Irish Project Areas

1. County Dublin

News Letter

Location Map

Geology

The oldest rocks in the Dublin Area are the hard quartzites that make up Bray Head and Howth: originally sandstones deposited during the Cambrian Period over 500 million years ago in the ancient Iapetus Ocean. As the Iapetus Ocean began to close less than 500 million years ago during the Ordovician, volcanic rocks were formed, now found around Balbriggan and Lambay Island. Eventually the Iapetus closed about 400 million years ago during the Devonian and the mountain building event that occurred (the Caledonian Orogeny) caused large masses of granite to form deep in the crust, today forming the Dublin Mountains and Dalkey Island/Killiney Hill. By the early Carboniferous about 350 millsion years ago, the Caldeonian mountains were eroded and a shallow sea covered much of the area around Dublin, depositing limestone found throughout the county. Later geological periods have left no record in the current rock sequences of Dublin, but in the Quaternary Period, staring 1.6 million years ago, ice sheets repeatedly covered the area, eroding rocks and depositing sand and mud. Following retreat of the last ice sheet, many of the current beaches and spits were formed as sea-levels began to stabilise about 5000 years ago.

Bremore

Oblique aerial photograph of Bremore in North Couty Dublin, containing several passage tombs and later a 15th Century settlement
Oblique aerial photograph of Bremore in North Couty Dublin, containing several passage tombs and later a 15th Century settlement

Bremore Point in north County Dublin is famous for its prehistoric passage grave complex of five mounds overlooking the Irish Sea.  Bremore megalithic cemetery is located on an eroding headland which consists of 5 Passage tombs, a Mound, a Barrow and a Fulacht Fia. The sea is encroaching on this megalithic cemetery, as striped bedrock is exposed in close proximity to this megalithic complex. The central mound is also the largest mound at 29m in diameter, twice the diameter of the smaller tombs. In the 1940’s the Board of Works took stone from one of the stone mounds to paint Eire in white along the cliff edge of the headland-as part of the Emergency Defences.

The fisher town and harbour of Newhaven was established sometime after 1562, Newhaven is documented on the Down Survey (1655-6) parish and barony maps as a secure harbour for boats and is a considerable place for fishing. The harbour site consists of a substantial dry stone constructed pier and an area of cleared foreshore for pulling up or landing boats. In the mid 17th century, records show the village as comprising up to 10 houses and with a population of 34 people. A customs station was located at Newhaven from at least 1684 onwards to monitor the coastline and to try and control the illegal importation and exportation of goods. Newhaven is depicted on Duncan’s 1821 map of Dublin and therefore may have continued in use as a harbour throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Newhaven is not recorded on the 1st OS 6′ map and therefore appears to have gone out of use by this time. The pier acts as the main visible surface evidence of this fishing town today. The pier arcs in a SW-NE direction from the sandy bay forming a narrow harbour entrance with the eroding cliffs to the north. Waves from the south and east have spread the drystone pier boulders into a linear mound along the original pier length that incorporated natural rocky islets. On the south side, the original exterior line of stones can be discerned showing the original structural style of the pier.

Drumanagh

Oblique aerial image the promontory fort at Drumanagh looking south west
Oblique aerial image the promontory fort at Drumanagh looking south west

The substantial promontory at Drumanagh was adapted in prehistoric times by the construction of a series of straight earthworks that cut off the promontory from the hinterland. The Discovery Programme as part of the ‘Late Iron Age and “Roman” Ireland’ project identified a D-shaped enclosure, circular ditch, rectangular enclosure and field ditch which is defined by a ditch located south of an 18th century field system. A number of possible pit-like features were interpreted along its circuit. There are 10 promontory recorded in county Dublin, with many other being explored by the CHERISH project due to their island locations in Dublin Bay

There is a Martello tower at the eastern end of the promontory, built in c.1804 as part of the Napoleanic Era defensive structures along the Irish coast. There are 25 martello towers located in County Dublin, and these and other forms of Napoleanic Era structures are common features within many of the CHERISH case study sites as they are often placed on prominent and strategic maritime locations.

Ireland’s Eye

Oblique aerial image of Ireland's Eye which contains a promontory fort and pre-Norman church
Oblique aerial image of Ireland's Eye which contains a promontory fort and pre-Norman church

Ireland’s Eye has a fascinating story to tell as it forms part of the Irish Sea chain of islands that have influenced trade, maritime movement patterns and interactions from prehistory through to modern times in the Irish Sea Zone. Today, much evidence of how past societies have interacted with the island can be seen in such examples as its prehistoric sites, Roman finds, early churches, historical accounts of monastic settlements and Viking raids, Napoleonic era defence towers and even murder mysteries. Ireland’s Eye sits off the north Dublin coast. Accretion is was the main coastal process in action along the western coast of the Island. Accretion is a process whereby there is a growth or increase in sediments due to additional materials being deposited. A hard coastline dominates the north, south and east of the Island.

Ireland’s Eye has a fascinating story to tell as it forms part of the Irish Sea chain of islands that have influenced trade, maritime movement patterns and interactions from prehistory through to modern times in the Irish Sea Zone. Today, much evidence of how past societies have interacted with the island can be seen in such examples as its prehistoric sites, Roman finds, early churches, historical accounts of monastic settlements and Viking raids, Napoleonic era defence towers and even murder mysteries. Ireland’s Eye sits off the north Dublin coast. Accretion is was the main coastal process in action along the western coast of the Island. Accretion is a process whereby there is a growth or increase in sediments due to additional materials being deposited. A hard coastline dominates the north, south and east of the Island.

The three sons of Nessan; Dicholla, Munissa, and Nadsluagh erected a church upon the island. The church is referred to as Kilmacnessan or St Nessan’s Church and the three brothers reputedly founded a monastery here in the 6thc AD. The sons of Nessan appear to have been holy men and some dates for its foundation appear to be about 570 AD. The garland of Howth, an illuminated gospel-book, now in Trinity College Dublin, is a remnant of the early monastery and suggests it was a wealthy foundation. Cochrane (1893) debates a 6thc origin for the church but believes it dates before 1235 AD when the church was transferred to the mainland. Ploughing exposed stone coffins in close proximity to the church in 1868, indicating an associated cemetery. A 12thc date is suggested for the church due to the nave and chancel church with a single entrance in the west wall. This is supported by the parallels with the Church of St Michael of Pole and the documentary evidence which dates it to pre 1235 AD. There is no visible evidence of the pre-Norman foundation, no cross-slabs, circular enclosure or architectural fragments. The church was heavily restored in the 19th century.

The Annals of the Four Masters says the island was besieged by Foreigners from Dublin in 897 AD and plundered in 960 AD (Gwynn & Hadcock, 1988). The Annals of the Four Master’s details how the in the late ninth century the Vikings made an encampment which was besieged by Irish forces. Whilst, in 960 AD a Viking fleet plundered the monastery. Another highly visible structure that dominates the north west of the island is a Martello tower. It was established on the Island in 1805/1806 AD as part of the Napoleonic era coastal defence system along the Irish coastline. Many of the visible man made alterations associated with the Islands are a by-product of this construction work, from the harbour on the north west of the Island to the pathways and way markers.

Bull Island

Geophysical survey of Bull Island was carried out to identify buried ship and boat timbers.
Geophysical survey of Bull Island was carried out to identify buried ship and boat timbers.

The island known as North Bull Island is constantly changing with the tidal and seasonal movement of sand bars, accretion and erosion. Several shipwrecks have been exposed and covered here. After a storm, it is usual to find loose ship timbers on the beach.Excavations have uncovered 7000-year old fish traps in the River Liffey estuary of Dublin. The Vikings built a town here in the 9th century trading slaves and oriental silks. Since the 16th century, historical records reveal at least 800 shipwrecks in Dublin Bay. This wrecking led to the North Wall construction by 1824 to protect these ships entering Dublin harbour. This changed the flow of sediment in the bay and led to the growth of a 5km-long sandy Bull Island.A file in the National Museum of Ireland records a corroded double-edged blade and tang iron sword found in sand near Dollymount in 1872. Dollymount Strand is the name of the beach on Bull Island. The sword is on display in the Viking section of the museum. Maps and charts from the 18th and 19th century show shipwrecks on the sand flats. In the 18th century, the South Wall battery fired upon shipwrecks plunderers with some jailed. Loose ship timbers and wooden shipwrecks periodically appear after storms on the sand flats and amongst shifting sand bars.

Intertidal survey by CHERISH is recording these shipwrecks on Bull Island when they appear and change after storms and seasonally. We are measuring beach profiles over the shipwrecks. Geophysics is determining the extent of buried sections of shipwrecks. LiDAR and mobile mapping from a vehicle are also surveying the 5km long beach.

Dalkey Islands

Oblique aerial image of Dalkey Islands which contains several sites and historical buildings
Oblique aerial image of Dalkey Islands which contains several sites and historical buildings

Dalkey sound acted as a natural harbour, the sound separates Dalkey Island from the Mainland. The activity on Dalkey draws parallels to Ireland’s Eye and the other Dublin Bay Islands. The island shows evidence of activity from the Mesolithic period onwards. Excavations in the 1950s by David Liversage on two shell midddens produced archaeological material from various such as Bell Beaker pottery from the later Neolithic whilst Roman finds of glass, beads and pottery show interaction in the Iron Age, this later material is possibly contemporary to the promontory fort on the Island.

Dalkey Island has a church, crosses, burials and a holy well. In the first few centuries of the early medieval period, Dalkey Island formed part of the area of the Uí Briúin Chualann who controlled a territory including the seaborne side of north Wicklow, Killiney Head and Dalkey Islands. Within this area, two churches dedicated to Saint Begnet were founded, one on Dalkey Island and the other in Dalkey town. While the surviving stone church of Saint Begnet’s in Dalkey town appears of a later design than the church on Dalkey Island

During the ninth century, the Scandinavian settlers of Dublin are believed to have controlled a territorial area from Lusk to Dalkey, and probably also controlled a significant maritime hinterland including all the Dublin islands. The immediate Hiberno-Norse association with the name Dalkey, suggested as a Norse translation of the Irish name ‘Deilginis’ or thorn/dagger island, possibly are present within the Annals of the Four Masters. Dublin functioned as an important centre for slave trading (Oftedal, 1976) and Dalkey Islands were part of the Dublin Hiberno-Norse kingdom of Dyflinaskiri. In addition to the use of Dalkey for holding slaves in the tenth century, the island also functioned as a refuge.

The Martello tower and associated gun battery were constructed c.1804-5, and the ownership of the island passed from the archbishop of Dublin to the Board of Ordnance who maintained the island as a military base throughout the nineteenth century, though cattle grazing rights continued to be granted. Walk over survey on the island recorded sediment exposures along the coastline of the island due to erosion and wave impact. Within these exposures a variety of artefacts types were identified from flint nodules to worked flints, iron concretions, slag, coal and North African pottery fragments.

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Irish Project Areas

3. The Promontory Forts on Waterford’s Copper Coast

Woodstown, Co. Waterford

Erosion has remodelled many coastal promontory forts into stacks and separate promontories in Co. Waterford. These forts may have been originally built in the Iron Age though were occupied into the medieval period. They are fortifications, with banks and ditches separating them from the surrounding cliffs. A complex of over 29 promontory forts is between Tramore and Dungarvan, overlooking the Celtic Sea. This area includes the ‘Copper Coast’ named after mining evidenced by adits, shafts, spoil heaps, ore yards and engine houses.

Woodstown promontory fort is on the eastern side of Annestown Strand. The banks and ditches are under severe erosion today. The sea has split the promontory fort into small islets. At low tide, the largest of these islets called Green Island can be walked to from the shore. Erosion continues here with caves and sea tunnels found around the promontory, islets, stacks and stumps.

The fort overlooks the beach at Annestown. It has a double bank and ditch defence on its landward side. A causeway is on its eastern side. A standing stone was once in the field landward. A hut site has been identified on one of the islands from the UAV model undertaken by CHERISH. Geophysics has been undertaken landward. Further geophysics is being prepared for within the fort and islands. Soil samples for dating and identifying the purpose of these forts is to be collected. The methods will involve coring and eroding cliff section recording.

The enclosing ditch at Woodstown Promontory Fort, close to Annestown Beach, Co. Waterford
The double embankment at the entrance to Woodstown Promontory Fort, close to Annestown Beach, Co. Waterford

Islandhubbock, Co. Waterford

Islandhubbock has the highest cliffs of the Copper Coast in Co. Waterford. There are three promontory forts here with heights up to 70m at Ballyvoyle Head. Landward in the surrounding fields are early medieval raths or ringforts, ecclesiastical enclosures and ogham stones. The writing one ogham stone from around the 5th century AD suggests the people who lived here are descendants of 1st-century BC King of Munster Nia Segaman.

One of the promontory forts has a hut site and underground passage called a souterrain. This fort has three ditches and two banks on its landward side. This suggests it is more important than other forts that only have one bank and ditch. The nearby two promontory forts at Ballyvoyle Head had a prominent landmark on the 19th-century Admiralty Charts. This was a Napoleonic watchtower. This would also have aided vessels passing this coast. Only a wall is still standing today. This tower reveals a significant maritime purpose for these forts as they would be able to observe the sea routes. CHERISH has recorded these forts by UAV and explored the access to the sea below.

Islandhubbock, Co. Waterfordserve the sea routes. CHERISH has recorded these forts by UAV and explored the access to the sea below.
 Islandhubbock Promontory Fort showing three banks at the entrance with Ballyvoyle Head in the background

Ballynarrid, Co. Waterford

There is a concentration of eight forts around Ballynarrid near Bunmahon in Co. Waterford. The Irish place names here include Illaunobrick and Templeobrick that mean Island of O’Bric and church of O’Bric respectively. The promontory fort of Illaunobrick is marked as Danes Island on maps. References to Danes suggests some people thought Vikings built this fort. However, the older Irish names remember an important family group, the O’Brics, who were early medieval kings in southern Waterford.

Today Illaunobrick is very difficult to reach due to erosion and is almost a sea stack. Templeobrick is a stack today. There is a local story that the O’Bric stronghold was on Templeobrick. Foundations of a building were still visible there in 1841. An entrenchment for the Illaunobrick promontory fort and three hut sites were marked on the Ordnance Survey map from this time. Today, there is only a narrow impassable isthmus to this island.

Silver and lead mining here in the 18th- and 19th centuries has left adits in the cliffs, and shafts in the fields. This has destabilised the cliffs increasing the erosion. Illaunobrick is too dangerous to reach so UAV has been used to photograph and model the eroding cliff edges. The location of three rectangular features on the island has been identified from the UAV model. These are where the grass is higher and lower and could be the hut sites loosely marked on the early Ordnance Survey map. Magnetometry landward of the forts is revealing further possible ‘castle’ features, mines and smelting areas. CHERISH want to do further resistivity geophysics here to determine if there are any buried stone walls associated with these features.

Illaunobrick at Ballynarrid, Co. Waterford
 Illaunobrick or Danes Island with the Templeobrick stack to the left

Dunabrattin, Co. Waterford

One of the larger promontory forts along the Copper Coast is located at Dunabrattin Head. It is 7.5ha. This contains within it a smaller promontory fort at only 0.16ha. Dunabrattin means fort of the Britons. This suggests there were close links with Britain during the Iron Age and early medieval period.

It is an important fishing area with people fishing off the rocks today. Boatstrand fishing harbour is nearby. A World War concrete pillbox is on the southern tip of the promontory. This shows the headland was an important observation post and location to monitor any landings at the nearby beaches. Slumping of the cliff of the smaller promontory fort and narrow gullies between islets indicates continuing erosion. Hut sites and enclosures probably associated with the construction of the promontory forts were reported in the 20th century. CHERISH could not identify these features during ground survey. Therefore, geophysics and UAV was undertaken. An outer ditch to the smaller promontory fort is in the geophysical dataset and walk over survey. Circular features suggest further enclosures within the larger fort.

 

Location Map

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Irish Project Areas

Ferriters Castle and Promontory Fort, Kerry

Location Map

Introduction

The CHERISH site Ferriter’s Castle and Promontory Fort is located on the Ballyferriter Headland, Dingle peninsula in county Kerry. Doon Point (Dún an Fheirtéaraigh) is a long, narrow promontory extending slightly over five hundred metres from north east to south west. This prehistoric fort is one of 95 coastal promontory forts in County Kerry, 42 of which are located on the Dingle peninsula.

Oblique aerial photograph of Bremore in North Couty Dublin, containing several passage tombs and later a 15th Century settlement
Oblique aerial photograph of Bremore in North Couty Dublin, containing several passage tombs and later a 15th Century settlement

Setting

This headland sits directly to the north of the Mesolithic- Neolithic transition period site at Ferriter’s Cove. Along the length of the promontory, narrow inlets of the sea are present in two locations due to softer sediments being carved out from the harder lava beds in these areas. These inlets divide the promontory into two distinct areas. These necks have been anthropogenically utilised and adapted in the construction of the Promontory Fort with a series of banks and ditches, forming an outer and inner set of defences. There are a number of hut sites and archaeological features visible within the boundaries of the fort. In the western section of the fort, there are a number of hut sites being heavily impacted by erosion. In the 15th or 16th century, later reuse of the fort occurred when the Anglo-Norman Ferriter family constructed a castle on the inner bank of the outer defences. This tower house was originally a 4-5 story rectangular tower, occupied by the Ferriter Family until the 17th century.

Activities

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Irish Project Areas

Ballinskelligs, County Kerry

News Letter

Location Map

Introduction

Ballinskelligs Bay is located on the western seaboard of Ireland. Nestled on the south western extent of the Iveragh Peninsula the bay faces outwards towards the vast Atlantic, having once played a pivotal role in Kerry’s monastic landscape. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Skellig Michael lies off the Ballinskellig coast. The monastery of Skellig Michael was transferred to the west shore at Ballinskelligs in the mid eleventh century due to hazardous conditions on the rock.
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The Priory

The priory of the Arroasian Canons of the Order of St Augustine was founded around 1210 and it retained possession of Great Skellig. The priory’s shoreline location has meant it has been the subject of much restoration work by the Office of Public Works. The erosion at the site has been happening since at least the eighteenth century and has resulted in the destruction of several buildings and much of the south east side of the monastery and graveyard. A substantial sea-wall, revetted by groynes, protects the site. The priory comprises a number of buildings which exhibit architectural details relating to various periods between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. The priory was disbanded by 1578. An ancient hamlet is located approximately a 120 metres to the north west of Ballinskelligs Priory, just beyond the northern extent of the OPW seawall. This area is being effected by erosion, that may be attributed to the hard defences in the area.

McCarthy’s Castle

McCarthy’s castle is located to the north of the Abbey sitting on the tip of a narrow promontory of land that juts into the sea. This tower house is probably 16th century in date and associated with the McCarthy’s who were chieftains in Cork and Kerry. The promontory suffers badly from erosion and has changed substantially in living memory, some of this change is often attributed to the 20th century construction of the concrete pier that lies at the end of the Promontory. The castle ruins remain largely intact; however, the southern corner is badly damaged with a breakthrough in the wall in this area. This is partly due to exposure to the sea and the wall being thinner due to the mural stairs located in this corner of the tower house. The land around the castle is impacted by erosion. Excavations were undertaken at the castle in 1988 and 1991 by John Sheehan, University College Cork. Two external lean-to structures with pitched-cobble floors identified during excavation and post-dating the primary period of occupation of the castle are believed to have been a fish curling station. It is recorded that Sir William Petty established a fishery at Ballinskelligs.

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The dated tree stump from Inny strand tells how a Bronze Age forest was present in the north of the bay, the continuation of buried peats past the present low water mark indicate the forest covered the area that denotes the intertidal zone today. The basal dates of the peat cores around the Bay inform of the formation dates and phases of the wetlands that now encompass Ballinskelligs Bay. These peat cores will provide further insights into the environmental and climate records for the Bay since the Neolithic Period. The palaeo-environmental evidence when considered in context of the pattern of change recorded due to geological processes around the bay since at least the mid-18th century and in context of predicted climate change impacts due to atmospheric change such as rising sea level indicates a continual loss of the coastal margin into the future as the predominate forces at play continue to enlarge the bay here at Ballinskelligs.

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Irish Project Areas

North County Wexford

Location Map

Kilmichael Point

Photograph of the collapsing coast guard boat house at Kilmichael Point
Photograph of the collapsing coast guard boat house at Kilmichael Point

At Kilmichael Point, the old Coastguard Station and the surrounding area have been the subject of repeated surveys to monitor the rate of change on this heavily eroding section of coastline. The team have conducted laser scan survey of the old Coastguard station as well as UAV (or drone) mapping survey and aerial survey of the coastline from a light aircraft.

Glasscarrig

Oblique aerial photograph of Glascarrig motte and bailey site with associated deserted settlement. The site is actively being eroding by the sea.
Oblique aerial photograph of Glascarrig motte and bailey site with associated deserted settlement. The site is actively being eroding by the sea.

The site of Glascarrig motte and bailey is located on a slight promontory overlooking the coast. In 1167, Diarmuid Mac Murchada landed at Glascarrig on his return to Ireland, having requested the help of King Henry II to recover his kingdom of Leinster.

The motte and bailey castle were probably constructed by William de Caunteton at the end of the 12th century. In 1311, Glascarrig was destroyed by MacMurchadas. At this time a substantial settlement consisting of 48 burgages is recorded at Glascarrig and the site may have been abandoned after this attack. The site of this settlement was not located by an extensive geo-physical survey of the area, raising the possibility that the settlement site has already been eroded. Previous research in the are estimated that the motte was originally 240m further inland. The motte, a grass-covered flat topped mound, almost 6m in height and 36m in diameter, is defined by a flat bottomed fosse. To the south of the motte is an enclosed area or bailey which is outlined by an earthen bank. The site is located in an area of glacial drift making it particularly susceptible to erosion. Erosion of the eastern extent of the bailey and the fosse has produced a rich collection of pottery and animal bones.

The motte and its landscape setting have been mapped by UAV survey twice so far for the CHERISH project (June 2018 and February 2019). The 2018 survey established the baseline, against which future surveys could be precisely compared to detect change. The CHERISH team have engaged with the landowners and the the Glascarrig Medieval Village Historical and Archaeological Survey Group.

Killincooley Beg

Oblique aerial photograph of the ringfort at Killincooley Beg with its eastern banks eroding into the soft sediment sea cliffsOblique aerial photograph of the ringfort at Killincooley Beg with its eastern banks eroding into the soft sediment sea cliffs

Looking through 19th- to 21st-century maps and aerial images, the rath or ringfort at Killincooley Beg advances towards the cliff edge. Today, the sea has arrived to erode the external bank. Today, the rath sits precariously over the 20m high cliffs of soft collapsing glacial till.

This area has a contemporary early medieval site of Saint Mochain’s well revealing an important tradition of early connections across the Irish Sea. Saint Mochonóg was an early saint who founded a monastery at Kilmuckrige. He was a son of Saxon princess Dína and a 5th-century south Wales king called Brychan Brycheiniog. There are further local reports of the discovery of a 4m-long canoe in a nearby stream.
The circular rath is around 28m in diameter with a ditch and two banks. It lies on a south facing slope. The ring fort has had post medieval field boundaries built over its northern and western sides. These walls are thinner and higher than the original older banks of the rath. The original double banks have spread out over a wider area from gravity over 1000 years since abandonment. The entrance was probably on the southern side where the banks are lower and the ditch is shallower.

There is local folklore about the ring fort. This includes it being a fairy ring, and cattle and sheep strangely never graze in it today.

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