This report describes the results of the fourth season of archaeological excavations (E4028, Consent No. C353; Metal detecting license R180) that were carried out within the southern precinct of Bective abbey, Bective, county Meath, in July 2012 under the direction of Dr Geraldine Stout and Dr Matthew Stout.

The site is located in the townland of Bective (NGR 285890 E, 259930 N). The objectives of the 2012 season of excavation were threefold; firstly to expose the interior of the ‘monastic garden’ to determine the possible existence of a central water feature; secondly, to uncover more of the medieval ditch that was identified in 2010 in order to retrieve further environmental evidence and thirdly, to uncover further architectural remains of the original lay-brothers range and barn.

Despite the very poor weather conditions experienced at Bective abbey in July 2012, the excavation was highly productive thanks to our exceptional team of supervisors and volunteers. Excavations over four weeks revealed in Cutting R a set of spade dug furrows in the monastic garden. These were filled with kitchen waste and medieval pottery indicating evidence for medieval composting. Cutting Q revealed modern disturbance associated with a stone-lined drain and a shallow trench thought to be related to the medieval ditch exposed in a previous season. Cutting P exposed a medieval drainage system comprising a main arterial ditch associated with a series of three smaller drains and industrial waste linked with the flue of the medieval kiln. These drains are associated with and external to external a lean too structure attached to the north wall of the medieval barn. Cutting S was placed either side of the nineteenth-century boundary wall enclosing the Abbey. It revealed further architectural remains of a building which was part of the original lay-brother’s range. In the interior of the building north of the present boundary wall were at least two drains and a hearth. This building was destroyed in a major fire that was also responsible for burning down the medieval barn. Agricultural produce including cereal and peas stored in this building were destroyed in the fire. The north-east quadrant of a circular tower was attached to the exterior of this building. A coin from the infill of this structure dates to the middle of the thirteenth century. This tower may date from the period of re-fortification of the abbey which followed the visit of abbot Stephen of Lexington to the abbey in 1228. He described Bective then as a strongly fortified place which could be used to help Clairvaux in France subdue the abbeys of Mellifont, Co. Louth and Boyle, Co. Sligo. They agreed to strengthen Bective and enlarge it so that in future it could assist its mother house at Clairvaux.

Full details of all four seasons of Bective Abbey excavations can be found in Geraldine Stout and Matthew Stout, The Bective Abbey project, Co. Meath: excavations 2009–12 (Dublin: Wordwell, 2016).