The Cloister Bar, Abbeybridge, Ennis
Excavation originally began at this site in September 2007 when an area of stone cobbles, probably dating to the post-medieval period, was revealed and excavated (Excavations 2007, No. 170). Below this was a mortared surface which overlay a demolition layer. Under this again was a lower layer of cobbles, which seem to be the original floor of the North Range of the Friary. Eight 1m2 box trenches were then excavated in the vicinity of the cobbles to facilitate the drilling for piling. This concluded the first phase of archaeological works on the site.
Further excavation was carried out in 2008. The area to the east of the previously excavated area was cleared of a modern concrete floor and gravel blinding. This revealed that the cobbles had largely been removed in this area. However, a section of cobbles was uncovered, which overlay the lowest courses of the North Range wall. It was also found that the foundations of the North Range wall survived subsurface on the site.
The lower courses of a brick cross-wall and portion of floor were uncovered, while the lowest courses of two fireplaces were also excavated. These probably date to the use of the site in the 19th century as a coach factory, as marked on the ‘five foot town plan of Ennis’, dating to 1840 (R. Uí Cronín, pers. comm.). Four box trenches were excavated down to bedrock in this side of the North Range, to facilitate drilling for piling. The section faces of these box trenches showed that the bedrock in the immediate area varies greatly in height, and that sandy gravel may have been imported in order to level the ground.
Some groundworks were also carried out immediately to the north of the North Range. It was found that this area had been disturbed previously. In this area a small brick-built cellar, which contained a gravel and silt fill, was excavated. Several broken wine bottles were recovered from the fill. A small area of floor slabs was also uncovered, immediately outside the doorway of the standing building. These two features may be contemporary, as is a short stretch of stone wall running in a north–south direction, but obviously later than the North Range wall.
A stone-lined well was also uncovered. Because of the narrow width of the structure, only very limited excavation could take place. The well was then capped and preserved in situ beneath the new building.
Eight box trenches were excavated in this area. It appears that all this area was built on in the 19th century, and it seems likely that portion of a stone wall and the cellar appear to date from this time. The area was subsequently disturbed in the recent past, with concrete ground beams and pipe trenches inserted into the site.
In summary, it appears from the excavations that the original floor of the friary survives at the eastern side of the North Range, in the form of a cobbled floor, and that subsequent use of the site in the post-medieval period has removed much of the medieval remains. While it was not possible to date the well, it may relate to the occupation of the site in the medieval period. The remains of the walls which contain brick are probably the remains of the use of the site as a coach factory in the 19th century.
Frank Coyne, Aegis Archaeology Ltd, 32 Nicholas Street, Kings Island, Limerick.
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