1993:171 - Ballintubber Abbey, Mayo

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Mayo Site name: Ballintubber Abbey

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 99:006 Licence number: 93E0172

Author: Frank Ryan, 41 Parnell Rd., Harold's Cross, Dublin 12.

Site type: Medieval

ITM: E 511470m, N 727929m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.294256, -9.327960

Licence was granted to carry out minor excavations in the grounds of Ballintubber Abbey prior to the re-location of the central heating boiler and oil storage tank as well as the installation of heating pipework and a fire escape.

New Boilerhouse
The area inside the tower which is located south of the Abbey was partly excavated to accommodate the laying of a concrete plinth for the boiler. The work was carried out in two stages. This area had previously been excavated in the 1960s, down to the upper level of the wall footings and was subsequently covered by a layer of loose gravel.

Stage 1
This involved the removal of the gravel to expose the original archaeological surface. This consisted of a central hearth of irregular shape 2.5m x 1.5m approx. A layer of dark organic brown clay covered most of the internal area of the tower beneath the hearth. A thick layer of charcoal covered the north-west quadrant above the organic dark brown clay beneath which evidence of a 1m diameter ‘bowl’-shaped area lined with stones appeared to be connected with the central hearth.

Other features included a 0.5m wide trench along the south wall.

There was also evidence of two pits cut into the south-west and south-east corners. A third pit 0.8m diameter lay 2m north of the south-east corner. Evidence of a cluster of stakeholes was found in the south-west quadrant cut into the subsoil and filled with the overlying organic dark brown clay.

Stage 2
A 3m x 2m area was fully excavated in the north-east quadrant down to subsoil in order to accommodate the building of a concrete plinth to support the boiler. This small area produced 117 stakeholes ranging from 0.1m to 0.03m in diameter and between 0.1m and 0.2m deep.

A silver groat probably dating to the reign of Edward III (1351-72) was discovered within the dark organic brown clay layer. One sherd of pottery which originated in northern France, dating to the 13th or 14th century, as well as a fragment of a horse shoe and two iron knives were also found in this layer, beneath the central hearth.

Pipework trench and Fire Escape plinth
Activities associated with the hearth appeared to predate the construction of the tower. This was confirmed by the discovery of a second hearth which was found during excavation of a heating pipe trench between the tower and the Chapter House. Both hearths appeared to belong to the same archaeological level. Hearth 2 was cut through by a wall foundation trench of the same date as the tower.

There was also evidence of a trench filled with stones south of the Chapter House. To the north of the trench and cut into the subsoil were eight stakeholes similar to those found within the tower.