NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/09/067

Author: Johanna Vuolteenaho and David Kilner, c/o Archaeological Development Services Ltd, Unit 6, 21 Old Channel Road, Belfast, BT3 9DE.

Site type: Monitoring

ITM: E 758874m, N 879951m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.642698, -5.538485

The site was archaeologically evaluated in June 2009, via monitoring and the supervised excavation of test-pits in relation to the demolition of the current Portavo House and its replacement with another dwelling. The current Portavo House dates to the late 19th century and is, itself, a replacement for an earlier house built in 1820, in turn replacing a house dating from the 1670s. Elements of these former properties are still extant and include the basement of the former 1820 house, which is linked by a tunnel to a subterranean bathhouse located to the south. It is also suggested that a return on the existing Portavo House may contain fabric from the 1670 house.

The replacement dwelling had already been constructed and the area archaeologically evaluated related to the construction of an access road and the laying of duct pipes within a shallow trench along the side of the existing access road. The proposed access road ran across the line of the tunnel between the basement of the former Portavo House and the subterranean bathhouse. An air vent associated with the tunnel was inspected prior to being enclosed within a protective casing of blocks and capped with a removable cover. This air vent was found to be undamaged by previous groundworks and will be unaffected by the laying of the access road, which saw ground levels raised rather than lowered.

The line of the shallow trench for the duct pipes was also examined, with a series of test-pits excavated along its length. This trench ran over the location of a large sewer. This sewer was not impacted upon by the proposed development.

No deposits of archaeological potential were uncovered and indeed the evaluation suggested that the site is likely to have been disturbed by landscaping associated with the construction of the 19th-century buildings, leaving only a thin covering of soil over bedrock.

The current Portavo House will be demolished once the replacement dwelling is completed. As mentioned, it is possible that elements of an earlier 17th-century house have been incorporated into the current house. Given this, NIEA: Built Heritage requires that the current Portavo House is appropriately recorded prior to demolition.