2008:024 - Crebilly, Antrim

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Antrim Site name: Crebilly

Sites and Monuments Record No.: ANT038–039 Licence number: AE/07/159

Author: David Kilner and Warren Bailie, Archaeological Development Services Ltd, Unit 48, Westlink Enterprise Centre, Belfast, BT12 5BJ.

Site type: Historic building

ITM: E 714216m, N 902674m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.858848, -6.221030

This site at No. 171 Crebilly Road, Ballymena, was recommended for testing under planning conditions as it is the site of the former Crebilly Castle, which was constructed in 1641 by the O’Hara family after their castle at Slaght was burned. The castle was replaced by a larger house, Crebilly House, which in turn was extended and then rebuilt by the squires O’Hara during the 19th century. Financial problems forced the last squire, Henry O’Hara, to sell the property to the Dinsmore family during the late 19th century. The Dinsmores sold Crebilly House to a J.K. Robinson Esq. of Philadelphia in 1918. Robinson never occupied the property and put it up for auction in 1920. The house appeared to lie vacant during this period and it was burned during the Troubles of 1922. The derelict shell of the house remained extant until the 1960s, when it was demolished and a bungalow built in its place. A new development was proposed and therefore the ground within the new footprint had to be tested for extant remains of Crebilly House and/or Crebilly Castle.
Five initial test-trenches were placed across the footprint of the new building. The site was then taken down to subsoil level, which existed at c. 2.3m below ground level. All archaeological investigations took place between 29 August 2007 and 15 February 2008.
The five trenches showed a series of stone walls with red-brick additions and detailing. Also uncovered were two different floor types: ceramic tiles and large sandstone slabs. The site was taken down in stages, the first of which was to reveal the walls and architectural detail. The removal of all make-up material within the footprint of the proposed new development revealed a series of eight rooms/divisions delineated by stone and brick walls and with some doorways and areas of flooring surviving intact. There were two fireplaces that also remained in situ, one of which showed sandstone detailing. A sandstone gully feature was also revealed along the south-west gable end of the former Crebilly House and a triple wall along the north-west façade of the house. After recording of the extant walls, floors, etc., was completed, they were removed to reveal two drainage features and foundation walls which generally followed the layout of the room divisions. These foundation walls and drains were removed down to subsoil level, revealing the original cut for the basement of Crebilly House. The basement complex continued beyond the limit of excavation to the north, north-east and south-east. This ground will not be disturbed, as it is beyond the footprint of the new development. Finds included 19th-century glass bottle and pottery sherds. No remains of Crebilly Castle were found.