2003:1088 - PORTLAOISE, Laois

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Laois Site name: PORTLAOISE

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 13:41 Licence number: 03E0975

Author: Dominic Delany, Unit 3, Howley Court, Oranmore, Co. Galway.

Site type: Fort fortifications?

ITM: E 647033m, N 698245m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.032809, -7.298787

Monitoring of excavations associated with the Portlaoise Broadband Project was carried out from June to December 2003. The project comprised the laying of cables below the ground surface throughout the town of Portlaoise and its surrounding infrastructure. The majority of the cable was laid below existing roads and footpaths. The ducts carrying the cables were placed at a standard depth of 0.6m, requiring trench excavation to an average depth of 0.9m. The impact assessment report had identified a number of potential impacts and recommended monitoring of all excavations within the zone of archaeological potential in Portlaoise, and in the vicinity of recorded monuments lying outside the zone. The section of trench along Church Street, which runs adjacent to the north wall of the 16th-century fort, was identified as an area of high archaeological potential.
Excavations within the zone of archaeological potential were subject to an intensive programme of monitoring, while excavations outside the zone were monitored on an intermittent basis. No definite archaeological material was discovered during testing, but a cut, which may be associated with a moat surrounding the 16th-century fort, was identified along Church Street. It was originally proposed to run the cable trench in the footpath close to the fort wall, but excavations at the west end of the street revealed a substantial culvert running immediately adjacent to the wall. The culvert (0.35m wide and 0.48m high) was faced with rubble and brick walling, capped with large limestone slabs and preserved traces of a mortared floor. The cable trench was subsequently routed along the road in order to avoid the culvert. A deposit of black soil, with an average thickness of 0.4m but noticeably thicker in the southern trench profile, overlay the natural subsoil in the trench along Church Street. At the east end of Church Street a 1.25m2 box was excavated, thereby providing an opportunity to examine this deposit in the east–west-facing trench profiles. These profiles revealed a c. 45° cut, commencing at 4.85m from the fort wall and reaching a maximum depth of 0.8m at 3.6m from the wall. No finds were recovered from the fill, but it is possible that this cut represents the outer edge of a moat surrounding the 16th-century fort. An external ditch or moat, partly filled with water, is shown on a late 16th-century plan of the fort. No other archaeological material was discovered during monitoring of broadband excavations in Portlaoise.