1999:213 - 189-194 KING STREET NORTH, DUBLIN, Dublin

County: Dublin Site name: 189-194 KING STREET NORTH, DUBLIN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 18:20 Licence number: 98E0088

Author: Dermot Nelis, IAC Ltd, 8 Dungar Terrace, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Site type: Urban, graveyard

ITM: E 715122m, N 734748m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.350408, -6.270856

Before a planning application was lodged by Dublin Corporation to construct a community centre on the site, three test-trenching programmes were conducted by Daire O'Rourke in this area (Excavations 1997, 37, 97E0086, and Excavations 1998, 52). Results indicated that the site had been a burial-ground. Fully articulated in situ human skeletal material was found in all of the trenches. Articulated skeletal material was found directly below a layer of rubble and overburden, between c. 0.7m and c. 2.2m below present ground level. Within the rubble layer was a large quantity of disarticulated human remains.

The site is on the southern side of the eastern end of North King Street and extends along Halston Street and Green Street. Known originally as Abbey Green, 1558 is the first recorded usage of the name. The monastic buildings of St Mary's occupied an area bounded by Capel Street on the east, by East Arran Street on the west, by Little Mary Street on the north, and by the street called St Mary's Abbey on the south. The wall surrounding St Mary's Abbey was encircled by a stream of water diverted into small rivulets. The river Bradogue ran on the west side, from which a branch appears to have entered the grounds on the north side at about the present North King Street.

In 1213 the citizens of Dublin granted that 'The monks are to maintain their green place which is opposite their outside gate, as a common pasture'. According to Speed's map, this would fix the location at approximately the area of Green Street. The Abbey Green, as it was known c. 1568, and as the Little Green c. 1727, seems to have been part of the land granted by the city in 1213.

In the early 18th century, land on the northern end of the Green was put aside for the building of a church, and the decision was taken to cover in the River Bradogue. On Rocque's map of 1756 Green Street is called Little Green and the portion granted for the church is walled in. The present street pattern had been established, and the medieval market place had moved northwards to the site of what is now St Michan's Park.

In the 18th and 19th century the area comprised Newgate prison, completed in 1781 (a scaffold was located there); Sessions House, now Green Street Courthouse, completed 1797; City Marshalsea, prison for the poorest class of debtor, completed 1804; Sheriff's prison, completed 1794; and the residence of the Governor of Newgate. From the 1780s onwards Newgate became the main gallows for the city. The convicted felons were hanged high up against a prison wall. Green Street proved to be a popular venue for the hangings as it was in a thriving populated area. In general the bodies were left hanging for a number of hours before they were handed over to surgeons for anatomical dissection.

Excavation began on the site on 13 September 1999 and is ongoing at the time of writing (spring 2000). To date, c. 430 articulated human skeletons along with c. 120 disarticulated human remains have been excavated and recorded. All articulated skeletal material has been found cut into post-medieval layers containing frequent amounts of red brick, glass and post-medieval pottery. No archaeological material earlier than the post-medieval period has been recorded.

Outstanding excavation is focused on an area measuring 15m east-west x 4m in the very north-west corner of the site.