2004:0559 - MERRION ROAD, DUBLIN, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: MERRION ROAD, DUBLIN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 23:1-4 Licence number: 04E0272

Author: Christine Baker, Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, 27 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Site type: Manorial settlement

ITM: E 718879m, N 731519m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.320572, -6.215671

Excavation was carried out over a six-week period on a site located on an east-west ridge of high ground (average 7m OD) to the south of the site, which turns into the south-east corner of the site. The ridge drops relatively sharply to low-lying flat ground (average 3.8m OD) that extends northwards to the stream that forms the northern boundary.

The lands around Merrion were originally granted to Walter de Ridelsford, Lord of Bray, by Strongbow in 1173. Merrion seems to have been held in conjunction with the manor of Thorncastle, which extended between Merrion and Blackrock. By the 15th century, Merrion became the property of the Fitzwilliams, who had holdings that stretched from the Dublin Mountains to the middle of the River Liffey. The Fitzwilliams owned brickfields to the north of the castle and developed Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square and most of what is now called Dublin 4 (Pearson 2001). In 1866 the site was acquired by the Irish Sisters of Charity and a convent and home for the blind was constructed there.

An area of c. 40m north-south by 70m was topsoil-stripped (No. 558 above, 04E0167), within which the archaeological remains were not defined but were dispersed. In total 94 distinct features were identified, the majority of which were cut into subsoil and under the plough zone. The site has been subject to extensive modification through cultivation and the insertion of drainage, resulting in extensive truncation of the archaeological deposits. Pits and depressions characterised the majority of features on site, although they were not morphologically consistent, inferring a variety of functions. However, the artefacts recovered, especially the pottery and metal finds, indicate a relatively contemporary date.

The main foci of activity were towards the western and eastern limits of the site, which was defined by its topography – that is, a high ridge sloping down to the north and east. The eastern activity consisted of several pits (F6, F25, F26, F16, F27, F86, F87), a ditch (F2) and metalled surfaces (F9, F93, F91). Ditch F2 may have had a delineating function but is probably more likely to have been for drainage. The western activity consisted mainly of drainage features and a metal processing area. Intercutting pits F52, F53, and F54, which contained slag, were the primary evidence for both in situ burning and metal processing on site. In relative proximity were closely set parallel drainage ditches (F61, F66) that extended from the high ground downslope to where they intersected.

The northern focus of activity consists of a large shallow pit (F15), associated metalled surface (F13) and various pits (F11, F12, F72) and spreads (F83, F84). The metalled surface (F13) was abutted by drains (F79, F80) on either side, indicating contemporary activity, and was cut to the west by the pit F15. Except for a processing element, no obvious function can be attributed to this group of features.

The material assemblage was dominated by pottery, preliminarily identified as Leinster cooking ware, datable from the late 12th to mid-14th centuries. The metal artefacts recovered were also of this date range and were associated with ironworking, carpentry and horse shoeing. Radiocarbon dates indicate occupation of the site from the late 13th to the early 15th century. Analysis by Conor Brady has identified two flints of particular note, a single barbed and tanged arrowhead and a heavily utilised tertiary flint flake. The former may date from the Beaker period, while the latter is possibly a Late Mesolithic Bann Flake.

Combined with the lack of structures, the evidence for rendering rather than consumption, and in advance of complete analysis of the evidence, the excavation site can be interpreted as a working/ processing area located at the periphery of the manor of Merrion.

Pearson, P. 1998 Between the mountains and the sea. Dublin.