SECTION 1 : Introduction
SECTION 2 : Multi-period sites
SECTION 3 : Mesolithic
SECTION 4 : Neolithic Settlement
SECTION 5 : Megalithic tombs and Neolithic burial practices
SECTION 6 : Bronze Age Occupation Sites
SECTION 7 : Bronze Age burial practices
SECTION 8 : Iron Age
SECTION 9 : Iron Age burial practices
SECTION 10 : Royal sites
SECTION 11 : Western stone forts
SECTION 12 : Early Medieval Period - Christianity
SECTION 13 : Ringforts
SECTION 14 : Crannógs
SECTION 15 : Medieval Dublin
SECTION 16 : Late Medieval Period
SECTION 17 : Anglo-Norman Towns
SECTION 18 : Anglo-Norman Fortifications


Medieval towns, such as Drogheda Co. Louth, were fundamentally utilised by the Anglo-Normans to colonise and control. They also provided an area of settlement in which the majority of people were craftspeople and traders rather than producers of food. These towns also offered a controlled ‘freedom’ which was legally-binding, regulated by charter and applied to towns known as boroughs. The inhabitants of these boroughs, known as burgesses, received a plot in the town and an area of land in the town-fields, for which they paid a fixed annual sum. With this came incentives such as protection, trade laws, an exemption from paying trading tolls and civil liberties. A typical Anglo-Norman town was surrounded by walls and entered through gates. Within the walls there was often a main street, onto which the buildings always fronted and with lanes set axially from the street leading into the backyard areas. The market place was an important element of the town and was frequently located on the main street, which may have been widened at a designated point to accommodate the market. The fourteenth century saw a decline in the development of these towns with repeated attacks often recorded; however there was a renewal again in the fifteenth century, particularly with the building of fortified houses and repair to the defences. With the sixteenth century came the earliest ‘plantation towns’ and the introduction of Renaissance ideas about town layout and defence. The medieval urbanisation of Ireland had ended.

17.1 : James Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth
E210, E249/E701

Site location: NGR 30920 27500

Kieran Campbell

Fig.17.1.1: Location map of James Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth [OSI]

The site of the Hospital of Saint James (Fig. 17.1.1) and adjacent areas were excavated between 1981 and 1984 in advance of a major road development for Drogheda Corporation. These excavations offered further information about medieval Drogheda and in particular the hospital building and a section of the town wall.

Plate 17.1.1: James St., Drogheda. Barrel vaulted undercroft [Kieran Campbell]

A 12m length of the town wall with associated lime kiln was revealed to the east of the site. These structures were cut into thirteenth century deposits. Outside the wall was a possible rock-cut ditch, at least 4m deep and up to 22m wide that contained waterlogged medieval deposits. Substantial remains of a medieval building were uncovered below the cellar level of the demolished nineteenth century buildings and were confirmed as thirteenth century in date. The building is presumed to be the medieval hospital, although documentary evidence for the late- and post-medieval periods places the Hospital of Saint James to the east of the town, outside the wall. An almost complete ground-plan was obtained of the building which indicated that it was square in plan and divided into two rooms, each with its own door facing the river. Fifteenth and sixteenth-century material filled up the building and above this, in the east room, was the base of a circular stone structure of uncertain function. A barrel-vaulted undercroft, demolished in August 1982, was tentatively dated by pottery finds to the thirteenth/early fourteenth century. Medieval finds included sandstone architectural fragments, floor tiles, pottery, roof slate, ceramic ridge tile and part of a louver, an iron rowel spur and a bronze lock. Pottery from the fifteenth/sixteenth century fill included Isabela Polychrome, Valencian Lustreware, Merida-type, Columbia Plain, Beauvais, Saintonge and Cistercian-type.

Plate 17.1.2: James St., Drogheda. General view of site during excavation
[Kieran Campbell]

On nearby South Quay, the excavations uncovered thirteenth and fourteenth century occupation deposits, two large hearths, a corn-drying kiln, light wall footings and stone drains. Imported pottery included Saintonge, Rouen, Paffrath, Ham Green, Recliffe, Minety-type and Cheshire.

At the site of St. James Gate several successive paved street surfaces were recorded during monitoring of the road project.


Campbell, K. 1983  ‘Drogheda, James’s Street’,  Medieval Archaeology 27, 218-19.

Campbell, K. 1984  ‘Drogheda, James’s Street and South Quay’, Medieval Archaeology 28, 256.

Campbell, K. 1985  ‘Drogheda, James’s Street’,  Medieval Archaeology 29, 214.

Campbell, K. 1986  ‘Drogheda’ In C. Cotter (ed.),  Excavations 1985. Irish Academic Publications, Dublin, 29.

Campbell, K. 1987 ‘The archaeology of medieval Drogheda’, Archaeology Ireland, 1, 2, 52-6.

17.2 : Moneymore, Drogheda, Co. Louth

Site location: NGR 30880/27500

Donald Murphy

Fig. 17.2.1: Location map of Moneymore, Drogheda, Co. Louth.OSI*

These sites were excavated between 1996 and 1997 as part of the Drogheda Main Drainage and Wastewater Disposal Scheme and offered an overall examination of a variety of the sites of medieval Drogheda and provided interesting parallels for other historic towns (Fig. 17.2.1).

Plate 17.2.1: Moneymore, Drogheda. Burgage plots at rear of John Street
[Donald Murphy]

Plate 17.2.2: Moneymore, Drogheda. Excavation in Franciscan Friary Garden
[Donald Murphy]

The town wall was revealed at a number of locations throughout the town. Substantial remains were uncovered at Peace Bridge, John Street and The Mall and other smaller sections of the river wall were revealed at Murdock’s Car Park, Old Abbey Car Park and Dominick Street. At the Peace Bridge, the wall was found to have been built on a foundation of loose boulders and was almost 2m wide at the base, originally standing to a height of over 7m with an external batter. A large section of this wall still stands today. Two wall-walks indicated two separate phases of construction. Arrow-slits were evident near the top of the wall and earlier crenellation was found below the present ground level. The wall appears to have been substantially heightened during the fifteenth/sixteenth century at the same time as ground level was also being raised in order to alleviate flooding from the river.

Excavations at Murdock’s Car Park revealed the line of the medieval river wall which was found to be some 10m in from the present river’s edge. Only the bottom course of the wall survived indicating that it had been substantially robbed out since its demolition during the early eighteenth century. The foundations of two other walls were also uncovered here. One ran roughly north-south and the other ran east-west. Both were eighteenth century in date and possibly belonged to the saltworks that originally stood on this site.

Excavations at John Street revealed the foundation of the town wall, which originally ran from the Butter Gate down to another gate at the end of John Street and beyond. It was discovered that the town wall was dug into the natural boulder clay and evidence for a possible ditch-like feature was found outside to the west. The town wall appeared to have been built against a bank of boulder clay and was therefore only faced on its east side.

At the Haymarket the partial remains of a circular tower along the line of the medieval river wall was exposed and further east at the Mall portions of the town wall and St. Catherine’s Gate were uncovered. The east and west walls of this gate survived along with its substantial foundations. It appeared to have been demolished in the sixteenth century.

Substantial medieval deposits were also exposed in other areas of the town. An excavated trench along the entire length of John Street revealed layers of post-medieval rubble sealing wood- and stone-lined tanning pits. Beneath these were eight north-south clay-bonded walls dating from the thirteenth century to the later-medieval period. These walls were associated with stone-built wells, drains and stone-lined pits. These features represented Anglo-Norman burgage plots belonging to houses that originally fronted onto John Street. 

An excavation carried out at The Mall was within the garden of the medieval Franciscan Friary. A wall that had been demolished in the thirteenth century was uncovered and may represent an earlier line of town defences running roughly along the east side of Mayoralty Street. A medieval wall under a layer of nineteenth century cobbling, which may be the precinct wall of the friary was also uncovered. Further east a circular medieval or post-medieval stone kiln with a north-east aligned flue was uncovered. East of this, two medieval walls with a stepped platform between them was revealed. The platform overlay medieval drains that in turn overlay a stone-flagged surface contemporary with the wall construction. This platform was located along the line of the medieval quay wall and may have been part of a crane or cranna for the loading and unloading of ships.

Excavations at Dyer Street revealed the remains of several medieval houses. The largest of these was located at the east end of the street. Two original doorways framed by cut sandstone jambs survived. The interior had three successive cobble floors and a stone-lined well. The house was originally internally divided by timber partitions and all buildings erected on the site since have reused the medieval walls. Finds of hearths, spindle-whorls, bone needles and a linen smoother all indicate industrial activity. Medieval drains were uncovered beneath the second house. Finds included local pottery and pottery from Bristol, Cheshire and France, stone crucibles, small rings and pins and carved ornate gaming-pieces of deer antler were also found. Dyer Street was known during the medieval period as the Vicus Tinctorum or street of the Dyers. It would appear that the street had a mainly industrial function probably as a result of its location close to St Saviours Quay (the substantial remains of which have been found in recent years on the south side of Dyer Street). It would have originally looked out over the harbour that formed part of the quay structure. The houses along Dyer Street which were at least two storeys in height seem to have had an industrial function at ground or semi-basement level with living quarters above. The evidence recovered suggests the presence of steps down into the ground floor from the street.

Below Dyer Street itself a major stone wall running east-west was also revealed, and appears to represent an early quay wall and is datable to the late twelfth century. Substantial organic deposits were exposed between this wall and the present river’s edge and it is clear from the multitude of finds recovered, which included leather, fabrics and other organic material, that this layer was deposited during the late twelfth century in an attempt to narrow the river channel and redevelop this part of the town. Part of a timber braced revetment was exposed along North Quay and was dated by dendrochronology to the early thirteenth century. This was likely to have been a precursor for the later substantial quay wall which was exposed alongside the revetment. A large oak base-plate incorporating mortices for uprights constituted the earliest structure of the quay side.

Work at the Marsh Road Pumping Station just outside the town uncovered a well preserved wooden boat hollowed from a single oak trunk. Finds from the boat included leather shoes, pottery, and a leather pouch. A date of 1066 AD was recovered through dendrochronology. Nearby stones and stake-holes suggest the boat may have been originally moored there.

Post-excavation work on the project has been ongoing since 1998 and it is intended that the full report will be published before the end of 2003.

It is intended to produce a publication on excavations in Drogheda with this work as the core while including more recent excavations from the town.


Murphy. D. 1997  ‘Moneymore, Drogheda’, In I. Bennett (ed.),  Excavations 1996. Wordwell Ltd., Bray. 

Murphy. D. 1998  ‘Moneymore, Drogheda’,  In I. Bennett (ed.),  Excavations 1997. Wordwell Ltd., Bray, 127-129.

17.1 : James Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth
17.2 : Moneymore, Drogheda, Co. Louth