2003:1245 - Old Abbey Lane, Drogheda, Louth

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Louth Site name: Old Abbey Lane, Drogheda

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 02E1726

Author: Brian Shanahan, CRDS Ltd, Unit 4, Dundrum Business Park, Dundrum, Dublin 14.

Site type: Urban medieval, post-medieval

ITM: E 708465m, N 775151m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.714752, -6.356807

Monitoring was undertaken at a building on the north side of Old Abbey Lane, Drogheda. A previous architectural assessment carried out by CRDS Ltd established that the modern building incorporated elements of the abbey and hospital of St Mary D'Urso (SMR 24:31), and recommendations were made regarding protection of that fabric. The current phase of monitoring relates to the reduction of the interior ground level of the modern building. The development will consist of a change of use from a former gaming hall to a restaurant with staff accommodation and will include the extension and alteration of the existing property.

The property is a five-bay, two-storey building, of modern, probably late 18th- or early 19th-century date, which originally comprised two separate buildings divided by a central laneway. The two buildings and laneway were amalgamated at some stage during the mid-20th century and it is likely that interior and exterior walls were demolished at this stage. The front wall of the development incorporates medieval building fabric comprising the north-east corner of the abbey, along with sections of the north and east walls of the abbey. The building is constructed of modern randomly coursed rubble stone, red brick and more recent concrete breezeblock. The floor is covered by a concrete slab at varying heights. A segmental-headed opening at the east end of the building originally provided carriage access to a small yard to the rear of the eastern property. This opening will be retained as a feature of the proposed development.

Charters give the foundation date of the abbey and hospital of St Mary D'Urso as c. 1206-1214. Following the dissolution in the 1540s, the abbey and hospital were closed and the precinct lands became available for the development of secular dwellings. The abbey was standing, though depicted in a somewhat ruinous state, in Newcomen's map of Drogheda in 1657. By the mid-18th century, residential development had occurred on the ground to the north and east of the abbey. Old Abbey Lane itself is not depicted on Ravell's map of 1749. By the late 18th century, Old Abbey Lane had been constructed running from Patrickswell Lane in the east, through the east window and tower of the abbey, before turning north to connect with West Street. The abbey's east window was cut down to ground level to facilitate the construction of Old Abbey Lane. It is likely that the majority of the standing remains on the site post-date the construction of the laneway, which would have freed more land for development.

Monitoring took place during the removal of the interior floor of the building, which comprised concrete over rubble and mortar, which in turn lay over solid earth. Deposits consisted generally of brown silty clays with moderate amounts of post-medieval pottery, animal bone, mortar, shell (mussel, cockle, oyster), charcoal and occasional coal/cinder. No archaeological features were noted. Post-medieval features exposed included an area of rough cobbling (less than 1m2 exposed), a trough filled with bricks (measuring c. 1.5m by 1m), walls cut through 18th-century deposits and a 19th-century brick floor with an open drain. A stone dislodged from the doorway in the wall is possibly a reused medieval door/window jamb.

All the finds were retrieved from the earth surface exposed following removal of concrete floors and rubble layers. Post-medieval (17th- or 18th-century) pottery consisted of tin-glazed earthenwares, white salt-glazed earthenwares, slipwares, brown glazed earthenwares and stoneware. Earlier artefacts recovered from the same deposits included a fragment of a 14th-15th-century line-impressed tile and a 16th-17th-century glazed roof ridge tile. Some medieval-type slate fragments were also found.

Providing there is no further reduction in ground level, any potential archaeological deposits will remain in situ. Consequently there will be no impact on the interior ground area of the building requiring further mitigation.