independent

Saturday 30 August 2014

Norman site may soon be lost to sea

Fintan Lambe

Published 08/04/2014 | 05:34

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Local historian Dan Wafer.

A CALL has gone out for an archaeological study to be carried out on an ancient Norman monument in Ballygarrett, which is about to be lost to the sea.

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A CALL has gone out for an archaeological study to be carried out on an ancient Norman monument in Ballygarrett, which is about to be lost to the sea.

The Glasscarraig Motte, where a Wooden Castle dating back to the late 1100s once stood, stands on the edge of a crumbling sea cliff at Glasscarraig Bay near Ballygarrett.

Part of an adjoining Bailey, an enclosed courtyard, has already disappeared into the sea.

'The Motte and Bailey site was of incredible importance,' said archaeologist Byron Jones. 'It was one of the very first fortifications built by the Normans in Ireland. The site formed part of an invaluable defensive chain along the East Wexford coastline protecting vital economic Norman interests along it.'

Byron explained that it was built sometime in the late 1170s or the 1180s under the supervision of Raymond Le Gros who was the leader of the second Norman Invasion of Ireland which landed in Baginbun, South Wexford in 1170.

According to Nicholas Furlong's 'A History of County Wexford', Glasscarraig was the residence of Raymond Le Gros until his death in 1189, and after this, the site was taken over by a nephew from the Caunteton family.

In his book, 'Wexford Castles', the late Billy Colfer stated that 'the structures of Glasscarraig also ensured the security of a prime landing spot for fishing. It seems that the ancient town of Ferns may have used Glasscarraig which itself had grown into a rural Borough as a port for imports and maybe even exports.'

Mr Colfer also stated that this highlights the importance of the site, and that there is potential for a large excavation there. He goes on to state that in the following centuries, the Cauntetons alienated themselves from the established Norman authorities, and rebelled against local law enforcers, and finally lost control of the area, when they were attacked by the MacMurchadas in 1311.

Byron said that no large excavation has ever taken place on site. 'The Motte now finds itself precariously positioned over the cliff edge,' he said. 'In fact, unfortunately, the South Eastern ditch/Fosse, has completely disappeared, along with part of the Bailey.

'It is a great pity to lose Archaeological information which has no doubt already been lost to the sea,' he continued. 'At the moment, I am doing my utmost, with the help of local historian Peter Earle and local Archaeologists to try and procure help in the form of advice from the National Monuments Service and the National Museum, and if we can get financial aid in the form of grants from local bodies.

'Archaeological colleagues Emmet and Catherine McLoughlin of Stafford McLoughlin Archaeology Wexford are visiting soon, and their experience is greatly appreciated,' he added. 'It is hoped that we can raise the profile of this Archaeological site which is of regional importance at least, and get a project on the move before it is too late to do so.'

He asked locals from the Glasscarraig, Ballygarrett and Donaghmore areas to contact him if they have any information or stories about the site, so he can document them. E-mail byronjones1989@hotmail.com

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