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Camac River Improvement Scheme in Corkagh Demesne, Clondalkin, Co. Dublin

 

 

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During monitoring of topsoil stripping for the Camac River Improvement Scheme in Corkagh Demesne (licence 01E0849) in the area of the proposed 'south-east lake', archaeological cut features and human remains were found. In this area, removal of topsoil revealed the presence of cut features containing organic soil, slag, charcoal and animal bone over an area about 25m north-east/south-west. Because the contractors were on site, there was a need for immediate resolution of the archaeological features, and an excavation licence was applied for (01E0911). Meanwhile monitoring continued in the area and the contractors were required to strip the rest of the area with a flat bucket under archaeological supervision. Human remains were subsequently located in one area of the site, while archaeological material was found at the east end of the area of the south-east lake.

The south-east corner of the field was curvilinear in shape and may thus retain part of the line of a former enclosure. The perimeters of the site were defined by the field boundary. The archaeological material identified was mainly situated in the eastern 75m of the site (Areas B, C, D and E were situated here), but further related archaeological activity (Area A) was situated in the south-east corner of the field in an area 35m by 20m. The area between appeared to very disturbed and it is likely that the lack of archaeological activity here is due to the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis during the 1960s when cattle were, according to reports from local people, buried in the field.

According to South Dublin County Council, this area of the park had a substantial amount of topsoil removed in the years prior to the archaeological excavation but there were no records of finds of skeletons.

 


 

 

 

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The human remains were concentrated in the area closest to this curved line at the south-east corner of the site (Area D; Figs. 5 and 6). They were spread across an area measuring 11m (east-west) by 5m (north-south). The burials did not extend outside the area defined as Area D. The full extent of the burials was not excavated as a result of a decision by The Heritage Service, Department of the Environment, to preserve the remains in situ and the remaining burials (all that were exposed were excavated) were covered over by geotextile. The ditch which appeared to form the south-east perimeter of the burials was revealed, planned, but not excavated. It was also covered over with geotextile. Most of the burials in the ground were excavated as, over most of Area D, undisturbed natural subsoil was reached. Twenty burials (IÐXX) were recovered, including adults, juveniles and infants. In the surrounding area, there were several cut features. One was a pit which produced charcoal and cremated bone, but the others produced material which seems to relate to occupation in the early medieval period and may have been contemporary with the human burials. The burial area lay on the east of the site, a characteristic feature of ecclesiastical sites. There were several finds from the site, including bronze pins, iron knives, glass beads and lignite bracelets.

As a result of the archaeological finds, South Dublin County Council decided to change its plans for the flood alleviation scheme in Areas B and D. Those features and burials already exposed from topsoil stripping were excavated, and other material of archaeological potential was preserved in situ under geotextile.

 


 

 

 

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History

The site is located in the townland of Corkagh Demesne, which was the demesne lands related to the former Corkagh House owned by the Finlay family from the beginning of the 18th century.

The name of the townland probably originates in the old Irish name 'Corcach' or marsh (Ua Broin 1944, 203). The Camac river is marked as the 'Cammock River' on the Down Survey 1655 map and part of the surrounding area as 'Corkor'. This would accord with the fact that the river Camac flows through the middle of the present day park and former estate lands. These low-lying lands would have formed part of the flood plain of the river.

The townland of Corkagh Demesne was part of a parcel of lands in the ownership of the Archbishop of Dublin, as surveyed by Roger Kendrick in 1759. The church lands, which were formerly lands belonging to the early medieval monastery of Clondalkin, passed into the hands of the Archbishop of Dublin after the Anglo-Norman invasion (Ball 1906, 108-9).

As the first edition OS map of 1839 shows, the site is on the main road from Corkagh Demesne to the town of Clondalkin. Just to the north of the site are the Fairview oil mills, indicated as 'corn mill' and 'oil mill' on the 1839 OS edition. The mill sites are marked 'old corn mill' and 'old oil mill' on the 2nd edition from 1871. The Kendrick map from 1759 outlines 'the Mill meadow' and 'the watercourse' among the parcels of lands belonging to the Archbishop of Dublin.

The earliest reference to Clondalkin is in relation to St. Mochua or Cronan, who is styled Bishop and Abbot of Clondalkin. Amongst his successors are Aelbran Ua Lagudon who died in 781, Feidhlimidh who died in 801, with a number of names to Fiachna Ua Ronain who died in 1026, who assumed the abbacy in violation of the rights of the son of Maeldalua. As a result of this, a war was waged against him and the church and lands of Clondalkin were given to the Culdees (Ball 1906, 121-2). The lands of Corkagh Demesne were part of these lands, which later passed into the hands of the Archiepiscopal See of Dublin.

Clondalkin, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, also had a Scandinavian settlement (Ball 1906, 108). There is no indication of where the Viking settlement was, though 'Danesrath Cas' is marked on Rocque's map from 1762, somewhat to the north of the site and is probably 'Deanrath' on Kendrick's map.


David Cotter and Jennifer Wann compiled a historical survey of the park entitled Corcagh Park - Pairc Chorcai, produced by South Dublin County Council in 2002. They point out that Ua Broin (1944) described how Corkagh House 'stood within the moat of a castle, ruins of which consisted of an arched entrance, portion of a battlemented parapet and eight windows', citing a map from 1658 which shows two houses with a moat (Cotter and Wann 2002, 10-12). Corkagh House, sadly demolished soon after being sold in 1959, was built early in the 18th century. TheFinlay family lived here from the beginning of the 18th century. The last of the Finlays married George Colley of Rathgar in 1909 (Devine 2003, 13) and lived here for most of the 20th century. Corkagh Demesne was purchased in 1983 by Dublin County Council and is now known as Corkagh Park.

The site with its burials may have been ecclesiastical in origin. However, there is no reference to a church site in this area of Corkagh Demesne, though other townlands and place-names close by such as Kilcarbery, Priest town and Kilmatead suggest they may have been ecclesiastical (Cotter and Wann 2002, 8). Kilmateed (or Church of Tadgh; Ua Broin 1944, 205), is the local name for the townland of Corkagh, bounding with Corkagh Demesne, south-west of the site of Corkagh House, incorporating the one other millpond on the Camac.

The only indicator that the site was something other than a field division is the curvilinear shape of the boundary to the south-east. This shape was not taken note of during the desktop study, the reason being that, as can also be seen on the OS map, it is within the landscaped demesne grounds in which there are curvilinear arrangements of paths and trees. The curvilinear path winding along the perimeter of the south-east corner of the field seemed to be artificial, but in fact probably respects the limits of an enclosure, an interpretation supported by the discovery of the burials close to the south-east corner of the field. It is interesting that what would probably have been a main road to the Clondalkin monastic village passes from Corkagh House by the burial field, curving around its perimeter and then straightening out.

References


Ball, F. E. 1906. A history of the County of Dublin. Dublin 
Cotter, D. and Wann, J. 2001. Corcagh Park.  South Dublin County Council. 
Devine, J. 2003. The House of Corcagh. South Dublin Libraries. 
Ua Broin, L. 19944. Clondalkin, County Dublin, and its neighbourhood. Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, LXXIV, iv. 199-218.

 

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