2020:018 - Hill Street / The Mall Newry, Down

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Down Site name: Hill Street / The Mall Newry

Sites and Monuments Record No.: Within Licence number: AE/19/183

Author: Eoin Halpin

Site type: Urban, tanning pit

ITM: E 708443m, N 826390m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.175000, -6.338950

The proposal related to an archaeological condition on a full planning permission for a retail and apartment development at 50-52 Hill Street / 36 The Mall, Newry, Co. Down.
The main area of archaeological potential related to the presence, within the vicinity of the development, of a 19th-century tannery. This was recorded on the Industrial Heritage Record as being located in the area bounded by The Mall, Marcus Street and Hill Street. The site also lay within the area of archaeological potential associated with the historic settlement of Newry, and as such there was the potential that archaeological deposits associated with this settlement might also have been uncovered.
A three-phased archaeological mitigation strategy was developed, which took place between 17 December 2019 and 28 January 2020.
Phase 1 consisted of the demolition of the 20th-century Post Office buildings down to floor slab levels, with the testing of the proposed apartment block footprint in the north-west corner of the site. This uncovered evidence for a series of rectangular tanning pits along with possible associated red brick-built buildings. This led to Phase 2 which involved stripping of the entire footprint of the development fronting onto The Mall, down onto in situ archaeological deposits. This revealed that the area of tanning activity was limited to a narrow property boundary recorded on the 1840s OS map, and that the majority of the tanning pits extended to the east, beyond the footprint of the apartment development.
Further discussions with HED led to Phase 3 and agreement to pursue a strategy of preservation in situ of the tannery, with the decision to excavate a tanning pit, which was to be directly impacted by the piling strategy proposed for the foundations. Due to the design of the piling regime, the vast majority of the remaining archaeological deposits would be relatively unaffected by the construction activity.
The excavated pit consisted of an oak-built rectangular feature, measuring 2.4m by 1.5m and a maximum of 1m in depth, set within a clay-lined subsoil-cut pit. The wooden pit was featureless apart from a small 0.3m square box feature 0.1m deep sunk into the wood-lined floor in one of the corners. This feature was also wood-lined, with a wooden base which was concave in profile. The primary surviving fill of the pit consisted of oak chippings, suggesting that the feature may have been used for the production of tanning liquor, an integral part of the leather-making process. It is also suggested that the wooden ‘box’ in the corner may have been used as a sump, enabling the complete emptying of the pit, once the liquor had reached its required strength.

AHC Ltd 36 Ballywillwill Road, Castlewellan, Co Down BT31 9LF