2004:0564 - DUBLIN: 48 New Street South, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: DUBLIN: 48 New Street South

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 04E1286

Author: Antoine Giacometti, for Arch-Tech Ltd.

Site type: Tannery

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 714990m, N 733294m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.337379, -6.273365

The site of No. 48 New Street was located on the corner of New Street South and Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8. It was subject to an archaeological assessment that included testing carried out by Teresa Bolger (No. 563, Excavations 2004, 04E0621). The development involved the demolition of a garage and car sales showroom prior to the construction of a mixed-use development six to eight storeys in height.

The most significant feature was the discovery of a long-lived tannery that was in use from medieval times to the 17th century. The tannery was located just west of New Street, an important early route into Dublin from the south, and near the banks of the River Poddle, now flowing underground. The presence of a tannery at the site was not unexpected. From medieval times the smellier industries that needed flowing water (e.g. the making of leather and brewing) were located outside the city proper and along the Poddle River. There is evidence for medieval and post-medieval tanning from numerous sites in the area. The association of the site with tanning is preserved in the name of the street immediately behind it: Blackpitts, almost certainly referring to the pits or vats of black tanning liquor in which animal hides were steeped for the manufacture of leather. For the most part the site consisted of large numbers of circular and rectangular tanning pits. Approximately half the pits were dated to the medieval period and the other half to the 17th century. These were connected to the River Poddle by a complex of ditches and drains, providing a continuous water source for the industry. Eighteenth-century activity on the site consisted of extensive landscaping and levelling. Both industrial and residential structures were recorded, as well as a series of wells and minor outhouse complexes serving the backs of houses that fronted onto New Street.

The site was located near the original course of the River Poddle behind New Row. The ground sloped down to the north and west towards the river. The natural geological strata in the lowest-lying areas consisted of greyish-yellow gravels that may represent the former presence of a pool (see Walsh 1997, 34). Medieval deposits relating to the silting-up of a pond and the reclamation of the flood-prone area were found in this part of the site.

A large ditch ran through the south-western part of the site and was associated with a number of linear features running into it from the east. It measured c. 50m in length, 2–3m in width and 1.5–2m in depth. Rather than running directly into the Poddle River to the west, the ditch ran parallel to it and may have functioned as a minor diversion of the river providing flowing water for the tannery. The ditch would appear to have filled up by the 17th century.

Over half (almost 100) of the large pits found on the site contained organic material in their lower fills that probably related to the tanning industry. This organic material was generally a dark-brown, dark-grey or black silt, with crushed bark that had a strong smell of ammonia and often had twigs, grass, plant fibres, hazelnut shells and other inclusions. The shapes, fills and dimensions of the tanning pits remained the same from the medieval period to the 17th century. Both circular and square pits were used in even ratios. Generally the circular pits measured 0.83–1.65m in diameter and the rectangular or square pits measured 1–2.8m long by 1–2m wide. All pits were U-shaped in profile, with steep or vertical sides and flat bases. The tanning pits were unlined.

A number of larger circular and rectangular pits were also found. The larger rectangular features were often associated with linear features that would have provided a source of water. These pits may have functioned as layaway pits for the cleaning of the hides before and/or after the tanning process. The larger pits were concentrated in the centre of the site in both medieval and 17th-century periods, suggesting that different sorts of tanning activity were located in different parts of the site and that these were consistent through the use of the site.

A number of land or property boundaries were noted, for the most part running east-west through the site. They generally took the form of ditches in the medieval and 17th centuries and of walls in the 18th century. Clusters of tanning pits were frequently found to respect the boundaries. The space between the boundaries was relatively consistent at 13-15m.

Walsh, C. 1997 Archaeological excavations at Patrick, Nicholas and Winetavern Streets, Dublin. Dingle, Co. Kerry.

71 The Coombe, Dublin 8