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 (www.archaeology.ie).
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?
….The seed for Grassroots had been planted