2004:0343 - WHITEHALL, Cork

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Cork Site name: WHITEHALL

Sites and Monuments Record No.: CO149-007 Licence number: 04E1175

Author: Margaret McCarthy, Archaeological Services Unit, University College Cork

Site type: Castle - tower house

Period/Dating: Late Medieval (AD 1100-AD 1599)

ITM: E 501755m, N 530310m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 51.516845, -9.415603

Rincolisky Castle is located west of Skibbereen town on an elevated rocky outcrop overlooking Roaringwater Bay. The proposed development is for the restoration of the tower, which is a protected structure and is listed in the Record of Monuments and Places for County Cork. The development will have a direct impact on the monument, as it is to be fully restored and reoccupied as a residence.

Six test-trenches were placed within those areas of the tower-house where maximum ground disturbance will occur and the results demonstrated that previously unrecorded archaeological features exist below the present ground level in certain locations around the monument.

There is a plaster scar on the east face of the tower at first-floor level showing the outline of a gabled structure that was attached to the east wall. The area was tested, as the original plans for the development proposed that a new eastern extension would be constructed on the footprint of this building. The footings of a stone wall were exposed extending from the ground floor doorway at the north end of the east wall eastwards towards another wall, which appeared on first inspection to represent a bawn wall surrounding the castle. A possible second wall was uncovered at the south-east corner of the tower and is parallel to the wall extending from the doorway. This wall was severely damaged during the demolition of the building and many of the stones had been removed. The surface of the area enclosed by the two walls contained large amounts of mortar and slate, providing further evidence for the former existence of a building attached to the east wall of the tower-house. Despite a search of the written, cartographic and photographic archive available for this area of West Carbery, there is no record of a building being attached to Rincolisky Castle. Any new construction against the east face of the tower will require the entire area to be fully excavated in order to determine the layout and construction date for this former extension.

Test-trench 2 was placed in a level area of ground to the north-west of the castle, which has been chosen as the percolation area. Excavation here revealed a deep layer of topsoil overlying the natural subsoil, which consisted of a mixed deposit of orange/grey compact boulder clay. Trenching revealed that no archaeological features or deposits were present in this area of the site.

Another trench (Test-trench 3) was opened to the east of the percolation area to investigate a raised area of ground which extended towards the north-west corner of the tower-house. This was placed to establish if the possible bawn wall identified during trenching at the east side of the castle was present and to determine if it extended as far as the tower-house. Testing here uncovered a variety of archaeological deposits, including a narrow wall extending for a length of 1.09m from the southern baulk, where it terminated. The wall measured 0.62m in width and there was evidence for a return along the southern baulk. The interior of this possible building seems to have been cobbled, while the outer area was paved with large flat slabs. Further excavation would need to be undertaken to establish the full extent and nature of the features exposed in this trench.

Trench 4 extended from the southern wall of the tower-house along the north-south axis of an area that has been chosen for parking. A layer of dark-brown organic material containing abundant oyster shell and butchered animal bones became apparent following removal of the topsoil. A number of sherds of Seville ware, dating to the 17th century, were recovered from the exposed surface and it is likely that this layer represents various episodes of waste disposal by former occupants of the tower-house.

Two test-trenches (5 and 6) were opened within the interior of the tower-house, where considerable ground disturbance is likely to occur during the construction of a new floor. Localised areas of bedrock were noted protruding above the existing floor surface in some areas of the interior and the two test-trenches that were excavated indicated that bedrock exists at less than 500mm below the present surface. No features of archaeological importance were uncovered.