2004:0528 - 105-109 THE COOMBE, DUBLIN, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: 105-109 THE COOMBE, DUBLIN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 18:20 Licence number: 03E0207

Author: Melanie McQuade, Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, 27 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Site type: Urban medieval and post-medieval

ITM: E 714856m, N 733505m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.339303, -6.275300

Initial phases of monitoring at 105-109 the Coombe by E. Eoin Sullivan were reported in Excavations 2003 (No. 512). The final phase of monitoring on site led to the identification of archaeological features and an area c. 391m2 was subsequently excavated by hand. Seven levels of activity were identified on site. Analysis of the pottery finds indicates that Levels 1-6 date from the late 12th to 16th centuries and Level 7 from the 17th to 19th centuries.

The earliest level on site was characterised by water management and small-scale industrial activity. Level 1 saw the excavation of an artificial channel along the northern boundary of the site in the late 12th century. This channel would have carried water diverted from Coombe Stream, which ran to the north of the site. A series of wooden posts were inserted along the edges (Level 2) and later within (Level 4) the channel, probably in an attempt to direct or control the flow of the water and later to facilitate the reclamation of land occupied by the channel. In the west of the site there were three distinct post rows, which may represent consecutive phases of reclamation, commencing from the southern edge of the channel. In the north-east was a small length of wattle fence, but no coherent structure could be discerned from the remainder of the eastern posts and their layout is not necessarily suggestive of land reclamation in that part of the channel.

A possible plot boundary on the west of the site was marked by two north-south linear features and associated post-holes. To the west of this was a substantial hearth, which may have resulted from industrial-scale burning. Very little slag or ceramic waster material was recovered, suggesting that the fire was not used for smelting metal or firing ceramics but for some other purpose.

At Level 3 the main focus was on industrial activity in the south of the site. The artificial channel on the north of the site had been partially filled and carried a reduced amount of water. A more plentiful supply of water would have been available from the original Coombe Stream, located to its north. On the east of the site were the truncated remains (2.1m by 1.1m) of a firing pit, within which was evidence for two phases of burning. Charred cereal remains were identified from one of the burnt layers, suggesting that the pit was used for corn drying or baking.

In the south-west of the site were six circular pits (0.8-1m wide). Two held wooden barrels and all had organic fills, indicating that they may have been used for tanning. To the north of these were a rectangular stone-lined pit and two circular pits. These three pits had had basal fills of lime and a strong smell of urea from one of them suggests that they may have been used for soaking hides. A large ditch ran north-south through the centre of the site, but two of the lime-filled pits cut into the ditch and it does not seem to have served as a property boundary.

At Level 4 a series of large pits and gullies were in use on the west of the site. Cattle horn cores were recovered from one of the pits, suggesting that tanning may have continued on a smaller scale from Level 3.

Level 5 features included a substantial hearth and two post-holes on the north-west of the site, to the south-east of which were several soaking pits and a rubbish pit.

Level 6 features included four post-holes, a series of intercutting pits and gullies in the north-west of the site and a stone-lined drain in the centre of the site. The drain ran perpendicular to the former channel and to the line of the Coombe Road and may indicate the location of a property boundary, but the post-holes from this level did not form a coherent structure.

Level 7 was characterised by domestic occupation and buildings were constructed on ground reclaimed from the channel. A cobbled surface at the north-east of the site represented a floor surface from a building dating from the 17th or 18th century. Associated with this was a stone drain. Two 18th-century brick drains and a wooden water pipe were also uncovered. The pipe ran from the line of the Commons Water, which was located beyond the northern limit of excavation along the line of an 18th-century lane, which was depicted on Rocque's map but was not identified during excavation. The pipe was made of squared oak with a central bore of 40mm and fed into a cistern to the rear of a street-front property. This was typical of 18th-century pipes uncovered on other excavations in the Coombe by Alan Hayden (Excavations 2000, No. 253, 93E0066) and was probably used for domestic water supply. In the south-west was a square (1.2m wide), wood-lined pit which was filled with cess and refuse dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Curving around the south and west of the pit was an earth-cut drain of similar date. During the 18th century the east of the site was largely undeveloped and is shown under tree cover on Rocque's map.

The only 18th-century structure on this part of the site was a brick-built hearth, which is not illustrated on Rocque's map of 1756 or on the OS maps. Ferrous material within the hearth suggests that it may have been used for smelting or forging iron.

In the 19th century the site contained dwelling houses, the parochial school (which later became the Widows' House) and a roadway leading from the Coombe to St Luke's Church. These structures were altered during the 19th and 20th centuries and, with the exception of the Widows' House, were demolished to accommodate the present development.

Finds from the site included almost 2000 sherds of pottery, most of which date to the medieval period and are mainly comprised of local Dublin wares, but imported wares were also present. Other finds from the medieval levels included a copper-alloy pin, buckle and possible earring, an iron knife and numerous nails. The organic silt fills of the channel yielded three shoe soles and a number of other leather fragments. The post-medieval finds comprised tile, clay pipe and sherds of North Devon ware, English slipware and German stoneware, dating from the 17th-19th centuries. Post-excavation analysis is ongoing.