Plymouth Archaeology Society

Search the PDAS site

This talk accompanied the Jan 2008 AGM and,although not strictly part of our winter lecture programme, is best placed in this section.


Nigel Stainer

21st January 2008

photos. They found that Irish remains were often surprising to English eyes. The numerous Neolithic sites appeared on first sight to have a much later date, there had been no Roman occupation and the Cistercian monks started to build their abbeys before the Norman invasion of 1169.

The earliest burials were in unusual courtyard tombs and Neolithic field systems have been found beneath the peat which resemble the reave system of Dartmoor. In Carrowmore, 31 megalithic tombs have been dated to within 200 years of 3000 BC when at the same time passage graves were being erected in Carrowkeel. The flat limestone pavements of the Burren contained numerous wedge barrows. The undoubted highlight was the spectacular Iron Age fort of Dun Aonghasa perched high on the cliffs of the geologically similar Aran Islands. This had been sympathetically restored and between the walls were acres of angled rocks arranged to give audible warning of any attack.

The first Christian buildings were monasteries which began to be built in stone in the eight century. The characteristic round towers were added to the ancillary buildings between the tenth and twelfth centuries. Carving, particularly of the crosses, showed no signs of being influenced by Roman or Norman styles.

Everywhere there was evidence of Ireland’s turbulent history. Athenry was one of the better preserved medieval towns. The castle had served as a model for many other fortified houses and the town also contained the remains of a Dominican friary. Aughnanure Castle was captured by the English in 1572 and re-occupied by the O’Flahertys a century later. Lynch Castle had been crudely restored but a spur of the town wall still protected the harbour. Other abbeys had been founded, raided and rebuilt by both Norman and Irish leaders.

Of a more peaceable nature, Rosserk Friary had been built for a third order – that of married couples. They had also visited Knock but Nigel considered the gigantic modern cathedral so ugly that we only saw a picture of the spot where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared in 1879. The vernacular buildings were similar to the black houses of the Outer Hebrides but appeared to have been abandoned only recently. One that had been restored, had been the home Patrick Pearse but he was a leader of the 1916 rising and had died in the attack on the Dublin Post Office.

Joan Price


Ivybridge Archaeologists are an informal group who, after taking their ‘A’ level, continue to make visits to various archaeological sites outside this region. This summer some of them travelled to the west coast of Ireland and Nigel gave a presentation based on his holiday .....


Lecture Reports