2004:0026 - 22-26 ADELAIDE STREET/23-27 ALFRED STREET, BELFAST, Armagh

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Armagh Site name: 22-26 ADELAIDE STREET/23-27 ALFRED STREET, BELFAST

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/04/83 ext.

Author: Tim Stevens, Archaeological Development Services Ltd, Unit 48, Westlink Enterprise Centre, 30-50 Distillery Street, Belfast BT12 5BJ.

Site type: Urban post-medieval

ITM: E 735572m, N 874396m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.599620, -5.901791

Investigation was carried out at this site just south of Belfast city centre in autumn 2004. The eastern bank of the River Blackstaff (Owenvarra) was traced across the site and ran in a north-north-east/south-southwest orientation. Whilst natural alluvium was recorded along this eastern edge, the bulk of the channel was filled with black mixed deposits incorporating late 19th-, possibly 20th-century cultural material. This deposit was identical to the fill of a reservoir to the west of the river channel and it may be that the two features were contiguous, although the river was c. 2m deep and the reservoir at least 4m. The exact relationship between the two features was unclear, but it is probable that the western bank of the river was breached to create the reservoir. No evidence was found for the culverting of this channel as is supposed to have occurred in the 1880s. However, at some point a large-bore ceramic pipe was inserted along the eastern edge of the channel, which may have fulfilled a similar function. The identification of the course of the river at the site corroborates old cartographic evidence but disputes more recent interpretations of both the location and course of the Blackstaff.

On a similar orientation to the river, a ditch feature, 1.6m wide by 0.65m deep, extended across the site, running c. 6m east of the river channel. A few sherds were recovered from one of the box sections which was hand-excavated and these appear to be late 17th century in date. This feature probably ran along one side of ‘The Mall’, a trackway that ran from the site of the White Linen Hall to Joy’s Paper Mill, and which may be as old as the early 17th century.

No archaeological evidence was seen for buildings shown on the 1938 OS map. Roof scars on the adjacent 19-21 Alfred Street building suggest that a single-storey two-bay workshop-like structure with low arched roofs occupied the northern carpark area during this time. There were no traces for a building situated in the southern part of the site.

Made ground incorporating 20th-century material existed across the site and probably represents 1950s site clearance and levelling prior to construction. The 1950s garage/showroom building was demolished and the perimeter foundations removed. These were concrete strip foundations supporting brick walls. Load-bearing stanchions ran axially north-south across the site and were supported on broad deep concrete pads, particularly when they were located within the soft fill of the river and reservoir. Subsurface remains from this period include drains, fuel tanks, inspection pits, etc., which were responsible for a degree of vertical truncation, in addition to that caused by the building foundations themselves.