2003:1593 - Castle Street Lower, Cloonbracknagh, Roscommon, Roscommon

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Roscommon Site name: Castle Street Lower, Cloonbracknagh, Roscommon

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 39:43(01) Licence number: 03E0245

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

Site type: Castle environs

ITM: E 587492m, N 764214m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.627591, -8.189096

The proposed development, to involve the construction of a supermarket, parking area, a new entrance onto Castle Street and related services, is located within the zone of archaeological potential for Roscommon Castle. It will involve the demolition of two houses and related outbuildings, in addition to a north-south-orientated wall stretching across the site. The south-west corner of the site is located 50m north-east of the castle and borders the existing moat to the south.

The importance of Roscommon Castle is well documented. It was constructed as a royal castle in 1269 by the justiciar and formed the centre of the medieval town of Roscommon. It is situated on a naturally defensive site with an encircling wet moat, which still survives to the north of the castle. It also contains defensive features commonly only found in Edwardian castles in Britain and Ireland. By the mid-14th century, the castle came under the control of the Irish, notably the O'Connors. By the end of the 16th century, ownership of the castle had reverted to the English. Nicholas Malby converted parts of the castle into a fortified house and probably constructed the walls to the east and north of the castle that enclosed a fortified garden.

The site of the proposed development consists of a level green field bisected by a north-south-orientated stone wall. The wall was closely examined, as new research conducted by Margaret Murphy of NUI Galway has demonstrated that it is contemporary with and part of the 16th/17th-century walled garden to the east of the castle. The wall currently stands to over 2m in height and is 0.6-0.7m wide. It is neatly constructed, with evidence of highly decayed lime-based mortar between the stones. The stonework, width and bonding material of this wall is the same as the much taller walls to the south. While shorter than the other walls comprising the fortified garden, this wall has clearly been modified in recent times and was probably reduced in height. In fact, the northern quarter of this wall was obviously demolished at some point in the past and replaced with a wall of drystone construction.

Five trenches were excavated by machine to the top of the archaeology, where present, otherwise to the level of undisturbed natural. Trenches 1, 2 and 4 were 30m long, Trench 3 was 60m long and Trench 5 was 10m long. All were 1.2m wide and were excavated to a depth of 0.3-1.1m. A total of thirteen cut features were revealed, all cutting the natural subsoil. They included furrows, ditches and pits. These potential archaeological features were exposed by hand and recorded, but no further investigation took place. Finds from the sealing deposits and the tops of the features included post-medieval pottery and clay-pipe fragments. It was recommended that the stone wall be retained, due not only to its date but as it forms part of a National Monument. The developers have proposed that the stone wall be dismantled and the stone reused for features in the proposed development. It is anticipated that their current planning application will have to be relodged.