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.
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.
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.
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.
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