wares, sgraffito and brown wares, delft and porcelain. There were also lignite cores and flakes, clay pipes and pieces of human skull. Below these was an 18th-century garden surface which was cut by parallel drainage gullies c. 3.2m apart, running at an angle to the slope of the ground.

Near the top of the garden was a curving flat-bottomed ditch, 1.7m deep and up to 2m wide. Its initial cutting was probably during the post-medieval period, though it was subject to clearing and recurring; it had been filled in about 30 years ago with debris from renovations to the Meeting House. The end of the ditch had been uncovered in the 1976 dig, and an extrapolation suggested a diameter of 27m- 30m.

Beneath the 18th-century garden were a few interesting subsoil-cut features. In the west was an extensive shallow depression, the loamy fills of which contained souterrain ware, a small bone awl and an 11th-century Hiberno-Norse silver penny. In the east was a ditch which was filled with a soil slightly darker and coarser than the subsoil into which it was cut and which contained a lump of vitreous slag. It had a maximum depth of 0.85m and width of 1.5m, and appeared to join up with another feature found in 1976; extrapolation again suggested a diameter of around 30m. The dating of this feature is difficult, though the fill suggests that it was medieval.

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