2008:758 - Desmond Castle, Adare, Limerick

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Limerick Site name: Desmond Castle, Adare

Sites and Monuments Record No.: LI021–032003 Licence number: C274; E3922

Author: Connie Kelleher, National Monuments Service, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG), Unit 7, East Gate Avenue, Little Island

Site type: Castle

ITM: E 546584m, N 646259m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.565018, -8.787873

The medieval castle known as Desmond Castle at Adare in County Limerick is a national monument in state ownership. The Office of Public Works (OPW), which maintains the monument, undertook works in November 2008 to install floodlighting at the castle. This was the final phase of works, which has been ongoing at the site for a number of years.

Staff from the OPW used a mini-digger, shovels and spades to carry out the work and which consisted of: opening a number of trenches to house the electric cable for the floodlights; digging of wider areas for specific manholes to allow access to the cables; opening pits to house the steel supports for the floodlights; and back-filling of all opened areas. The work was monitored on 3–7 November 2008 by the author in cooperation with Laurence Dunne of Eachtra Archaeological Projects Ltd.

Four trenches were opened during the course of the works. Trench 1 led from the roadway entrance of the site and concluded 10m in front of the main entrance of the castle proper. This trench had an average depth of 0.7m and a general width of 0.5m. Two manhole pits were also excavated. These were 0.6m deep and 1m2 in diameter. This trench began at the main entrance gateway and worked its way along the route of the crushed limestone pathway that leads into the castle grounds. This area was very disturbed, with two redundant electric cables being encountered as well as gravel, sand and river-rolled cobbles used in the construction of the pathway. Roots from the nearby trees also added to the general disturbance of the area. No discernible stratigraphy was obvious within Trench 1. Towards the end of this trench and c. 10m in front of the main doorway entrance to the castle, a mortared stone area was encountered. Digging was halted here until the nature and extent of the feature was assessed. Although the material within the feature was very similar to the fabric of the castle itself, modern material was found beneath it, as well as a drainpipe having impacted the area in the recent past. Following further investigation, it was confirmed that this was the area the OPW had used when the main conservation works at the castle was being undertaken. The mortared stone was therefore used for the renovation of the castle walls and the material identified in Trench 1 formed part of the OPW works area for this.

The only object of archaeological significance recovered from this trench was a stray sherd of German stoneware. This was recovered from the area of the trench immediate to the main entrance gate.

Trench 2 ran from the end of Trench 1 near the main castle gate, along the front of monument and around the moat of the castle. It had an average depth of 0.7m and a general width of 0.5m. Two further manhole pits were excavated. These were 0.6m deep and 1m2 in diameter. This was the longest trench dug and included two manhole pits. This again proved to be very disturbed, with the stratigraphy changing during the course of the trench from rich earth and rubble within the area in front of the castle to more compact, lime-rich soil in the area beside the moat. An electric cable was encountered that runs underground from the river west to the golf club, along the front of the castle. All soil within this trench proved to be sterile and produced nothing of archaeological significance.

Trench 3 was opened from the main roadway entrance leading into the castle grounds to the perimeter fence boundary of the golf club. It had an average depth of 0.7m and a general width of 0.5m. It consisted of earth, stone and modern material, very mixed and obviously highly disturbed from landscaping of the surrounding area. Nothing of archaeological significance was identified in this trench.

Trench 4 was the final area opened and ran from the end of Trench 1 in front of the main castle gateway, through the limestone pathway and eastwards towards the river. This trench had an average depth of 0.7m and a general width of 0.5m. It consisted of disturbed ground comprising earth and random rubble, interspersed with river-rolled cobbles. This area was highly disturbed during landscaping work undertaken by Lord Devonshire, when quantities of material were removed from the river to build up the area immediate to the river itself. The last floodlight stand was placed at the end of this trench on the riverside. Nothing of archaeological significance was identified in this trench.

Apart from one stray sherd of German stoneware, the monitoring for the works carried out by the OPW for the floodlight cables at Desmond Castle, Adare produced no other finds of archaeological significance. The areas impacted by the works have been intensely impacted previously through both 19th-century landscaping works and more modern electric cabling and drainage works. That being said, the fact that a sherd of late-medieval pottery was recovered during the course of the work highlights the need to have such work monitored.