2002:1777 - Claggan North, Tyrone

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Tyrone Site name: Claggan North

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

Author: Paul McCooey, NAC, Farset Enterprise Park, 638 Springfield Road, Belfast BT12 7DY.

Site type: 19th-century lime extraction

ITM: E 658997m, N 870515m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.579495, -7.087429

The site is in a small glen oriented almost directly north–south. A stream meanders along the glen northward and enters the Altdarragh Burn. The site is to be developed for gravel extraction.

The excavation was in a field known locally as the ‘Sandy Knowle’. It slopes from west to east to a small river and gradually from north to south, in line with the orientation of the glen. It is generally well drained, except for an area at the extreme south, where there is standing water and the ground is very soft to a depth of 0.3m.

The depth of topsoil varied across the site from 0.1m to 0.4m. Several features cut into the natural were noticed during the topsoil-stripping. These were mainly field drains that traversed the site across the slope from south-west to north-east, in the direction of the stream.

An area of burnt limestone that had been deliberately spread, but not as top dressing on the land, was noted at the southern end of the site. It covered an area of 10.7m by 12.3m and was 0.3m deep. It consisted of burnt limestone pieces to the east and limestone powder to the west. The boggy ground in the extreme south of the site was a silted-up pond that had been modified by human action for use as a slaking (locally termed ‘slaughing’) pond. The pond was roughly half-moon in shape and lay to the south of the burnt limestone area and the powder spread. It may have been formed by peat extraction, evidenced by the survival of peat to the north-west of the pond. The southern rim of the pond had been modified and made steeper, giving a greater depth of water. A layer of sticky, wet, grey/green clay, which formed a waterproof base for the pond, overlay peat bog. Although it felt soft, it easily took the weight of a person walking across it. It was probed to a maximum depth of 1.35m and is therefore more likely to be a natural deposition than an artificial attempt at sealing the bottom of the pond. Beneath it was a highly pungent, organic, dark red/brown peat. The pond was filled with topsoil. A sherd of hand-painted 19th-century pottery was recovered from the bottom of the pond.

An area of slag, 3.6m long, 5.2m wide and 0.6m deep, was uncovered to the north of the mixing pond, under the burnt limestone. This was the residue from the lime-making process dumped, probably over a period of time, as the kiln was cleared out.

The slaking process was probably serviced by a large kiln at the nearby Donnellamullins Rock. It was built by the then landlord sometime after 1857, as it is not marked on the OS 6-inch second edition of that year. The limekiln is first marked on the fourth edition (1904). A quarry is marked at the Donnellamullins Rock on the first edition (1833). The kiln, the burnt limestone, the mixing pond and the limestone powder provide an intriguing glimpse into an important rural industry. Through the excavation at Claggan North, a process that had been virtually forgotten has been, however briefly, illuminated once more.