2003:1843 - Derryloran, Tyrone

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Tyrone Site name: Derryloran

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/03/01

Author: Ciara MacManus, Archaeological Development Services Ltd, Westlink Enterprise Centre, Distillery Street, Belfast BT12 5BJ.

Site type: Ditches; industrial activity

ITM: E 679946m, N 876746m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.632587, -6.761754

Investigations at Derryloran, Co. Tyrone, began on 8 January 2003 and continued over a period of six weeks. The site was located on the north-east corner of an area of greenfield at Derryloran Industrial Estate, Cookstown, bounded along its northern and eastern sides by the main road and its southern and western sides by factory buildings. Approximately 50m to the east is Derryloran graveyard and church, a 17th-century building which may have had its origins in the Early Christian period. The site was to be developed as part of a factory expansion for Keylite Windows. Monitoring of topsoil-stripping was required as part of planning conditions. Although topsoil-stripping had been carried out prior to archaeological attendance, further investigations revealed the existence of at least three large ditches and a number of other archaeological features.

The site consisted of an area of c. 25m by 30m extending from near the crest of a low drumlin hill southwards towards a low inter-drumlin hollow. The southern portion of the site had been greatly disturbed in the past during construction work for the industrial estate, and the surviving archaeological remains were located upslope of this area. In addition to this, a strip c. 8m wide along the western perimeter of the site had already been reduced below ground level and any remains in this area were destroyed. The remainder of the site was cleaned, uncovering a series of three ditches and numerous pits and post-holes extending across the site. The ditches (Ditches 1-3) appear to represent the remains of successive enclosures surrounding the higher portion of the ridge, while a number of pits potentially associated with metal production were also uncovered. Habitation activity on the site was evidenced by a number of pits which produced numerous sherds of everted-rim ware, while the ill-defined remains of a structure were uncovered in the form of an arc of post-holes.

Ditch 1, the largest of the three ditches, was located along the periphery of the site. It was first identified within the south-facing section face along the northern perimeter of the site. As it was within the area which had already been reduced in ground level, only a 4m-long stretch of ditch was uncovered before extending outside the limit of excavation. The ditch appeared to extend in a north-south direction, being c. 4m wide and 2m deep, with initially steep V-shaped sides falling to a box-shaped base. The ditch was filled by numerous deposits, representing its silting, while the lower 0.3m was filled by a leached silt which also contained pieces of wood planking and other natural wood fragments. The upper fill of the ditch appeared to represent a recut within the upper 0.25m.

Ditch 2 extended in a curving direction from the lower southern portion of the site, north-westwards towards Ditch 1, before turning to a north-south orientation to respect that of the first ditch and run alongside it and finally extending outside the limit of excavation. This second ditch extended southward towards the lower disturbed area but appeared to be curving back towards the east as if to encircle the top of the hill. It was narrower and less substantial than the outer ditch, being c. 2m wide and 0.8-1m deep, again with a V-shaped profile. The fills appear to mainly represent silting, although there may have been some deliberate backfilling, represented by a very clean, compact red redeposited clay subsoil within the southern portion of the ditch. A single sherd of everted-rim ware was recovered from the basal fill of the ditch within its central portion.

Ditch 3 was a more curving feature located within the eastern portion of the site. It extended out of the north-east corner of the site in a north-east/south-west direction for a distance of c. 15m before starting to return back towards the south-east at the base of the hill slope. It did not appear to respect the line of Ditch 2, being situated c. 16.5m from Ditch 2 at its northern end, while it appears to have joined or crossed the southern portion of Ditch 2 by the time it reached the southern portion of the site. Although Ditch 3 may not be contemporary with Ditch 2, it was very similar in shape and dimensions, again being c. 2m in width and 0.6-0.1m deep, with a V-shaped profile. Again, the fills of this feature appeared to represent natural silting, while no finds were recovered from it.

A large number of apparently randomly placed pits and post-holes were located across the site. Within the north-west corner of the site, a series of pits were excavated which appear to represent an area of metalworking. Many of these were filled with charcoal-rich deposits, while a large number also contained lumps of iron slag. One of these pits had been cut at its western edge by the innermost ditch (Ditch 3) and therefore relates to earlier activity on the site. A second large, possible ironworking, pit was located between Ditches 1 and 2. This feature may have been the remains of a smelting oven, with a large quantity of burnt wood lining its base, on top of which lumps of slag were recovered. The sides of the pit had become hardened due to the firing process and were undercut to give a bowl-shaped section, which also suggested that a larger domed superstructure covered the pit. A large rubbish pit containing numerous sherds of everted-rim ware was also uncovered at the base of the hill within the south-west corner of the site. This feature cut through the southern edge of Ditch 3 and may represent the latest phase of activity on-site.

The archaeology uncovered at Derryloran would appear to represent the remains of an Early Christian enclosure site probably related to an earlier monastic enclosure which is reputed to have existed within this area of Cookstown.