2003:1551 - Boyle Abbey, Knocknashee, Boyle, Roscommon

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Roscommon Site name: Boyle Abbey, Knocknashee, Boyle

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 6:68(05) Licence number: 03E0092

Author: Christopher Read, North West Archaeological Services Ltd, Cloonfad Cottage, Cloonfad, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim.

Site type: Post-medieval ditch?

ITM: E 580517m, N 802739m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.973559, -8.296974

The proposed development is located within the north-west corner of the grounds of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon. The proposed development is to include the construction of a new facility for Dúchas employees, a small building measuring 11m east-west by 5m and surrounded by a stone wall. At the request of Dúchas, an assessment of the proposed development, involving primarily the excavation of test-trenches across the site, was undertaken.

Excavation took place between 20 and 28 January 2003. Three interconnecting trenches were excavated across the area of the proposed development. Trenches 1 and 3 both measured 4m by 1m and were orientated north-south. Trench 2 measured 12m by 1m and was orientated east-west. Trenches 1 and 3 were located at right angles to, and situated at either end of, Trench 2, which extended the length of the proposed development. Trench 2 was effectively divided in two by a central baulk left in place to accommodate a north-south-oriented ESB cable. The trenches were excavated to a depth of 0.4-1.3m. All of Trench 3 and the western half of Trench 2 were excavated to the level of undisturbed natural. The excavation of the eastern half of Trench 2 was halted for safety reasons after reaching a depth of 1.3m. Trench 1 was only excavated to a depth of 0.4-0.5m, as it was clear that its ultimate depth would be similar to that of the eastern end of Trench 2. A number of archaeological deposits, probably dating to the post-medieval period, were revealed.

Evidence of a cut for a large north-south-oriented ditch was revealed. C12, located in the western end of Trench 2 and extending the length of this trench, was a steep cut 0.6m deep. It extended beyond the limit of excavation in both directions. The edge of the cut was defined by medium-sized stones set into the natural clay. It had the appearance of a wide ditch feature, although the eastern end of the cut was never revealed. This raises the possibility that it does not represent a ditch but an intentional cut into the natural slope of the site in an attempt to create level ground around this side of the abbey. It was filled with a single, although mixed, deposit, which filled C12 from the visible edge of the cut and extended beyond the limit of excavation to the east, north and south. It consisted of a dark-grey/brown silty clay with charcoal, small stones, animal bone, oyster shell and several post-medieval artefacts, including pottery, clay-pipe fragments and square-headed nails. The fill ranged in depth between 0.3 and 0.7m. It bottomed onto natural in the western half of Trench 2; the bottom of the deposit was not revealed in the eastern half of Trench 2 or Trench 1. A pit, some stray potential post-holes and a stone dump were also revealed. Many of these features were sealed by a substantial deposit of redeposited natural.

The fill of this feature clearly dates to the post-medieval period and is probably contemporary with the occupation of the abbey and its use as a barracks during the late 16th and 17th centuries. The deposits that sealed this level of activity probably post-date the post-medieval period, with a number of early modern finds retrieved from them.