2003:1024 - KILKENNY: St Mary's Lane, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: KILKENNY: St Mary's Lane

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E0572

Author: Ian W. Doyle, for Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd.

Site type: Graveyard

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 650559m, N 655893m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.651878, -7.252777

St Mary’s Lane is a narrow street skirting the southern, western and northern sides of the boundary wall of St Mary’s Church. Monitoring during May 2003 revealed the remains of in situ human burials likely to be associated with the church, which is immediately to the south of the portion of laneway examined.

St Mary’s Church, located to the east of High Street and occupying a low rise overlooking the river, was the parish church for Hightown. High Street was the principal street of the medieval town. The first reference to St Mary’s Church dates from c. 1205, when the Bishop of Ossory held an ecclesiastical court there (Bradley 2000, 3). The cemetery is featured on all of the cartographic depictions of the church. A historical reference to a cemetery at St Mary’s Church dates from 1337 (Liber primus Kilkenniensis 1961, 28). During the laying of pipes in St Mary’s Lane in 2000 some 49 human skeletons were identified by Ken Hanley. These burials were exposed outside the south-western boundary wall of St Mary’s graveyard (Excavations 2000, No. 550, 00E0712).

The monitoring in 2003 was necessitated by the laying of a gas pipeline along the northern stretch of laneway. The pipe trench ran approximately two-thirds of the way down St Mary’s Lane towards St Kieran’s Street, for a length of approximately 30m, in an east–west direction. It then changed to run in a north-east/south-west direction for 15m. This latter stretch took it around the back of City Hall. The human remains were all exposed in the former stretch of the laneway.

The remains of some twelve individuals were exposed. These were divided into three phases of burial, based on stratigraphic and ceramic considerations. Some two burials were attributed to Phase Ia, which was dated to the early to mid-13th century. Six burials were assigned to Phase Ib, which was dated to the mid-13th century on the basis of associated sherds of Ham Green, Minety-type and Kilkenny-type ceramics. Four inhumations were considered to form Phase Ic. All of the burials were supine extended inhumations. All were positioned with the skull to the west, apart from one individual, the head of which was to the east, and a second inhumation which was aligned north–south.

What is presently St Mary’s Lane was once likely to have been a part of the medieval cemetery associated with the church. On the basis of the ceramic evidence, notably the presence of sherds of 13th-century imported wares stratified with local pottery, this cemetery can be assigned to the 13th–14th centuries. The position of St Mary’s Lane as a street feature, marked on Jean Rocque’s map of 1758, clearly indicates that it ceased to be used as a cemetery some time between the 14th and the 18th century. Ultimately, the graveyard of St Mary’s decreased in size or was redesigned during this period.

A full report on this excavation with specialist appendices can be found on the Kilkenny Archaeological Society website, www.kilkennyarchaeology

Bradley, J. 2000 Historic towns atlas No. 10: Kilkenny. Dublin.
Otway-Ruthven, J.A. (ed.) 1961 Liber primus Kilkenniensis. Kilkenny.

2 Killiney View, Albert Road Lower, Glenageary, Co. Dublin