2010:074 - Carlow Main Drainage Scheme, Moanacurragh/Chaplestown/Kernanstown/Polleton, Carlow, Carlow

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Carlow Site name: Carlow Main Drainage Scheme, Moanacurragh/Chaplestown/Kernanstown/Polleton, Carlow

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 10E0175 and 10E0175 ext.

Author: Judith Carroll, Judith Carroll & Company Ltd, Consultant Archaeologists, 11 Anglesea Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Site type: Various

ITM: E 674282m, N 676248m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.832058, -6.897641

The Carlow main drainage scheme is situated in Carlow town and extends throughout the town (CW007–018) and its suburbs, which is on the east side of the River Barrow and is prone to flooding. Licence to monitor the works was granted in May 2010 and is currently ongoing in 2011.

An archaeological assessment for the drainage scheme was previously undertaken by Breandán Ó Ríordáin for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd in 2002 (Excavations 2002, No. 38) along with subsequent monitoring of site investigations. A subsequent extension of the scheme to Kernanstown was undertaken by Tobar Archaeology in 2004, while a riverine assessment for the area around Ballinacarrig Bridge was undertaken by Eachtra Ltd in 2004.



During July 2010, as the contractors prepared to extend their pipeline through Kennedy Street, an update of the present licence was applied for to excavate remains expected to be found in this area. An 18th-century cobbled surface was found in several places in Kennedy Street during works here.

On the west end of Kennedy Street, towards Castle Hill and the castle, human burials were found. These probably relate to an early medieval ecclesiastical site, probably pre-dating St Mary’s Church, a later medieval foundation on the north side of Kennedy Street. A monastery is claimed to have been founded by St Comgall in Carlow in the 6th century and this may well be the site of the monastery which predated the Anglo-Norman motte and subsequent castle.

This earlier burial-ground is called the ‘Castle Hill graveyard’ and is a little to the north of Carlow Castle. Very little of this is left, but a small hillock is present. In his work on the site (limited publication, probably 1959), Henry Fennell of Everton, Carlow, a local historian, identified this graveyard as Crocan na Relige, as it was locally called, and states that this is the earliest burial site (of which there was originally more to the west). Much of this site was removed for housing during the 18th century. It seems very likely that this site opposite the castle may be the earliest site in Carlow and may indeed be the site of the 6th- or 7th-century monastery or abbey (pers. comm. Dermot Mulligan, Carlow County Museum). Only three burials were identified in situ during excavation in July 2010. They were partial and one was represented only by a humerus. The burials were typically extended east–west, with the heads to the west, and were only some 0.3m below ground level.

To the south of the burials, other trenches were opened at the juncture between Mill Lane and Kennedy Street. Here the stratigraphy was completely disturbed by pipes and drains but enough human bone was recovered to suggest that the burial site had extended into this area, just north of the Burrin River, before it was infilled in the 18th century. Medieval and post-medieval pottery sherds were also recovered from the trenches.

During September 2010, the focus of activity in the Carlow main drainage scheme was located at Ballinacarrig Bridge and in Chaplestown townland. The pipeline was to extend along the Burrin river in this townland only a short distance in some cases from a string of cropmarks which have been identified close to the river here. These recorded monuments are probably prehistoric burial enclosures. Field 1 (just east of Ballinacarrig Bridge in Chaplestown townland) contains below-ground remains of a double-barrow site, CW007–065 – the most unusual of the sites. It stands out in the image as an elliptical enclosure, up to 70m across. Field 2 contains subsurface remains of a large enclosure, CW007–066, and a small enclosure, CW007–067. The cropmarks were photographed in fields in Chapelstown in 1989 (many thanks to Gillian Barrett for allowing us to reproduce this).

Prior to any works taking place here, this company carried out continuous trenching along the line of the Burrin River in 2010 (Ken Wiggins for Judith Carroll & Company; licence as above). No finds or features came to light during the trenching.