1998:092 - BALLYARNET, Derry

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Derry Site name: BALLYARNET

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

Author: Cormac McSparron, Northern Archaeological Consultancy Ltd, Unit 6, Farset Enterprise Centre, Springfield Road, Belfast.

Site type: 18th-century racecourse?

ITM: E 644542m, N 921486m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 55.038902, -7.303157

The trench for the pipeline was to be excavated through an area of very boggy land between two areas of more elevated dry land in Ballyarnet townland, Co. Derry, on the outskirts of Derry City. The site lies in a field along the Springfield Road, which is off the Racecourse Road, the name of which refers to the local racecourse that was in use from the later 17th through to the 19th century.

In 1996, during the construction of an earlier pipeline, a gravel-packed platform, apparently above wooden stakes and planks, was discovered by Declan Hurl (Excavations 1996, 14). A number of pieces of Neolithic pottery were found in the platform.

During the excavation of the main trench for the pipeline, which was c. 8m wide, a large deposit of packed gravel material, similar to the main constituent of the platform material discovered in 1996, was encountered. This was identified as probably being the same platform material, and construction work was temporarily halted until excavation of portions of the platform could take place.

The platform was c. 17m north-east by south-west. At right angles to this Declan Hurl had measured the platform as being c. 20m long. The dimensions of the platform appeared, therefore, to be c. 20m x 17m.

Given the positioning of the platform in a very boggy area it seems reasonable to conclude that its purpose was to provide some sort of dry, solid surface.

Based on the presence of Neolithic pottery in the previously investigated section of the platform it had been suggested that the platform was probably Neolithic, possibly part of a roadway or working area. In the aftermath of the excavation, in which no artefacts were recovered, this must be reconsidered. It is possible that the platform is later than the Neolithic period and that it disturbed some localised Neolithic archaeology during its construction. The platform is near the old Ballyarnet racecourse, which changed its route on a number of occasions since first being constructed in around 1700. It is known that the racecourse was 17m wide (J. Thompson, pers. comm.), the north-east/south-west dimension of the platform. It is possible that the platform was in fact a part of the racecourse that was laid down over a boggy stretch of land to give firm footing for the horses.