Judith Carroll & Co

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Old Orchard Inn, Rathfarnham, Dublin 1997


Orchard 1At the beginning of April, 1997, workmen uncovered human skeletons at the site of the Old Orchard Public House, Butterfield, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14, while digging a main pipe trench during development of a new restaurant and carpark at the site. Though there was no record of the site in the RMP (SMR) Office, it was found that there had already been a report of skeletons at the site to the National Museum. In 1950, when a house was being built on the site, human skeletons came to light and the site was visited by A.T. Lucas, NMI. His report dismissed the finds as insignificant and of little archaeological interest.

There is no clear historical reference to the area and the site was unknown and unlisted. However, very shortly before the find was made in 1997, an observation was made by Rob Goodbody that the site might well be of archaeological interest. Though unaware of the 1950 find of skeletons, he noted in a letter to the National Monuments Service that there was a curve in the road at the point of the Old Orchard Inn, its shape suggesting a site of significance.

The first edition Ordnance Survey map, six inch sheet 22, showed that the bend in the road noted by Goodbody joined with a curvilinear field system. Such curvilinear shapes in roads and field boundaries are now recognised as indicators of major, usually early medieval, enclosures. The skeletons were found near the centre of the curvilinear area formed by the bend in the road and the surrounding field system. This curvilinear form has been obliterated by modern development, but can be clearly seen in the Ordnance Survey maps up to the 1970s.

The burials were found in the first week of April 1997 by workmen digging the drainage trench. The find was reported to and inspected by the National Monuments Service. Further investigation was recommended by the National Monuments Service, then in the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and an archaeological assessment including trial trenching on the site in May 1997 took place by Judith Carroll. It was found that there were extended inhumations in situ over part of the area to be developed. In May-June 1997, excavation took place in the areas in which remains would be impacted on by the development.

In the area in which the remains occurred, the ground was being lowered for a carpark and a wide pipe trench was being extended across the site. Subsequently, the developer decided to extend the carpark and further excavation took place in August-September 1997. The remains of 233 individuals were recovered in situ, while a very large amount of disturbed and uncontexted human bone also came to light.



Judith Carroll & Co Ltd
Archaeological Consultants
Ballybrack Road 
Dublin 18 

Tel: 01 6705067
Mobile: 087-9968819/ 087-3810933
Email: info@judithcarrollandco.ie
Website: www.judithcarrollandco.ie

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