2003:1035 - KNOCKTOPHER, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: KNOCKTOPHER

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E0901

Author: Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, Tulla, Threecastles, Co. Kilkenny.

Site type: Post-medieval

ITM: E 653331m, N 637203m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.483632, -7.214829

Kilkenny County Council requested an assessment of a proposal to extend Knocktopher graveyard by 60m by 30m. The site lay within the zone of archaeological potential identified by the Urban Archaeology Survey of County Kilkenny (SMR 31:17) and immediately beside St David’s Church and graveyard and the location of the 14th-century Carmelite friary at what is now Knocktopher Abbey.
The main remains associated with the medieval church at Knocktopher are the west tower of the church, with a 12th-century Romanesque doorway in its west wall. During the Reformation, the congregation became Protestant and continued as such until c. 1820, when the church was largely demolished. It is likely that the present graveyard wall may date to this period.
As a component of the assessment, testing was undertaken on 21 June 2003. Six test-trenches were excavated by a JCB with a 0.6m flat bucket.
A large stone culvert crossed north–south through the eastern part of the site. It is likely to have extended from the river in the north, through the development area, into the north-east corner of the graveyard and to the road. A local source was able to show the author a similar structure that ran c. 80m to the west. The Irish Folklore Commission Schools manuscript from Ballyhale National School (MS 73) records a story about a cave near the gate to the graveyard leading to an underground passage that led into Knocktopher Abbey. Perhaps this is to be equated with the newly uncovered culvert. Dating the construction of the culvert is problematical, as the finds from the silted fill only provide a terminus post quem, in the 19th century. It is likely, however, given its position, that it relates to the 18th-century Langrishe estate.
A significant quantity of post-medieval artefacts was recovered from the topsoil. There was, however, a relatively low frequency of medieval material, particularly pottery. This is puzzling, given the position of the site within a medieval complex. No evidence in the form of metalling or cobbling was found to suggest the position of a road shown on the first-edition OS map.