Eachtra Journal

ISSN 2009-2237

Medieval town walls and cemetery at Castledermot town, Co. Kildare (04E0750)

August, 2010 · Written by: Eachtra Print This Page This entry is part 2 of 5 in the Issue 07

Archaeological Excavation Report

Medieval town walls and cemetery

This report comprises the Final Report of excavations undertaken by Eachtra Archaeological Projects along the line of the proposed Castledermot Sewerage Scheme in 2004. Kildare County Council proposed to upgrade the sewerage system in Castledermot village running from the Lerr River to the south along Abbey St. and Main St. to Skenagun to the north. The present town contains extensive archaeological remains, both upstanding and subsurface, of the earlier Medieval town (KD040-002).

Therefore in 2002, an archaeological assessment of the proposed line of the sewerage trench was carried out (Byrne 2000). This was followed by a programme of test excavations (Lynch 2002). The results of this work led to a decision to archaeologically resolve the line of the proposed pipe trench in advance of commencement of construction works. Eachtra Archaeological Projects excavated the line of the proposed trench between June and December 2004 under excavation licence number 04E0750.

While the excavated trench was narrow, it offered a lengthy cross-section of the Medieval and Post-Medieval town. The excavation revealed a number of facets of the town during these periods including the Medieval town walls and a cemetery. Following archaeological resolution of the trench, it was backfilled to be opened at a future date for the insertion of the sewerage pipes.

The defences revealed indicated a development from concentric ditches to the addition of town walls with the subsequent disuse of the earlier ditches. It is likely that the external ditches and the town wall were contemporaneous for at least some time. The layout of these ditches most likely reflected upon the design of the town wall, particularly the location of the gateways. It was well defended and considered strategically important and a centre for administration for the area.

Furthermore, the ditches identified both north and south of the town wall, appeared to dictate the position of the religious houses. The role of the town as a religious centre continued from the Early Medieval period and expanded with two more foundations. They provided both medical and religious services until the end of the Medieval. The market place survives today by name only. However, the variety of goods available indicates a vibrant and busy town. As well as the town, the market also reflects on the hinterland which also supplied the market.

The evidence relating to the economy of Castledermot highlights the importance of self sufficiency in the Medieval period. Local pottery and abundant agriculture products indicate this. The trade routes
appear to have stabilised into the Post-Medieval period with greater quantities and varieties of pot-
tery. The diet of the townspeople seemingly changed little between the 13 th and 17 th centuries, relying heavily on cattle, sheep, pigs, wheat, barley and oats. Metal, both artefacts and waste from processing, again suggests a dependence of local smithing and the evidence of secondary produce from the faunal record compliments this. Although the excavated trench was a narrow transect of the Castledermot, the information recovered in this investigation has furthered the knowledge of the town during the Medieval and Post-Medieval periods and supports the general corpus of knowledge of Irish Medieval towns achieved to date. Castledermot was typically an inland, walled Medieval town of moderate standing, which fluctuated in importance through time.

Authors: Aidan Harte and Aine Richardson

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