2003:998 - GORTEENS, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: GORTEENS

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 47:1 Licence number: 03E0885

Author: Tony Cummins, for Eachtra Archaeological Projects

Site type: Building, Metalworking site and Field boundary

Period/Dating: Post Medieval (AD 1600-AD 1750)

ITM: E 665136m, N 613552m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.269805, -7.045641

Excavations were carried out before the construction of a link road in the vicinity of Gorteen’s Castle, Co. Kilkenny. The proposed road will cross three fields located to the south and west of this tower-house and will eventually link the existing Bellview Port Road (N29) to a proposed IDA development site. Archaeological involvement in the road realignment commenced with an assessment carried out by Fintan Walsh which involved the excavation of 22 test-trenches (No. 997, Excavations 2003, 03E0255). The tower-house remained in use until at least the late 17th century and the remains of a number of low walls and a number of archaeological deposits were identified in Field 2 c. 80m to the west of the tower-house. Two field boundary ditches, a low field wall structure and a number of deposits were identified in Field 1 to the south of the tower-house.

The main focus of the subsequent excavation was in the area to the west of the tower-house, in Field 2, where the foundations of a rectangular stone building containing evidence for late 17th/early 18th-century metalworking activity were uncovered. This was located outside the bawn area, which, based on the cartographic evidence, appears to have been located to the south-east of the tower-house. The features uncovered in Field 2 represent a south-western extension of the metalworking activity uncovered during a 1993 excavation carried out by Heather King in the area to the north of the tower-house (Excavations 1993, No. 136, 93E0013).

The stone building was orientated east–west and measured 4.36m by 4.9m externally and the wall foundations averaged 0.5m in width. The internal area of the building measured 3.5m by 4.5m. The only surviving remains of the wall consisted of a small portion of the basal course, which was embedded into the upper portion of the foundations in the south-east corner of the building. This consisted of a well-packed line of subangular cobbles forming an earth-packed stone wall. The foundation fill consisted of a compact deposit containing frequent stones but no identifiable artefacts. The foundation trench was U-shaped in profile and measured up to 0.5m in width and 0.48m in depth. There were no evident remains of any entrance features. There were no roofing materials uncovered in or around the building and this may indicate that it was roofed with timbers or thatch. There was no evidence for roof supports within the interior of the building and it appeared that the weight of the roof was borne by the walls themselves, which is possible given the relatively small dimensions of the building.

There was also no trace of a floor surface in the building, so this may have been formed with organic materials that have decayed or with materials that have since been removed, such as packed clay or stone cobbles.

There were two loose deposits uncovered in the southern half of the building and these contained frequent amounts of iron slag and occasional sherds of late medieval and post-medieval pottery. A William III halfpenny, which dated to 1696, a ball of lead shot and 30-plus sample bags (each 15 litres) of iron slag were recovered from the uppermost deposit. The lower deposit also contained occasional sherds of post-medieval pottery. Both of these internal deposits were loosely bonded and neither formed an identifiable floor surface; they were interpreted as dump deposits in the eastern half of the building. The artefact assemblage recovered from this building was consistently 17th/18thcentury in date. While there are traces of cultivation activity in the surrounding area, there were no traces of spreads of collapsed wall material and there were also no visible traces of any cut features truncating the building walls and deposits. The stones from the building may have been removed in order to be reused in later field walls and farm buildings in the surrounding area.

Two field boundary ditches and the basal remains of a field wall were uncovered in Field 1. The boundary features contained 17th/18th-century pottery sherds, indicating that they were broadly contemporary with the metalworking activity and final occupation phase of the tower-house. The infilling of the north–south-oriented field boundary ditch resulted in the creation of a larger field in this area and this was representative of modern agricultural practices, where the smaller late medieval field systems were levelled in order to form larger fields. The absence of stones in the vicinity of the surviving basal course of the field wall in the southern end of this field suggested that, while this feature had been damaged by ploughing activity, it was likely to have been dismantled in order to provide building materials for use elsewhere. There were no archaeological features or finds uncovered during the monitoring of topsoil-stripping in Field 3, at the south end of the road realignment.

This excavation in the vicinity of Gorteen’s Castle uncovered remains dating to the late medieval and post-medieval periods and has provided information on the industrial activities carried out in the vicinity of a tower-house. Following the completion of the excavation, the remaining topsoil along the route of the road realignment was removed under supervision and there were no further features or finds uncovered.

3 Canal Place, Tralee