Wednesday 22 January 2020

Secrets of the past uncovered

One of the finds.
One of the finds.

Margaret Roddy

The veil of centuries was lifted as the refurbishment works at Bridge Street,Church Street and Clanbrassil Street saw a team of archaeologists called in to examine the secrets of the town's past which came to light as contractors dug beneath the surface.

The archaeologists from Plan Ireland have completed their work and posted a preliminary report on their Facebook page before Christmas which has naturally created a lot of interest locally as this area is long regarded as one of the oldest parts of town.

The reports sets out that a medieval street surface was identified on Bridge Street, Church Street and Clanbrassil Street. Several possible medieval structures were also identified, constructed of large masonry walls. One of these, in front of St Nicholas' Church, was identified as the remains of a tower house, which is shown on this site on a map of Dundalk dating to 1675. The remains of another medieval tower house, Howth's Castle, was also identified on Clanbrassil Street in front of the Diamond Buildings.

All of the medieval masonry buildings and the medieval street were fully recorded and preserved in situ, and in each case the proposed new service trenches and layouts were altered to allow for the full preservation of these features.

The survey also identified what it calls 'very rich organic deposits' throughout the excavated areas. These were particularly deep and finds-rich around the former medieval market at the junction of Bridge Street, Linenhall Street and Church Street. A medieval wooden structure was identified here in the form of several upright stakes surrounded by fragmented wattle and pieces of daub. The dimensions of these remains suggest that they were part of a fence or hurdles (lightweight, portable wicker panels) rather than a larger structure.

The organic deposits contained very large amounts of animal bone and medieval pottery. The pottery is Dundalk Ware, and was particularly dense on Bridge Street not far from the location of a medieval pottery kiln excavated in 1997. A significant assemblage of late twelfth to early thirteenth century leather shoes, knife sheaths and a decorated leather scabbard was also recovered. Other artefacts included carved bone and wooden objects, metal objects, and a decorated slate inscribed with a mythical creature. High status 16th to 17th century drinking glasses were also recovered on Church Street, near the location of the tower house.

Later archaeology was also encountered. Several 18th century structures were identified and recorded, including the corner of the 18th century linen hall, which previously stood in front of the St Nicholas Catholic church. Post-excavation analysis of finds is ongoing, and a final report of the excavation will be completed in due course.

The Argus