Monthly Archives: March 2013

Leinster Cooking Ware

Two small rim sherds of pottery have been recovered from a flowerbed in a garden within in the Grassroots Project Area. Both fragments appear to be Medieval in date and have been initially interpreted as pieces of Leinster Cooking Ware. These finds add further weight to the interpretation of the Seagrange monument as a Medieval Moated Site.

Fig. 2 Sherds of Leinster Cooking Ware

Fig 1. LCW sherds recovered from the Grassroots Project Area

Leinster Cooking ware is a term used to describe a type of coarse, hand-built, domestic pottery vessel that was produced over a wide stretch of Leinster in the medieval period. Broadly dated from the mid-12th to the 14th centuries, Leinster Cooking Ware is ‘the single most widespread medieval pottery type in Leinster’ (Ó Floinn 1988, 340) and it has been found as far north as Louth and as far south as Waterford.

In its most common expression, LCW takes the form of globular pots with slightly out-turned rims but other forms such as platters and jugs are also known. The general absence of decoration and the crude shape of the vessels along with the sooty exterior that is common on recovered fragments, all point to the use of LCW pots as functional, domestic vessels.


Fig 2. Replica LCW pot 1 produced by Brendan O’Neill

The fabric of the pottery is characterised by mica and quartz inclusions coming from a crushed granite temper, presumed to derive from the Leinster Granite Massif (Potterton & Murphy 2010, 452).

Fig.3 Replica Leinster Cooking Ware vessel

Fig 3. Replica LCW pot 2 produced by Brendan O’Neill

Experimental Archaeologist Brendan O’Neill has researched the techniques used in creating these functional domestic vessels. By trialling ‘coil building’ and ‘hammer and anvil’ techniques, Brendan has used Leinster clay and granitic gravels to create two fine examples of LCW vessels for the Grassroots Project.


Fig 4. Rim of pot 2

These vessels will be fired using Medieval methods in the coming weeks and the process will be fully documented on

Further reading

Ó Floinn, Raghnall 1988 `Handmade medieval pottery in SE Ireland – ‘Leinster Cooking Ware” G Mac Niocaill & P F Wallace (eds.) in Keimelia: studies in medieval archaeology and history in memory of Tom Delaney, 1988, 325-48 Galway Univ. Press, Galway

Margaret Murphy & Michael Potterton 2010 The Dublin region in the Middle Ages, Settlement, land-use and economy Four Courts Press, Dublin

News Update

Baldoyle’s Premiere Historian, Michael Hurley has written a short article which gives a rundown of the major points in Baldoyle’s history. Illustrated with some fantastic old images of the area, Michael’s article is now up on


The Grassroots Project has also made it into the latest edition of Archaeology Ireland – hot off the press.


Next week will be a big one for Grassroots as Enda O’Flaherty, with the support of Rubicon Heritage, will be carrying out a Geophysical survey of the project area. Results to follow….


Baldoyle – The Town of The Dark Stranger – Baile Dubhghaill


The year 898 and the Vikings made their first recorded sortie to what is now known as Baldoyle.  It is, however, unlikely that this was the first incursion here by the Ostmen as some writers note their presence her as early as 852.  Their settlement was probably not in the location that we today regard as Baldoyle.  The raiders almost certainly sailed their boats up into the Maine River as far as the area around what we know as Stapolin House (the name Stapolin is the Norse for the title Steach Poilín, the house of Polin).  The Danish (Baldoyle) group settled down and did not live up to their reputation as marauding raiders.  Recent study shows that the native Irish were four times more likely to attack Irish settlements than were the Danes.


In 1166 Dermot McMurrough (brother-in-law of St. Laurence O’Toole) endowed the Priory of All Hallows with the lands of Baldoyle to build a monastery here.  The monks built a farmyard, and any home farm owned by a monastery was known as a grange or granary.

The ruin of Grange Abbey set in ploughed land around 1980. (Late WB Walsh)

The ruin of Grange Abbey set in ploughed land around 1980. (Late WB Walsh)

The last Prior of All Hallows, Walter Hankoke surrendered the abbey and its property to the royal commissioners in 1539.  We have no report on how the people practiced their religion for the next fifty years but we do know that with the advent of Queen Elizabeth I to the throne of England the parish here contained an entirely Catholic population.  The people dared not use the church which had fallen into ruin.  However, in 1609 the church was repaired by the tenant (“tithe farmer”) of the Grange, Thomas Fitzsimons, with the assistance of the local people.  Although the church was repaired, it cannot have been used for long as Archbishop Bulkeley’s report of 1630 stated it to be “altogether ruinous”.


All Hallows which was situated on the site now occupied by Trinity College, Dublin, had extensive land possessions (including Baldoyle) in North County Dublin, and all of these were now bestowed on Dublin Corporation  for “their loyalty in opposing and suffering the rebellion of the Geraldines”.    A man named Nugent seized 4 messuages, 5 cottages, 200 acres of arable land, 12 acres of meadow, 12 acres of woodland, and 12 acres of pasture from Prior Hankoke.  In the subsequent division of these lands, the Grange of Baldoyle and over 220 acres of good arable land were granted to Sir Edward Fitzsimons.  The Corporation were expected to pay the crown treasury the sum of £4.4.0¾ rental per annum forever.  This area was probably the medieval village of Baldoyle.

Thus it was that the lands and dwellings of Baldoyle remained in the hands of Dublin Corporation until modern times while the lands of the surrounding townlands were owned by the Howth Castle family.

Tommy Feely thatching his cottage on Grange Road around 1960 (Ian Elliott)

Tommy Feely thatching his cottage on Grange Road around 1960 (Ian Elliott)

Baldoyle and the adjacent townlands were predominantly farming lands with some of the villagers in the coastal area employed in fishing.  This was the forerunner of the modern village and up to one hundred men were employed fishing out of the estuary here until the advent of Howth Harbour in 1820.

Harvesting grain with a three-horse reaper at Donaghmede about 1958 (Ian Elliott)

Harvesting grain with a three-horse reaper at Donaghmede about 1958 (Ian Elliott)

Baldoyle will best be remembered for its horse racing course which was established in 1852 and closed in 1972. The most important races in Baldoyle were The Baldoyle Derby and the Baldoyle Steeplechase.

The Finish of the Baldoyle Hurdle August Monday 1901 (MJH collection)

The finish of The Baldoyle Hurdle on August Monday 1901 (MJH collection)

Many will remember the name of Baldoyle as the home of the famous Little Willie Hospital and as a Novitiate for the Irish Christian Brothers.

From the early 1960s the ever stretching limits of Dublin city clutched at huge tracts of farmland and we saw the disappearance of farming as a way of life here.   Today Baldoyle is a major suburb of the city but it does still mark the northern fringe of the city.


by Michael J. Hurley 2013

Grassroots Goes Live!

Welcome to the Grassroots Archaeology blog. This is where we will be posting updates and progress reports about the Grassroots Project. Grassroots has been gathering momentum over the   last few months and we have been generating interest and receiving support from far and wide.

With excavations planned for the coming summer, there is a lot of work to do but things are now taking shape…watch this space for more.

Humble Beginnings

It all started when, as a young fresh-faced undergraduate back in the naughties, I went browsing the Register of Monuments and Places for my locality. This is a record of all the known archaeological sites throughout the country overlain onto A1 maps which has since been made available online (

Naturally enough, my attention was drawn to Baldoyle in North Dublin where I grew up. Scanning the map, I was surprised to discover a small dot labelled DU015-018 which represented a registered monument close to my family home in the Seagrange housing estate.

Having spent no small part of my childhood out and about covering every inch of the terrain, including all of those corners of the neighbourhood that adults generally cede to children (the swamp, the back field, the wally jungle, etc.), I was fairly confident that no archaeological monuments were hiding in the Seagrange area.

To settle the issue, I made an appointment to consult the SMR file for the monument which would contain all known information about DU015-018. The SMR at that time was housed in a big ostentatious building on St. Stephen’s Green. Inside, a manila file waited on a hardwood table beside a slip of paper marked with my name. I sat down and allowed the moment the gravitas it deserved before opening the file. I was confronted with a compelling piece of information: a black and white aerial photograph.

The photo showed an area of open fields; an area which is now covered with houses of the Seagrange estate. After a moment puzzling out the strange angle, familiar features began to emerge from the image:

i)                 The coast road with a sliver of Dublin Bay in the background

ii)                The ruins of Kilbarrack Church surrounded by its graveyard

iii)               The train line running from Howth junction to Howth in the middle ground

iv)               Marian Park housing estate in the foreground (built 1954)

A clear shape could be seen in the centre of the image composed of dark crop marks defining a rectangular enclosure. Cropmarks such as these indicate where the earth has been disturbed in the past, usually through the digging of ditches or pits. This cropmark suggested that a defended enclosure of some kind once existed on this spot.

Taking in the identifiable features in the landscape, it became clear that the enclosure was located almost exactly on the spot of my parents’ house!

For a young, fledging archaeologist, this was momentous. I had answered the original question and, in doing so, had posed a hundred more.

What is this enclosure?

When does it date from?

What survives beneath the modern housing estate?

Etc. etc.

….The seed for Grassroots had been planted