2003:1993 - MULLINGAR: Area 1C, Blackhall Street Carpark, Westmeath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Westmeath Site name: MULLINGAR: Area 1C, Blackhall Street Carpark

Sites and Monuments Record No.: WM019-089004- and WM019-089008- Licence number: 03E1545

Author: Colum Hardy, for Valerie J. Keeley

Site type: Religious house - Dominican friars, Burial and Castle - unclassified

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 643885m, N 753089m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.525933, -7.338138

Testing took place from 9 to 29 October 2003 within Blackhall Street carpark on the site of the Dominican priory. Seven trenches were excavated by a track machine with a 2m-wide toothless bucket in advance of possible future development. Trenches 1–3, 12 and 14 measured 8m by 2m, Trench 13 was 7m by 2m, with Trench 15 measuring 10m by 2m. Trenches 1–3, 13 and 14 were orientated north-south. Trenches 12 and 15 were orientated east-west, with the former located at the possible entrance to the priory.

Substantial structural remains were recorded within all of the trenches, except Trench 12, which contained an adult inhumation c. 0.6m below the surface. It was orientated north-south, possibly female and produced medieval floor tiles and coffin nails in association. There were also a number of scattered human remains surrounding the inhumation. This inhumation is most likely to be associated with the large number of burials within the remains of the Dominican priory, including those excavated (c. 130 inhumations) by R. Lynch (No. 1992, Excavations 2003) also at Blackhall Street.

The most impressive structural remains were located within Trenches 3 and 15. Trench 3 recorded a linear north-south wall, three to five courses deep, with frequent mortar; it lay under a similarly linear black silty clay with much charcoal, which included post-medieval pottery. This wall was cut into two contexts, one of which produced a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead and the other a piece of flint debitage and medieval pottery.

Trench 15 recorded the largest and most substantial of the structural remains found. A series of walls were uncovered orientated east-west and north-south (C67 and C70 east-west, C66 and C77 north-south). These walls ran parallel to each other (C67 and C70) as well as perpendicular (C66 and C67). They contained frequent amounts of mortar and large cut and dressed limestone blocks. The walls were recorded from c. 1-1.3m below ground surface and continued to a depth of c. 2.9m below the surface. They produced a number of post-medieval finds, including pottery and glass, as well as medieval pottery at the lowest levels. Other finds within these trenches included stained-glass fragments, dressed granite blocks (Trench 14), a thimble, tile fragments and occasional human bone.

The structural remains are an indicator of continued use of the site from medieval to present times. Several buildings are recorded as being located on this site. The Dominican priory and its associated buildings are represented by the cut-and-dressed granite architectural pieces recovered from Trench 14 and the inhumation in Trench 12. In 1542, the site of the priory was set aside for the site of the first county gaol and in 1566 was granted to Walter Hope on condition that he build it. It was attacked in 1600 and repaired in 1610. Blackhall Castle was probably also located on the southern side of Blackhall Street at the site of the priory. Medieval sources also refer to a number of stone buildings within the town and, in 1641, c. 95 houses were recorded.

Further excavation would be required to obtain a broader comprehension of these structures.

Brehon House, Kilkenny Road, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny