Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 11E0028

Author: Antoine Giacometti

Site type: Post-medieval human remains

ITM: E 715116m, N 734684m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.349833, -6.270968

A monitoring programme was conducted during the excavation of sixteen engineering test pits in the basement of Green Street Courthouse in October 2011. The work was undertaken on behalf of the OPW as part of the refurbishment of the historic building, which is a protected structure located between Green Street and Halston Street. This part of North Dublin was once known as ‘Abbey Green’ and later ‘Little Green’, forming part of the manor lands of the 12th-century St Mary’s Abbey. The Courthouse, along with the Debtors’ Prison and Newgate Gaol, were constructed towards the end of the 18th century.
Most of the pits were excavated to a shallow depth below the basement and exposed only modern disturbance. At a different site to the north, excavations almost two decades ago on North King Street by Frank Ryan (Excavations 1993, no. 79, 93E104) exposed early medieval occupational layers at a depth of 3.8m and 4m below the street-level ground surface. The engineering test pits in the courthouse were significantly shallower than this, despite being excavated from basement level, and no deposits of this nature were identified here, although several of the pits exposed 19th-century and earlier features of possible interest. These included a lime screed construction floor level dating from c. the 1890s and a stone-lined drain pre-dating this but still probably associated with the construction of the courthouse in the late 18th century.
The most important discovery was from a test pit in the ‘Charlie’s Garden Courtyard’ off Green Street, where a disarticulated human right humerus was found within a 19th-century urban deposit. This may indicate that the late 17th- and 18th-century cemetery identified at the junction of Green Street and North King Street to the north of the site, where 430 articulated human skeletons along with c. 120 disarticulated human remains were excavated by Daire O’Rourke (Excavations 1998, no. 172, 98E098) and by Dermot Nelis (Excavations 1999, no. 213, 98E088), probably extended along Green Street below the present courthouse.
This graveyard had previously been identified in 1892, when during foundation-laying for the Sheriff’s Prison large quantities of human bone were excavated and it was noted that a ‘portion of the cells under the court-house were part of the vaults of the old cemetery’ (Irish Builder, 1 Oct. 1892). The article suggests that the burials identified at the northern end of Green Street (now the community centre, then the timber yard at 194 North King Street) may extend beneath Green Street Courthouse. The findings demonstrate that archaeologically significant material survives as little as 0.3m below the existing basement level of Green Street Courthouse, and that future groundworks here may impact on archaeological material.

Archaeology Plan, 32 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2