In March of 2017 we applied for a grant to fund a geophysical survey of the castle. We wanted to find out more about what lay unseen beneath the lovely green fields. We had done some initial archeology and test pits in November 2016, and knew that we would likely be required to do a survey for planning permissions. We were interested in finding out where we could lay utility lines and septic without disturbing possible archeology. We would also like to do community archeology in the future and the results will help us create a possible project.
We read a recently published book about Medieval Wexford in honor of Billy Colfer.
In the book was an article about The Old Ross Research Project (THORRP) and the geophysical surveys done at that site in Wexford.
The technology provided a lot of information about that site and we hoped it could do the same for ours.
We used the Heritage Council online system to apply. We had to provide quotes and estimates for the project which included the eventual events we would hold. We also needed endorsement from our conservation consultant, Catherine McLoughlin of Stafford-McLoughlin Archeology, that the survey was in line with proper conservation approach.
Applying for the grant in March made us sit down and think of what events we could organize from the U.S. and confidently hold in August.
In May we were delighted to hear that we had received a grant for the survey! We were one of seven projects in Wexford to be chosen. The funding of 2500€ would cover the actual survey whereas the associated events and other costs would be funded by us.
We contracted Joann Leigh of JML Surveys to do the work - we had read about her work with THORRP. Jo was scheduled to come out to Sigginstown in June. Unfortunately we were not able to be in Ireland at that time, so had to imagine her going up and down the fields with equipment.
We asked her to post a sign outside the gate as part of the heritage council requirements and we also posted one virtually on our websites..
Jo's equipment is not suitable for rough terrain and depends on the grass being relatively short. For these reasons she was not able to survey immediately in or around the castle, but focused on the three fields around it.
In August 2017 we received the report from Jo and were able to quickly turn them into large size laminates for use during our events at the castle. We were very busy that week and hosted 5 different events during 8 different times. Most people were happy to simply see the castle inside and participate in the events. Our laminates were used to show people what the castle looked like in period and the possible areas of use in the fields
We are summarizing the results of the report here on the website. The bullets on the graphics are our own, which are condensed versions of the report notes. Any interpretation or errors are ours. The remains seem to indicate some possible other structures on the site, various boundaries that are today invisible, and remains of earlier agricultural activity. Read the whole report here
A summary of the Resistance Survey technique from Jo's website:
Resistance survey can be highly effective in locating buried archaeological remains. A small electrical current is applied to the ground and the resulting Earth Resistance is recorded. This technique is especially effective at locating buried building remains and structural features. It is often applied in conjunction with gradiometer survey in areas where building remains are suggested or suspected. The methodology employed is often site specific but as a general rule readings are taken every 1m along a 1m traverse.
Area 1 : This field is to the north west of the castle.
Circle A is the most interesting which also repeats on the Gradiometry survey. Perhaps in the future we can do some community archeology here, but for now it will remain as grass.
This field is where we plan to put our septic area.
Area 2 is the field to the south east of the castle
The horse-shoe shaped D aligns with radiometry information and may be the boundaries of the castle enclosure, garden or courtyard.
Red area E is slightly north of the original "driveway" of the castle which goes from the road to the front door of the house. The pillars are located to the east of E.
A summary of the Resistance Survey technique from Jo's website:
Typical archaeological features which can be identified with magnetometer surveys include: ditches, occupational activity, burnt features such as hearths and kilns. Field survey with gradiometer instruments is also considerably faster than any other current technique. Methodology of survey can be adapted for site type and size. A methodology called gradiometer scanning is often used on large sites, where full detailed survey is impractical. The preliminary survey is then followed up with a targeted detailed survey investigation. Detailed survey records instrument readings taken at a 1m traverse and 0.25m sample intervals.
Area A is the field to the north east of the castle. Only a gradiometry survey was done.
The possible fish pond in blue is near the remains of an old cottage or building that was on the 1840 survey map. It is also near the ditch that takes run-off from the marl pond near the property to the old mill race that ran next to the road.
Area B is the same field as in Area 1 above and is the north west field. Curve 4 is the same as Circle A in the Radiometry survey. The blue and purple area 3 could be a building.
There is no information on any old maps about these possible remains which may have been previous structures on the site.
Area C is the same field as Area 2 above and is to the east of the castle.
The purple tread is the outline of the field divider shown on 19th century maps, and may also be an earlier ditch.
Blue and black in item 7 is parallel to the castle and may be a bawn wall, courtyard, or garden boundary.
Brown areas are modern and hatched area is our cleared shrub pile which was not surveyed.
As laymen who are not archeologists it is interesting to read the reports, but hard to interpret all the details. We can use this information to stay clear of possible archeological remains when we are doing future construction or direct the requirement for additional test pits.
The north east field (Area A) may hold a new driveway so we will hopefully avoid the "fish pond"
The north west field (Area 1 and Area B) is where we plan to put our septic drainage, so we can configure it appropriately to avoid the "archeologically interesting bits" for now!
The east field (Area 2 and Area C) holds a cobblestone courtyard underneath which lies right next to the house. The blue and back areas may indicate the extent of the courtyard.
Besides these areas we do not plan to do any immediate excavation in these fields. Our construction funds are limited so we need to save archeology for the immediate building areas.
Two coincidences occurred that relate to this survey.
First, we stopped in at Swords Castle near Dublin and found a group doing community archeology as part of Heritage Week.
We introduced ourselves to the folk running the event and told them we were interested in doing similar activities down south in Wexford!
Second, we picked up a book on archeology at Kileen Castle Co. Meath.
Read it cover to cover and took note of the various geosurvey information that was later excavated. Finds were over a very broad time period.
It is a much larger and historic castle but helps us understand more about the process and how it relates to excavation.
It turns out that Christine Baker wrote the book, Jo Leigh did the surveys and we had met Christine at the Swords Castle Community Dig! A small connected world of archeology in Ireland...