2004:0526 - 32 COOK STREET, DUBLIN, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: 32 COOK STREET, DUBLIN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E1602

Author: Sinclair Turrell, Archaeological Development Services Ltd, Windsor House, 11 Fairview Strand, Fairview, Dublin 3.

Site type: Urban medieval

ITM: E 714854m, N 734087m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.344530, -6.275119

A total of 31 boreholes were monitored at 32 Cook Street, Dublin, between 16 and 26 February 2004, during the construction of foundation piles for a four-storey development. The site is situated close to the medieval church of St Audeon's and just outside the town wall of c. AD 1100, on land that was reclaimed from the River Liffey and later enclosed by the mid13th-century town wall extension. It was crossed by the former course of a small stream known as Colman's Brook and consisted of a rectangular, concreted area previously used as a carpark, connected to Cook Street by an access corridor at the eastern end. An assessment by Rosanne Meenan in 1997 had indicated that medieval deposits existed on the site (Excavations 1997, No. 118, 97E0045). To minimise the impact of the development on the archaeological deposits, the foundation was to be based on dispersed concrete piles, together with some connecting ground beams situated within the overlying rubble layer.

The archaeological deposits could not be observed directly and the monitoring consisted of recording the upcast from the auger bit. The overburden, usually around 2m in depth, was invariably brick, mortar and stone rubble, which was likely to have come from the demolition of the houses here in 1932. Below the overburden was a damp, sticky clay, usually mixed brown or grey in colour, from around 1-1.6m in thickness and containing brick, mortar, charcoal and shell flecks, together with some animal bones. This is likely to be post-medieval in date and probably provided the foundations for the former houses. There was a series of mixed, silty, clay layers below this, with black, grey and brown clay, often organic in nature, all present. These deposits were waterlogged and contained oyster shell, bone, wood and medieval finds, including pottery, tile, leather, horn core, an antler object and worked bone. These silty clay deposits represent the medieval component of the sequence, but it is not clear to what extent they are occupation layers or dump layers, or the degree of disturbance to which they have been subjected.

A sand and gravel layer below this, which varied in thickness from around 1-3m and usually occurred at the level of the water table, is also difficult to interpret. In places it was grey and silty, while in others it was relatively clean and orange in colour. In these latter cases it was probably a natural deposit, since orange gravel is known to occur naturally along the shore of the Liffey. Where it was grey and silty, it could simply be disturbed natural, but it is also possible that it has been redeposited to build up the ground level as part of the reclamation process. In one borehole, a clay layer that appeared to lie below the gravel contained bone, wood and oyster shell fragments, while in another, masonry rubble and bone were found below the gravel, suggesting that, here at least, the gravel had been redeposited. A silt or silt-clay, which sometimes occurred below the gravel, occasionally with layers of small shells all lying horizontally, must have been natural deposit, and the clay and stones found at the base of the sequence represent the natural boulder clay.

The general sequence of modern overburden, post-medieval clay, dark, organic medieval clay, sand and gravel and then boulder clay accords well with both the stratigraphic sequences recorded from other excavations in the vicinity and that observed during the 1997 trial-trenching, and it is apparent that significant evidence of medieval activity remains here. The leather scraps found in the medieval layers are particularly interesting, since leather off-cuts were also found at several other sites in the vicinity and this evidence would seem to support the suggestion (Murtagh 1991) that some sort of leather working was going on in the surrounding area. One borehole produced a worked antler tine, together with a leather off-cut. This tine could also be connected with the leather industry, since it is similar to some of the modified antler tines from medieval Waterford, which may have been used for pegging out hides (Hurley 1997, 682). A goat horn core, worked bone and a hone from neighbouring boreholes may be evidence of other industrial activity in the vicinity.

Masonry rubble, glazed ceramic roof tiles and a fragment of line-impressed floor tile, also found in medieval layers, may attest to the former presence of stone-built houses in the vicinity. The floor tile matches L33 in Eames' and Fanning's inventory, previously recorded from Swords Castle (Eames and Fanning 1988, 66) and therefore dating to the Anglo-Norman period. Fragments of wood were frequently encountered and in one borehole the auger bored through what appeared to be a substantial timber, raising the possibility that a revetment, wharf, jetty or similar wooden structure survives here. The silting of the Liffey at this point is also evidenced by the natural deposit of grey silt/clay found in some of the borings.

There was also plenty of evidence of 18th- and 19th-century activity here, particularly in the form of the basement walls. However, the fact that at least part of the site escaped cellaring was shown by the presence, near the centre of the site, of a cobbled surface, probably a yard, overlain by a 19th-century rubbish pit. The brick culvert of Colman's Brook was also noted running along the northern perimeter of the site.

Although piling minimises the impact of development on archaeological deposits, it also limits the results of monitoring and the construction of 31 piles within a small area, as here, still represents a considerable disturbance. With the piling in place, the site will suffer no further disturbance and will become sealed below the floor of the new building.

References
Eames, E.S., and Fanning, T. 1988 Irish medieval tiles. Dublin.
Hurley, M. 1997 Artefacts of skeletal material. In M.F. Hurley, O.M.B. Scully and S.W.J. McCutcheon (eds), Late Viking Age and medieval Waterford, 650-99. Waterford.
Murtagh, D. 1991 15-19 Merchant's Quay, Dublin. In I. Bennett (ed.), Excavations 1990. Bray.