1998:419 - CARLINGFORD, Louth

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Louth Site name: CARLINGFORD

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 98E0161

Author: Dermot G. Moore, Archaeological Development Services Ltd, Windsor House, 11 Fairview Strand, Fairview, Dublin 3.

Site type: Urban

Period/Dating:

ITM: E 717926m, N 811010m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.034775, -6.199769

Test-trenching, rescue excavation and monitoring in and around Carlingford has been ongoing since the end of March 1998. The test-trenching was necessitated by the installation of a new drainage and sewerage scheme in and around Carlingford by Louth County Council and by the laying of Telecom cables.

Thirty-five test-trenches were excavated. The programme of test-trenching followed from the results of a series of slit-trenches excavated for engineering purposes in November 1996, supervised by Beth Cassidy, which uncovered metalled roadways, possible early street frontages and a substantial wall immediately to the south of Taaffe’s Castle. As works are still in progress, this report is of a preliminary nature.

Trenches were opened in Market Street, Newry Street, Back Lane, Dundalk Street, Old Quay Lane, Station Road, Shore Road and vicinity, Greenore Road, Liberties and Fair Green. Several trenches produced archaeological remains. In the field adjacent to the present Ghan House a large rectangular structure was uncovered measuring 12.9m x 6m. It was constructed of stone and lime mortar and may have functioned as a warehouse, possibly associated with the present canal. The present southern field boundary used the southern wall of this building. No finds were associated with this structure, but a quantity of red brick rubble was uncovered in the northern foundation trench, suggesting a post-medieval date. The pipe-trench was relocated to the north of the structure so as not to damage it.

Nothing of archaeological significance was uncovered in the test-trenches either along the Shore Road and its vicinity or along the Greenore Road, with the exception of a sleeper ‘bed’ dating to the time of the railway construction (1876).

Along Old Quay Lane and Fair Green nothing of archaeological significance was uncovered, with the exception of the area immediately to the east of Taaffe’s Castle, where a possible metalled slipway(?) and possible mooring posts were discovered. The slipway lies at approximately the same level as the original floor of the barrel vault of Taaffe’s Castle (Excavations 1995, 57).

At Station Road, immediately to the south of Taaffe’s Castle, test-trenching and monitoring necessitated a rescue excavation in advance of pipe-laying when two north-south-running walls were uncovered at the western and eastern ends of the street. The easternmost large masonry wall was uncovered at the remains of the present arch on the south-east corner of the building. This wall had an intact height of 1.3-1.5m and a maximum width of 2.2m. It was constructed of stone and lime mortar with very tight joints on its eastern (seaward) face and had a very solid, mortared interior.

It appears that this wall was partially built before the laying of the castle foundations and then the walls were constructed together to form the arch. This wall had been breached at its southern, excavated end, possibly during the post-medieval period, and a later wall had been inserted. This later wall appears to be similar to the upstanding warehouses along Old Quay Lane.

The second wall, also running north-south, was of cruder construction, although its eastern face had the tight jointing evident in the eastern wall. The wall was 0.93m wide with an intact height (including stone footings) of c. 2m.

These two walls appear to form the bawn of the castle, although both appear to have been exposed to the sea at one time. It is suggested that the western wall was constructed first and then the eastern wall was constructed when the castle was being built to enclose a courtyard. Both walls appear to have served the dual function of bawn- and sea-walls.

Nothing of archaeological significance was uncovered in the three trenches excavated along Dundalk Street, although it was expected that the southern portion of the town wall might have crossed the street to join the present wall, on the west side of the town, to the Tholsell.

The trenches in Market Street uncovered nothing of archaeological significance as there was severe disturbance by insertion of services.

Of the two trenches excavated along the northern end of Back Lane, only one produced archaeological remains. This was a ditch or very large pit 6.2m in maximum width and c. 0.7m deep. At the base of this feature some early medieval pottery was recovered along with a few fragments of animal bone.

The five trenches excavated in Newry Street produced remains of the original roadway in the form of cobbled and metalled surfaces overlying deposits containing medieval pottery.

At the top of Newry Street, at what is known as Castle Hill, test-trenching uncovered two walls and part of a cobbled roadway. A rescue excavation was undertaken at this area as the line of the pipe-trenches could not be changed. The excavation uncovered the original boundary ditch (running east-west), c. 3.5m wide, cut into the natural gravel. Sometime later a wall and gateway were built slightly off the line of the ditch. The wall (c. 0.1m below the present level of tarmac road) was constructed of stone and lime mortar, set on large stone footings, and had an intact height of 2.2m and a varying width of 1-1.05m at its top. The width of the gateway is 2.15m.

Set into the south side of the wall is a set of steps that may have led to an upper room or wall-walk. At the eastern portion of the wall a relieving arch was revealed 0.65m below the top of the wall (width c. 1.45m, height c. 1.45m). It had been constructed through the wall, possibly to allow the flow of spring water under it.

Through the gateway ran a cobbled roadway bounded on its eastern edge by a line of large boulders. Overlying this line and abutting the masonry wall was a stone-and-clay wall (c. 1.5m wide at its base and 1m at its top) running approximately north-south for a distance of c. 6.5m, which may have been a later boundary wall.

Only a small number of pottery finds were retrieved from the ditch, suggesting a 13th/14th-century date for the ditch infilling. The wall and gateway were also probably of this date as infill deposits containing similar pottery lay against the wall on its southern side.

Work is continuing with the monitoring of the pipe and service insertions.