2003:1463 - Scurlockstown, Meath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Meath Site name: Scurlockstown

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 37:11 Licence number: 01E0316 ext.

Author: Alan Hayden, Archaeological Projects Ltd, 27 Coulson Avenue, Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Site type: Medieval/post-medieval manorial settlement and tower-house

ITM: E 680284m, N 756022m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.547980, -6.788549

Testing in December 2001 (Excavations 2001, No. 1051) had revealed the survival of medieval and post-medieval walls, floors and features at the west side of the site, near a now demolished tower-house. Scurlockstown also contains a possible motte (SMR 39:9) and a medieval church and graveyard (SMR 37:10) that lie 100m north-west of the site. This arrangement is suggestive of the former presence of a medieval manorial settlement. The eponymous Sir John Scurlock is supposed to have been granted the site by de Lacy in the 1170s or 1180s.

Additional testing and excavation was undertaken in March 2003. Ten 2m-wide trenches and four larger areas were opened. None of the features uncovered was completely excavated, as the exercise was intended more as an assessment than a full-scale excavation.

The earliest features uncovered consisted of silt-filled ditches, gullies and slots associated with spreads of burnt material. None was completely excavated, as they underlay later features that were to be retained. The excavated parts of the early features contained only Leinster cooking ware pottery and are likely to have been of 12th- or 13th-century date. They may be the remains of either a settlement contemporary with the motte or more likely of the village and defended site that replaced the motte but pre-dated the tower-house.

A large medieval stone-walled barn overlay the early features. The building measured 7m by 13m externally, had clay-bonded stone walls up to 0.9m in thickness and an internal floor area of some 72m2. A wide doorway located centrally in one of the long sides opened onto a broad path that crossed the short axis of the building. One side of the building was divided into three stalls for horses, while the other half was divided in two areas, one paved, the other unfloored. Buildings of this type and date are extremely rare in Ireland, but the horse stalls find a convenient parallel in the stables excavated in the 14th-century fore-work of the nearby Trim Castle keep.

The few finds from the building consisted largely of sherds of Leinster cooking ware. The building therefore could be of 12th-15th-century date. Several isolated pits and gullies associated with medieval agriculture were also revealed around the buildings.

The burnt remains of a smaller stone-footed timber building lay south of the barn.

A large stone wall overlay one of the earlier infilled ditches north of the barn. It may have had a defensive function and either pre-dated the tower-house or was part of a bawn around or building near it.

Further south, the remains of a post-medieval possible smithy or forge lay near a mid-17th-century kiln. The forge/smithy measured 3m by 5.6m and appeared to have been completely open on its west side, where it overlooked a rough cobbled roadway. Other cobbled yard surfaces lay further south of the forge/smithy.

The area of the site containing the features described is not to be developed and they will be left undisturbed beneath a thick covering of topsoil.