2003:1588 - Newtown, Roscommon

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Roscommon Site name: Newtown

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 30:3 Licence number: 03E0007

Author: Mary Henry, Mary Henry Archaeological Services Ltd, 17 Staunton Row, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

Site type: Limekiln

ITM: E 585598m, N 734489m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.360409, -8.216360

Pre-construction testing was undertaken on the site of a proposed dwelling-house. The site is close to a ringfort. Nine trenches were opened on the site. No archaeological features were uncovered in eight of the trenches opened. The remains of a post-medieval limekiln were found in one of the trenches.

A large, slightly concave cut was found in the trench. The nature of its fills suggested it may have been the remnants of a crude limekiln. Its upper fill, immediately under the topsoil, comprised large pieces of rounded limestone and sandstone located with the mixed topsoil and mid-brown silicate clay. Underlying the topsoil and clay mix was a 0.3m-thick layer of dark-brown compact clay with a high silicate content, containing large subangular pieces of limestone, which appeared to slump in the middle of the feature. This overlay a very hard and compact deposit of orange burnt clay and stone 0.1m thick. A 0.12m lens of pinkish-white ash was identified under the burnt clay/stone, which in turn overlay a layer of burnt silty clay containing large pieces of limestone which expanded to the north-east, measuring between 0.4 and 0.75m. Its base consisted of a very hard, orangey-brown, compact burnt clay. No evidence of this feature was visible on the ground surface.

Construction of the kiln would have entailed the digging of a circular pit which was lined with sandstone blocks. The stones were then covered with burning materials until well lit, when more limestone blocks were placed on top. To ensure an elongated time-span, the al fresco kiln was covered with more blocks and earth. A flue/ventilator was kept open to allow oxygen to penetrate and feed the fire. On average, two days of firing was considered adequate to produce the lime. It is possible that the slumping towards the middle of the feature may be the result of the removal of the finished product (i.e. quick lime).