2003:1938 - St John, Waterford

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Waterford Site name: St John

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 9:5 Licence number: 03E1830

Author: Orla Scully, 7 Bayview, Tramore, Co. Waterford.

Site type: Medieval priory

ITM: E 660658m, N 612103m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.257290, -7.111511

The site is the ruin of St John's Benedictine Priory, which dates from the late 12th century. It lies inside the Anglo-Norman walled town, north of the mural tower known as the Double Tower, close to the former site of the southern city gate, Close Gate. The 'ruins are situated in an angle between John St and Manor St at the south end of the town. They consist of an undifferentiated thirteenth century nave and chancel church with a fifteenth/sixteenth century chapel or sacristy to the south at the east end' (Bradley et al. 1988 Urban Survey of Waterford, unpublished).

The area has been chosen by Waterford City Council, in partnership with FÁS, to undergo a conservation project. The preparation of the conservation plan is under way, with the co-operation of the Department of Architecture in the Waterford Institute of Technology, under the guidance of Fintan Duffy, conservation architect, with input on archaeological information by the writer.

The ruins form the south-western boundary of a small urban park, which also incorporates the erstwhile site of a Quaker burial ground. The park is to be enhanced as an urban amenity, and it is the wish of those involved to highlight the extent of the priory on the ground. To this end, three test-trenches were excavated in an effort to establish the northern limit of the priory or any further evidence of ancillary buildings.

Information was retrieved on how and when the ground has built up in the area. There is 1m of overburden inside the church walls dating from the 19th century and later. The missing north wall of the priory was located in two trenches, 1m below the present surface. The threshold of a blocked doorway in the west wall and the base of a limestone monument were exposed. A proposal to remove the upper 1m of fill from the inside of the priory was made, as the unequal ground levels inside and outside the priory are creating structural stress which is causing the remains of the ruin to lean precariously. Outside the buried northern wall, disarticulated bones were noted. These were left in situ and interpreted as belonging to the original graveyard of the priory, which was a parish church in medieval times. The priory was in ruins by 1746.