1999:725 - MANNAN CASTLE, DONAGHMOYNE, Monaghan

County: Monaghan Site name: MANNAN CASTLE, DONAGHMOYNE

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 28:118 Licence number: 99E0044

Author: Eoghan Moore, Prospect House, Dunsrim, Scotshouse, Co. Monaghan.

Site type: Anglo-Norman motte, baileys and stone castle remains

ITM: E 684992m, N 807212m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.007130, -6.703423

The site of Mannan Castle is on the south-facing slope of a limestone drumlin ridge c. 2 miles to the north-east of the town of Carrickmacross and commands a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. The site is composed of a motte and inner bailey connected by a causeway with an accompanying bank/ditch formation and an outer bailey without any bank/ditch. The stone ruins of a castle are on top of the motte, inner bailey and causeway.

The earliest archaeological survey of the site was carried out by Henry Morris and published in the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal in 1910. This survey was somewhat incomplete, and Morris stated in his report that 'the place is so overgrown with nettles, briars, and other kinds of brushwood that it is almost impossible to make perfectly accurate measurements, but the ones given in this article are as careful as I could make them' (Morris 1910, 263). There are brief descriptions of the site of Mannan Castle in Orpen 1908, 265; McKenna 1920, 398-400; and Brindley 1982, 90.

In March 1994 Donaghmoyne Community Development Committee, with the assistance of FÁS, initiated a Community Employment Scheme, the objective being to clear the excess shrubs etc. from the site of Mannan Castle in order that a full archaeological survey could be carried out. Permission was sought from the National Monuments and Historic Properties Division, then of the Office of Public Works, for this clearance work to be carried out under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist. Permission was granted, and in June 1994 this clearance work began. By June 1995 the site had been cleared. Kieran O'Conor carried out the first detailed archaeological survey of the site, while Kevin Barton, aided by Joseph Fenwick and Martina McCarthy, carried out topographical, magnetic susceptibility, magnetic gradiometry and resistivity surveys.

In conjunction with the archaeological and geophysical surveys, the early and medieval history of the parish of Donaghmoyne was researched. The results are contained in a report lodged with Dúchas The Heritage Service in August 1998 (Moore 1998).

During the 1190s the Pipard family had gained a foothold in the area of Donaghmoyne (Lawlor 1914-16, 314-23) and set about consolidating their position by constructing a motte and bailey(s) (described in the Annals of Loch Cé as a 'caisleán') in 1197, 'Caisslen Domnaigh Maighen' (Hennessy 1871, vol. 1, 186).

Why was Donaghmoyne chosen as the location for the Pipard motte and bailey(s)? Tom McNeill has argued that the locations of Anglo-Norman mottes, baileys and stone castles in Leinster were not part of defensive strategy against either external attack or internal revolt but rather for reasons of social status (McNeill 1989-90, 63). This would seem to be the case for the choice of the site of Mannan Castle. Within the townland of Donaghmoyne are the remains of the Early Christian foundation of Domnach Maigen (SMR 28:116), along with two ringforts or earthworks that surround the site of Mannan Castle (SMR 28:117 and 119), while another earthwork is recorded as having existed to the east of the site in the townland of Tullynacross (SMR 28:120). Also, two holy wells are close to the site of the castle-one dedicated to St Brigit in the townland of Donaghmoyne, and one dedicated to St Lasair in the adjacent townland of Aghavilla (SMR 28:121 and 124). Indeed the name Aghavilla is derived from the old Irish Ached Bile 'the field of the sacred tree' and would suggest that this place was of particular significance to the early inhabitants of Donaghmoyne. It can be concluded that the area within the vicinity of the early church site of Donaghmoyne was one of religious, social and political significance during the early historic period and that this was the reason why Roger Pipard constructed his caisleán there.

During the early decades of the 13th century the Pipard family experienced difficulty holding onto their lands in Donaghmoyne. In 1227 the Pipard lands were entrusted to Ralph Fitz Nicholas. He immediately set about rebuilding the motte and bailey(s). In 1228 Fitz Nicholas was granted the service of (the men of) Meath and Louth for forty days to help fortify the defences. Two years later the grant was repeated when the Irish burned the castle of Donaghmoyne. Fitz Nicholas then proposed to build a stone castle on the site (Smith 1999, 46). This plan eventually came to fruition in 1244, when the caisleán, or motte and bailey(s), at Donaghmoyne was encastellated in stone: 'Caislean Dhomnaigh Mhaighen do chumdach hoc anno' (Hennessy and MacCarthy 1887-1901, vol. 2, 302).

The remains of a small stone keep are still to be found on top of the motte at Mannan Castle, while the remains of stone walls still exist on top of the causeway and inner bailey.

At this stage it is necessary to ask what exactly was the nature of the caisleán constructed in 1197. The fact that the annalist of the Annals of Loch Cé states that the caisleán was covered in stone in 1244 would suggest that before this no stone construction was present on the site. It would be logical to assume, then, that only an earthen and timber construction was built in 1197. Moreover, from the archaeological remains it is clear that only the motte and inner bailey were encastellated in stone in 1244. It could be argued that the caisleán constructed in 1197 was made up of only the motte and inner bailey and that in 1244, when the motte and inner bailey were encastellated in stone, the outer bailey was constructed to compensate for the loss of the area of the inner bailey. Of course it must be admitted that this argument is primarily based on the interpretation of the historical record and not on the evidence of the archaeology of the site. It could also be the case that a motte, inner bailey and outer bailey were all constructed in 1197 and that it was thought necessary or profitable only to fortify the motte and inner bailey in 1244.

In conclusion, two of the major questions about the site of Mannan Castle are, what was the nature and extent of the caisleán constructed in 1197, and how did the encastellation of this caisleán in 1244 affect the pre-existing configuration of the site. It was with these questions in mind that the present archaeological excavations at the site took place.

The objectives of the 1999 excavations at the site of Mannan Castle were to investigate that area at the southern extremity of the outer bailey highlighted in the geophysical surveys as the possible location for a perimeter ditch, to investigate the nature of ditch between the inner and outer baileys, and to investigate the area immediately to the south of the uppermost pond, to determine whether there was a palisade on top of the exterior bank at the north-west of the motte.

Eleven cuttings were excavated. Cuttings 1-6 were on the outer bailey, Cuttings 7-10 were within and on the sides of the ditch between the inner and outer baileys, and Cutting 11 was immediately to the south of the pond at the north-west extremity of the site.

The outer bailey
It is evident that the area of the outer bailey had been ploughed to a depth of c. 0.5m. On account of this, all of the uppermost layers in Cuttings 1-6 were disturbed. A total of 366 artefacts were uncovered during the excavation of Cuttings 1-6. All of these must be interpreted as having been uncovered in a disturbed environment. However, the huge amount of iron slag, pottery and iron nails/ironworking tools found would suggest that the southern part of the outer bailey was the location for intensive industrial/ironworking activity. In support of this is the fact that beneath the disturbed layers two working surfaces and a foundation trench for a small structure/workshop were also uncovered in Cutting 1. A ditch feature that formed the western boundary of one of these working surfaces was also revealed. Six sherds of medieval pottery were found in the fill of this boundary ditch.

The uncovering of a very shallow perimeter ditch (c. 0.3m deep) in Cutting 4 would suggest that the area of the outer bailey possessed a surrounding ditch/palisade trench. The presence of this shallow perimeter ditch feature had been indicated by the geophysical surveys.

The ditch between the inner and outer baileys
The excavation in the ditch area between the inner and outer baileys revealed that the ditch was U-shaped and made up of a shallow, homogeneous fill. This was a black, gritty silt and was c. 0.35m deep.

The most noteworthy feature uncovered in the area of ditch was a stone-and-earthen foundation on top of the north-western perimeter of the outer bailey. This was interpreted as the foundation for a wooden structure that crossed the ditch. The existence of a crude arrangement of stones on the berm-like structure in the ditch was also noteworthy, as it may constitute the remains of a stone foundation for the upright(s) for a wooden bridge connecting the inner and outer baileys.

The lack of any medieval finds in the area of the ditch would suggest that the north-western perimeter of the outer bailey was not an area associated with any industrial/ironworking activity.

The area in the vicinity of the pond
The limited excavation of Cutting 11 did not reveal the existence of any palisade on top of the outer ditch that surrounds the motte on its north-western extremity.

The excavation at Mannan Castle was funded by the National Monuments and Historic Properties Service, Dúchas, on the recommendation of the National Committee for Archaeology of the Royal Irish Academy.

References
Brindley, A. 1982 Archaeological inventory of County Monaghan. Dublin.Hennessy, W.M. (ed. and trans.) 1871 The Annals of Loch Cé (2 vols). London.Hennessy, W.M and MacCarthy B. (eds. and trans.) 1887-1901 Annála Uladh: annals of Ulster (4 vols). Dublin.Lawlor, H.J. 1914-16 A Charter of Donatus, Prior of Louth. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 32, 313-23.McKenna, J.E. 1920 Parishes of Clogher (2 vols). Enniskillen.McNeill, T.E. 1989-90 Early castles in Leinster. Journal of Irish Archaeology 5, 57-64.Moore, E. 1998 Report on the historical background, archaeological survey, geophysical surveys and research design for proposed archaeological excavation at the site of Mannan Castle, Donaghmoyne, County Monaghan. Unpublished.Morris, H. 1910 Mannan Castle. Journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society 2 (3), 263-71.Orpen, G.H. 1908 Mottes and Norman castles in County Louth. Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquities of Ireland 38, 241-69.Smith, B. 1999 Colonisation and conquest in medieval Ireland: the English in Louth, 1170-1330. Cambridge.