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Day 11 – Drains

We were delighted to welcome Elizabeth Gardener, Engineer, University of Notre Dame, to the site. She will be here for two weeks and will be studying our upstanding remains. Bernie and Alex, the dynamic duo, have been following what may turn out to be another drain running under the southern section of medieval wall. Meanwhile, Craig and Andy are also coming down on possible drain fill. The lower sections of the kiln is being exposed and a sequence of rebuilding is becoming more apparent. Anthony has been excavating the sides of the lintelled drain and is finding lots of flint waste.

Elizabeth working in Cutting V11

Alex and Bernie still standing after a day in Cutting V7.

Detail of the possible drain running under the wall

Side view of the kiln (and of Áine digging the kiln).

Anthony is shown here examining the interface between the wall and the drain in Cutting V10 (photo Mick Mongey).

Geraldine (centre) explains the intricacies of the ‘Great Barn of Beaubec’ to Elizabeth. Stefán and Matthew are in the foreground toiling (photo by Mick Mongey).

The excavation at the end of Day 11 (drone photo by Anthony Murphy).

Day 10 – The Great Barn of Beaubec

Over the last two weeks as we have peeled back the centuries at Bey More, a great Cistercian barn is emerging from the earth. The walls of this massive building are visible now in almost every cutting. Environmental sampling is identifying rich concentrations of grain, peas and beans that may have been stored there. We will now search out structural evidence such as post holes, stone settings, internal divisions; settings are already appearing in the middle of this building. Great Stone Barns are the most prominent farm building in Cistercian granges in England but are much rarer in Ireland. In 1228 Stephen of Lexington wrote to the Cistercians in Jerpoint Abbey, Co. Kilkenny, advising them that barns and animal sheds were to be the only buildings, erected along the margins of their granges. There is a long collapsed barn in the grange at Ballinlig in Sligo associated with Boyle Abbey. Another stone barn has been identified on the Cistercian grange at Annamult in Co. Kilkenny. We also uncovered the remains of a barn with a kiln in Bective Abbey. The relative scarcity of these barns in Ireland highlight the huge significance of what we are finding at Beaubec this season.

Oliver, a volunteer, and his family from the Czech Republic paid a visit today.

John lead us on a tour of his farm buildings and fields. It was ‘outstanding’ (photos by Mick Mongey, top, and Grace McCullen).

Matt and Stefán in Cutting V9. They are taking off the top soil but if you look at the drone photo you will see that the wall is gradually emerging.

Mikela in cutting V5. The wall is fully exposed and medieval layers have been reached in the northern part of the cutting. Oliver (left) is usually found in Cutting V11.

Maurice and Daniel in Cutting V7. The north-eastern edge of the wall was hard to find, but they found it.

Sieving for the day was focussed on the medieval layers in Cutting V11. Sievers were (from left) Alex, Tara and Eamonn.

On his own in Cutting V8 is Mick Mongey. Although he has had some assistance, Mick has doggedly and often single-handedly removed the upper layers from the cutting.

The team in Cutting V4 (John, Tom and Catherine) examine the kiln.

Mary and Molly examine the medieval layers in Cutting V11. They are often joined by Bronagh and Oliver.

Leslie and Liam from DCU show true grit and have now removed all the post-medieval material from Cutting V12.

Cutting V10 with Anthony, Áine and Aidan. No coins today but they made a lot of progress.

Post pad (?) in cutting V10.

Tara assisted Catriona Devane with the processing of the finds today (photo by Grace McCullen).

Geraldine and Craig are discussing the complexities of Cutting V6 (and their hats).

The excavation at the start of day 10 (top) and at the end of day 10 (drone photos by Anthony Murphy).

Day 9 – Medieval coin found!

Aidan Giblin caused pandemonium on the site this afternoon when he discovered a medieval coin in the side of the lintelled drain and we all rushed to his cutting to examine and photograph it. Through the day Catherine did a beautiful job emptying out a pit that produced large quantities of wheat grains when a sample was processed by Penny. Tom was in splendid isolation for the day excavating the interior of the kiln. Eamon and Tara started up the sieve to process medieval deposits from a possible drain. Lily came down to the site with scrumptious chocolate crispy buns for all the team. During the day Caroline arrived on the site with her son and his friends who de-sodded a new cutting near the service tower.

Carol and her gang volunteered for the day.

Lily made some delicious chocolate crispy buns with marshmallows for the team and they were yummy.

Aidan Giblin points out where he found the medieval coin.

Mick certainly did his homework and provisionally identified the coin as a groat (4 pennies) or 1/2 groat dating from the reign of Edward III c.1360. It was minted in London.

Catherine did a beautiful job emptying out a pit that produced large quantities of wheat grain.

Tom has been excavating the interior of the kiln (photo by Grace McCullen)

John McCullen discussing farm drains.

Activity at the western end of the excavations (photo by Mick Mongey).

Anelia carrying the finds up to the finds room at the end of the day (photo Grace McCullen).

Ciara Reynolds (second from left) took a day away from her work to volunteer on the site. She did a wonderful job straightening sections in advance of their being recorded by Matt.

Pat McCullen (with grandsons, Reuben & Jacob) meet the water delivery team bringing much needed water to the site (photo by Grace McCullen).

Sean and Gerard were ‘Age Friendly University’ students with Matthew Stout at DCU. Here they are seen removing the upper layers of Cutting V8.

A selfie of co-directors Geraldine and Matthew in their new hats.

Beaubec art blog post 002

Touching time by John Sunderland

One of the artworks I have been making over the last fortnight is a drawing using mud, pencil, charcoal and white oil pastel on drafting paper. This landscape work has been photographed as it progresses – the final works from this piece are intended to be photographs of the drawing because what interests me is the processes of change in this work, both those I make and the changes that occur naturally such as wetting and drying. For the first time today I sprayed the drawing with a fine water mist, photographing it before and then sequentially as it dried. I was amazed at how the differential drying process changed the emphasis on the different layers in the image. It appears to reflect the way that features are more or less visible in different conditions in the ground. The changes are drastic, some soils (each one is from a feature or layer on the site) are barely visible in some states and clear as day in others. I have always been interested in how landscapes change and am excited to find quite a direct way of interpreting this in this artwork.

Day 8 – Those bones, those bones, those dry bones…

The spotlight shifted to the far end of the site today to the cuttings near the service tower. Heroic removal of a difficult stony layer has uncovered a dark loamy layer rich in shells, large burnt bones and medieval pottery. This is medieval waste. Kieran Campbell has identified the pottery as local Drogheda ware dating from the thirteenth century. Leslie Thornton, who has a particular interest in animal remains, uncovered a cache of animal jaws that will be sent as part of the Beaubec assemblage to Dr Fiona Beglane in Sligo IT for identification. Mary Sherlock and her team that includes Oliver, Bronagh and Eamon have unearthed the strap-handles of wine jugs and large burnt animal joints coming from the fill of a drain. We were delighted to welcome Seamus Bellew of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society to the site and the Sweetman family from Annesbrook who are old friends of the directors . We cannot wait for tomorrow to see what new evidence will emerge from the site.

Before and after photos of todays excavation. The sods were stripped in Cutting V8 and Mick can be seen in this photo still working at the end of the day, almost down to Medieval layers. Áine helped him remove the sod and difficult stone layers. The wall is emerging in V6.

Bronagh, Eamonn and Oliver (left to right) display the finds discovered in the course of the day (photo by Mary Sherlock who keeps a close eye on all activities in cutting V11).

Mary Sherlock with her freshly discovered medieval strap handle.

Kieran Campbell and Seamus Bellew visited the site in the afternoon. We are grateful to Kieran for identifying some of the more unusual pottery types.

Sadhbh and Kate (right) with co-director Matthew. Sadhbh worked at Beaubec in 2019 and Kate has always been a great supporter of our excavations.

Day 7 – A hive of industry

Today was a beautiful day on the excavation and all was ordered like a well-oiled machine. Three cuttings have made it down to the medieval layers with some exotic medieval pots coming to light. Other cuttings are not far behind. News came today from our publicist Grace McCullen that the Drogheda Independent had published an article about the site. She has big plans to get the message out about Beaubec. Lessons on dowsing were provided by Áine, searching out moats and waterways. Mick Mongey was all business today, undertaking a photogrammetric survey of the service tower.

The cuttings at the end of Day 7 (Drone photo by Anthony Murphy).

On Monday, Day 6, these distinctive orange-glazed sherds emerged from the lower post-medieval layers. Could it be from a candlestick holder? Any suggestions (Photo: Mick Mongey).

Great excitement accompanied the discovery of a thin-walled medieval pot.

The pot’s full profile is now visible.

A stunning close-up of the pot by John Sunderland.

Anthony and Aidan are hard at work on Day 7.

Read all about it: Another fine article by Alison Comyn in the Drogheda Independent. This one highlights the opening day ceremonies.

John McCullen has long aspired to put Beaubec on the map, and now it is! Google have officially recognised the monastic site for the entire world to locate on their mapping platforms.

Our artist in residence has been encouraging others to express themselves artistically. This duck (some say swan) was crafted by Catherine.

Distinguished visitors to the site today included Anthony (left). He is shown here with diggers Tomás and Eamonn. Anthony dug with us last year and we are hoping that he finds the time to help us again this season.

Áine explains the art of dowsing to Andy using divining rods belonging to her mother Ann Marie Moroney of the Boyne Valley. Andy comes from a family of diviners but left the trade to pursue his career in rock and roll.

Beaubec art blog post 001

Touching time by John Sunderland

I have for long time now been fascinated with the processes of both art and archaeology, of how the crafts of both disciplines require a degree of intuition, of knowing and yet not quite knowing where one is going and feeling a path through the materials. Whether this is excavating a feature through the touch of a trowel, or developing a drawing through the connection between eye, hand, and pencil, both require a degree of sensitivity to surfaces and substances.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to investigate this further at Beaubec, to be able to combine these practices by making drawings using archaeological soils retrieved from the site as they are excavated in combination with archaeological drawing techniques. I use the drafting paper (used for scale drawing in archaeology) and make pigments from soils by adding water and griding them in a pestle and mortar. I apply this to my drawing and photograph each stage, watching and recording the processes of drying and sometimes wetting (in rain). Soil in this context becomes unstable, cracking and falling as it dries going from dark to light and back to dark again. The environment impacts on the works and the photographs still this change. The outcomes of this work will be the photography, although I am interested in how these works can be made stable, or when they become stable, how will they look?

There are other questions arising from this process and other practices that I’m working on whilst I also excavate in this immersive experience of creating within an archaeological excavation, a process of touching time. I will be sharing my thoughts and some results over the next three weeks as we excavate the site.

Day 6 – Find that wall

The team returned to their cuttings with a vengeance this morning determined to resolve all the issues brought up by last week’s digging. Tops of partially demolished walls appeared and a lintelled drain meanders through the width of a cutting. A charcoal/burnt clay spread is increasing in size by the minute and the rumour has started that we may have another kiln on the site! Further work is taking place on sectioning the kiln from earlier seasons and following a drain that runs under it and the medieval wall. John introduced the directors to his on-site creative project which is all very exciting. We will be providing regular updates on this over the next three weeks.

General view of the site at the end of the day (Drone photo by Anthony Murphy).

John, Catherine and Tara have been working on sectioning the kiln.

Mikala excavating the large burnt spread. Could this be another kiln?

Alex found the line of the wall in his cutting by the end of the day.

Paula (left) and Loretto ploughing through the rocky layer in Cutting W. These two are Geraldine’s sisters. Earlier, Juliana and her two boys were getting through the rocky layer at the opposite (western) end of the cutting. Thanks all!

John, archaeologist/artist in residence, outlines his artistic ambitions.

Alex McCullen has provided us with another beautiful image of Beaubec.

Day 5 – Viva España!

The Mahon family, all eight of them, arrived at Bey More today to volunteer their services and began excavating a cutting across the medieval moat. The cutting will forever more be known as the ‘Mahon Cutting’. Thank you guys! Famous Meath archaeologist Kieran Campbell also paid us a welcome visit and identified imported post medieval Spanish pottery amongst our finds today, including Spanish olive jars and Portuguese redware. He has sent us on some reconstructed drawings of these beautiful pots. We have all been working our way through habitation layers that are related to the Pearson house so it was a real treat today to have John Mc Cullen share with the team his superb research on the Pearson family with their house and gardens. He also gave the team a copy of his paper, beautifully produced by Grace Mc Cullen with reconstruction drawings by Peter McCullen. We were sorry to say goodbye to DCU’s finest, graduates John Marshall and Adam Healy who worked very hard this week and with whom we had  a lot of fun. They have passed the baton over to Oliver, Mary and Bronagh. No pressure!

Mick Mongey (left) discusses recent pottery discoveries with Kieran Campbell. Kieran identified the sherd he is holding as Spanish Olive Jar. Geraldine and John listen in.

Deirdre and Tom (alias Fred Flintstone) are excited by their discovery of a flint scraper. Catherine (right) looks up from bottoming the ditch that runs beneath the wall.

Three quarters of the Mahon family at work in cutting W, now forever known as the Mahon cutting. Co-director Matthew and his assistant Sadie Rose admire their technique.

John lectures to the volunteers about the Pearson family (Photo: Grace McCullen).

Everyone received a beautifully illustrated and presented copy of John’s resent research on the Pearson family (Photo: Grace McCullen).

The Fingal Independent carries the news about the virtual tour of St Doulagh’s.

The excavation at the end of Day 5 (Drone photo by Anthony Murphy).

Day 4 – Chasing yellow

Today we began to dismantle the Pearson Avenue to get down to the much awaited yellow medieval habitation layer that lies below the darker modern deposits. Patches of yellow are appearing in most of the squares . A lintelled drain was carefully followed on its journey
through the building on its way to the moat. This drain is running through the medieval walls and our mission now is to determine whether it was put in later or integrated into the construction of the medieval walls when they were first built. With charcoal deposits occurring more frequently at this level Penny Johnson has been ramping up the number of samples she is taking for environmental evidence. She still found time to direct a tutorial on sample processing to our UCD volunteers. Bea and Anelia have identified a further eleven fossils and have been keeping our on-site fossil man, Mick Mongey, on his toes. Aidan Giblin and Mick Mongey have been all over the news this week with the launch of the Resurrecting Monuments pioneering ‘virtual tour of St Doulagh’s church’ in north county Dublin. To access the virtual tour go to

The newly uncovered drain runs towards last years section. The Cistercians loved their drains.

Penny giving a tutorial on sampling to our UCD volunteers

Catriona and Bernie have been washing and cataloguing the large quantity of finds coming into the finds office

Penny sampled charcoal from the top of the lintelled drained. She found peas, beans and grain.

Sadie Rose from Waterford (second from right) is very keen on archaeology. She did her school project on the excavations at Beaubec. She is pictured here with Anne, our host, Lily and Sadie Rose’s mother (on the right).

The excavation at the end of Day 4 (Drone photo by Anthony Murphy).

Alex McCullen took this artful shot of the sun low in the sky at the end of Day 4.