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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan
 

Part 2: Chapter 18: Tomfinlough Parish: Mooghaun North Townland

Site A: DOUBLE RINGFORT
   
6” O.S. Sheet number : 42 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 23.4 cm North; 38.5 cm East
Height : c. 120’ O.D.
Shape : irregular (see site plan below)

Description of site:

The above is a site plan of the unusual but interesting double-ringfort in Mooghaun North townland (incorrectly placed in nearby Ayleacotty townland by Westropp). According to the relevant 25” O.S. sheet this site covers an area of 1.05 acres.

What are the features of the site? In answering this question I propose to use the following approach:

(a) General description of two parts of site.
(b) More detailed measurements of northern and southern parts making reference to the above 1913 plan by Westropp. A revised plan (1978) is also included.
(c) Photographs illustrating main features.

General Description:
Northern half of site

As the land about the full site is of an undulating nature it is not surprising to find that this earthwork is of a platform nature. Though such an elevated nature is visible about the full site it is clearer in some areas in relation to others. As the undulating nature is particularly noticeable to the west it is not surprising to find a more marked difference in levels here, with the interior (of the northern area) being almost 3 metres above the surrounding field surface. In the east the difference is also quite marked but centres 2 metres on this occasion. To the north the difference centres on only ½ - 1 metre, again with the interior at a higher level. To the south one has the second part of the site though this area is also ½ - 1 metre below the level of the larger northern part.

Southern half of site
In the case of this roughly square shaped area one also finds that the most marked difference in levels is to the west. There is a difference of just over two metres in levels between the interior and that part of the surrounding field surface immediately outside the western outer bank. The further one moves west the greater the difference, with the interior always at the higher level. To the east there is a drop of 2 metres down to the farm trackway which skirts the eastern part of the site. As we shall note later this feature has damaged the eastern part of the site with the result that all trace of the fosse and outer bank are absent here. In relation to the southern part of the site even the inner earthen bank is gone and it has been replaced by a more modern boundary ditch. Getting back to difference in levels between the southern half of this site and the surrounding field surface. Reference has already been made to the 2 metre plus difference to the west and 2 metre difference to the east. In the south, immediately outside the outer bank, this difference is 1 ¼ metres. To the north we find, as stated previously, that this part of the site is at a higher level (average difference 1 metre).

Detailed Description of site:

While describing the features of this interesting site in detail reference will be made to (a) 1913 plan by Westropp (b) Revised 1913 plan, based on field work (1978) (c) Photographs to illustrate points of interest.

Northern Area:
Interior: Field work during 1978 fortunately found that some of the internal earthworks associated with the northern part of the site were still visible in the field. Admittedly some of these showed signs of damage but this was almost compensated for by the presence of previously unrecorded earthworks (see revised 1913 plan and compare it with Westropp’s original). The main part of the original 1913 plan, in relation to features associated with the internal northern area, was the presence of an L shaped earthwork enclosing an area of the site’s north-eastern part. I found (1978) that this had been damaged in areas by grazing livestock and now two clear breaches occur. Firstly at the point where the east-west running earthwork (28 metres in length) meets that running north-south (now 6 metres in length). At this point or junction is a 4 metre wide gap, not there by the 1913 plan. A second gap occurs where the north-south running part of this L shaped earthwork meets the inner bank. Now a 2 metre wide gap occurs at this point, again presumably due to livestock movement. What are the measurements associated with this L shaped earthwork? Mention has already been made to the fact that the east-west bank is 28 metres in length. It averaged between ½ and ¾ metre in height by 2 to 3 metres in width. While some small stones could be seen in this it was basically earthen in composition. The small north-south bank, excluding the two gaps, was 6 metres in length. Again the bank centred on 60 cm in height by 2 metres in width. The greatest north-south measurement within this L shaped area was 12 metres while that for the east-west centred on 15 metres (maximum). Though not represented on the original 1913 plan there is a small bank running south from this larger earthwork. It was 6 metres in length and only ½ metre high by 1 metre wide (see revised 1913 plan).

At a point some 13 metres south of the previously described L shaped earthwork is a second east-west running bank. Field work found a 6 metre gap in this, to the east, obviously having being formed since the 1913 Westropp plan was prepared. The remaining 15 metres of this bank is, on average, 65 cm high by 2.50 metres wide. Again it would seem to have been basically earthen.

The final internal earthwork within the northern half of this site is to be found near the south-west gap (modern?) in the banks. As my revised 1913 plan shows it runs north-south and is 6 metres in length, 3 metres wide (maximum) and ½ metre high. There is a 4 ½ metre gap between it and the inner bank to the south. Obviously such earthworks were associated with house sites and internal subdivisions within the northern area.

Inner Stone faced Bank (Northern Area)
Originally this feature would have been some 165 metres in length, some 115 metres of which can be traced now. The missing 50 metres (approx.) would have been to the east, in the area of the farm trackway. The presence of this feature, as we shall see, has resulted in the partial or full destruction of the inner bank, fosse and outer bank not only over the northern part of the site but likewise for the south. What possibly was originally a pathway has been enlarged to allow tractors and other pieces of agricultural equipment to get to the fields to the north-west of the nearby farmhouse.

However this inner stone faced bank can be traced over area to the north, south and west. Generally speaking it is best represented in areas to the north-west of the site where it averages 1 to 1 ½ metres in height by 2 to 3 metres in width. Field work found the actual bank to be earthen in composition with a now largely collapsed stone facing. As the revised 1913 plan shows it is absent in two small areas to the south-west and south where entrance areas occur.

Fosse (Northern Area)
Because of the presence of the previously mentioned farm trackway this feature can only be examined in areas to the north, south and west. It is particularly well represented to the north where it averages 3 to 4 metres in width and its floor is ¾ metre below the surrounding field surface. (Part of this is now covered by collapsed stones from the bank face above). From it the inner bank is 2 to 3 metres in height. To the south-west, near the field wall, while this fosse is 3 to 4 metres in width it is almost at the same level as the surrounding field surface. In the south, in the area between the northern and southern parts of the site, the fosse is 2 to 3 metres in width by only 40 cm in depth.

Outer Bank (Northern Area)
You will find the greatest difference between the 1913 plan and the revised plan (1978) when you study the condition of the outer bank. Westropp clearly represents the presence of such a feature to the north and west. However field work in 1978 failed to find any clear evidence of such a feature in these areas. As the revised 1913 plan shows the only trace of this feature may be found to the south-west, near the modern field wall. Along this stretch it averaged 1 metre in height by 2 ½ to 3 metres in width.

The northern part of the site is oval in shape. The north-south internal diameter centred on 45 metres while that for the east-west area was 57 metres.

Based on field work I feel that the previously described northern area was the main part of the site. Let us now study more square shaped southern area.

Southern Part of Site:
Interior
Unlike the previously mentioned northern area this part of the site has no evidence of internal house-sites or subdivisions. Westropp (1913) has no reference to their existence and I likewise failed (1978) to find any evidence to suggest their former existence. The actual area itself is 33 metres north-south (internal diameter) by 38 metres east-west.

Inner Stone faced Bank (Southern Area)
While Westropp’s 1913 plan has this feature clearly to be seen to the north, south and west field work in 1978 did not find this to be the case. Firstly I failed to find any evidence of an inner bank to the north. I would, in fact, question if one ever existed here. What purpose would it have achieved? If this southern part of the site was used for livestock the fosse to the north, along with the inner bank of the northern part of the site, would have stopped their movement northwards. While I have the inner bank represented to the south and south-west it must be mentioned that along this stretch such evidence is of a poorly defined nature (hence the broken lines on the revised 1913 site plan). The only area where one can examine and study this stone faced bank is to the immediate west. Here along a 12 metre stretch this feature is, on average, 65 cm high by 2.50 metres wide. As noted also for the stone facing on the inner bank, northern area, much of the facing has collapsed and is now to be seen in the fosse.

Fosse (Southern Area)
While this feature can be traced over the northern, southern and western areas it is not as clearly defined as the fosse to the north.

The fosse over the southern part of the site is best represented to the west. Here it is, on average, 3.50 metres wide but only ½ metre below the surrounding field surface. In the south-west though the fosse is 1 ½ metres below the interior level it is almost at the one level as the surrounding land.

Originally the fosse would have been quite clearly defined in the area between the northern and southern parts of the site. Now (1978) though it is 2.50 metres wide its average depth is only 35 cm and even less in areas.

Outer Bank (Southern Area)
Concerning this feature Westropp (1913) has written:
“… (This southern part of the site has) an outer ring of large stonework…” (Page 69)

Field work failed to find any evidence of this. Certainly some limestone blocks occur about the outer bank but there is now (1978) no evidence of a stone facing. It obviously existed as it occurs over part of the inner bank but perhaps the stones were removed and used in the erection of some of the stone walls in the area.

As it survives this bank is 2 to 3 metres wide and a maximum of 75 cm high, to the west. Over other areas it is not as clearly defined, with the average height centring on 40 cm.

How did people enter this site?
The main entrance into the site now (1978) is via an iron gateway to the south-east (see revised 1913 plan). This leads one into the southern fosse, which you follow for a short distance until you come to a gap in the inner bank. This brings one into the large southern enclosure (or annex). To get into the northern area you go via a 1 metre wide gap in the inner bank of this same northern area, having crossed over a built up part of the fosse between both halves of the site.

A second entrance leads into this interesting site from the west, near the field wall. This is probably of a comparatively modern date.

Mooghaun North A: This photo shows the L bank arrangement within the northern part of the site. This probably marks a house site
Mooghaun North A: This photo shows the L bank arrangement within
the northern part of the site. This probably marks a house site

Mooghaun North A: Shot of the fosse, to the north of the site. Some stones from the collapsed bank facing are also clearly visible. This photo was taken from west to east
Mooghaun North A: Shot of the fosse, to the north of the site. Some stones from the
collapsed bank facing are also clearly visible. This photo was taken from west to east.

Mooghaun North A: Western view of the fosse, outer bank and interior (to the left) of the southern part of the site
Mooghaun North A: Western view of the fosse, outer bank
and interior (to the left) of the southern part of the site

 

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