Friday, 31 May 2013

The lost fort of the Goldsmiths: digging up a previously unknown plantation fort at Prehen House

First, some background to the dig........

Prehen is first mentioned in 1613 as an area of land allocated to the Company of Goldsmiths. This entry records no details beyond the name of the parcel of land and its cost. There is no depiction of any surviving buildings in the Prehen area in the 1610 map of the escheated counties, so it seems likely that there were no significant pre-plantation buildings at the site.

To the south east of Prehen House, attached to the roofless remains of an outbuilding, is a section of curving masonry with an apparent gun loop. This appears to be the surviving fragment of a flanker, either of a bawn or possibly of a fortified house and may be a fragment of plantation-period architecture at Prehen.

Section of curving masonry from south showing brick-blocked gun loop

Detail of gun loop from north side of curving masonry section

The NIEA asked the CAF to conduct an archaeological evaluation at Prehen in advance of possible further work. A geophysical survey indicated the presence of a circular flanker close to the location of the surviving curving wall and what appeared to be a wall running off it, possibly part of a bawn or house.

Geophys survey (resistivity) results

A single “L” shaped trench (7m by 1m) was excavated across the possible flanker and the masonry wall of a flanker was visible when the sod was removed from the trench. It measured 60cm wide and was composed of mortared stonework, most of the stones being shale or schist. The flanker, although only partially exposed, appears to have had an internal diameter of approximately 4m and an external diameter of about 5.2m. A stretch of walling butted the flanker wall, running roughly south from it. This wall was slightly thicker than the flanker, approximately 80cm thick. It is probably a stretch of the bawn wall surrounding a plantation period, fortified house.

Plan of excavation trench (excavated in Feb. 2013)

View of outer and inner curving walls of the flanker

Hypothetical outline of Prehen Bawn & proposed excavation trenches for June 2013

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