Doorstep dig

Published in Issue 2 (Summer 1995), Medieval History (pre-1500), News, Volume 3

History was uncovered right on the doorstep of HI’s offices in South Earl Street, in Dublin’s Liberties, recently. A short ten-day archaeological dig in advance of redevelopment uncovered part of the southern precinct of Saint Thomas’s Abbey. The boundary in this area was formed by a ditch, almost two-and-a-half metres deep, which varied from seven to ten metres in width. The ditch was dug initially in the late twelfth century, and artefacts from this period were uncovered from the lowest levels. Sometime in the fourteenth century, the ditch was infilled with sterile clays suitable for building on, and a stone wall was constructed along the line of the earlier ditch. A smaller ditch was then dug outside the wall. Only the footings of the wall survived. Several decorated medieval ceramic tiles were amongst the artefacts recovered: these derived from refurbishment of the abbey church in the middle ages, and include several previously unknown patterns.
The Abbey of Saint Thomas the Martyr (Thomas Court) was founded in 1177, and became the most powerful of the ecclesiastic foundations in the medieval city. The considerable lands were granted to William Brabazon in 1545. In Speed’s 1610 map of Dublin, the site, marked as Thomas Court, is depicted as a series of walled enclosures, with gates and buildings.

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