2003:1492 - Church Square, Monaghan, Monaghan

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Monaghan Site name: Church Square, Monaghan

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 9:60 Licence number: 03E1672

Author: Margaret McCarthy, Archaeological Services Unit, University College Cork.

Site type: Burials

ITM: E 667109m, N 833734m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.248050, -6.970291

Testing was undertaken in Church Square, Monaghan, at a location chosen by the Town Council for the erection of a memorial to the victims of the Monaghan bombings. The excavated area measured 3.5m by 3.5m and ground disturbance reached a maximum depth of 1.15m. The trench was initially opened by machine, due to the presence of paving material and recent infill. Mechanical excavation ceased following the exposure of disarticulated human remains and all work was then undertaken by hand. The lower section of an in situ skeleton was exposed at a depth of 1.15m in the south-western corner of the trench. The skeleton was oriented east-west and the upper portion of the body extended under the excavation cutting limit. The exposed bones included the right and left tibia, right and left fibula and a number of ribs. Three human skulls and fragmented disarticulated limb bones were noted in the south-eastern corner of the trench adjacent to a stone-capped drain. The skulls were very fragmented and the overall impression from the state of the surviving bone is that the original burials were subjected to considerable damage at some stage in the past, probably when the drain was constructed.

The stone-capped drain abutted the eastern baulk and it extended across the entire north-south length of the trench leading from the Courthouse to the street frontage. It was stratified beneath a rubble infill layer and occurred at a depth of 0.68m below the surface. Its construction resulted in the disturbance to earlier burials and at least three individuals are represented in the disarticulated remains that were scattered on the surface.

Most of the deposits above the in situ burial had been disturbed previously and the individual layers contained a large amount of butchered animal bone and some 19th- and 20th-century ceramics. Historic and cartographic evidence indicates that the area of the proposed memorial site was landscaped until the mid-19th century. The nearby St Patrick's Church was constructed in 1836 on the site of an earlier church built in 1725. The neoclassical courthouse was constructed in 1829 on the site of an old gaol. An OS map of 1836 shows the new St Patrick's Church, with the Courthouse to the west. The human remains uncovered may relate to the old gaol or to burial plots associated with either of the two churches. Skeletal remains recovered during the construction of public facilities in Church Square in the 1940s were interpreted as Famine victims.

The burial and disarticulated bone remained unexcavated and were covered with heavy-duty industrial fibre prior to the trench being backfilled. The proposed development strategy in terms of buried archaeological remains was one of in situ preservation and a structural design has been developed in order to avoid intrusion into the archaeological strata.