Oldbridge and Sheephouse Townlands
The Local Landscape
Oldbridge (Irish: An Seandroichead) and Sheephouse (Irish: Síopús) are townlands near Drogheda in County Meath, Ireland. They are is in the Electoral Division of Saint’s Mary’s, in Civil Parish of Donore, in the Barony of Duleek Lower, in the County of Meath. Oldbridge lies at the eastern end of the Brú na Boinne area and is separated from it by the river Boyne.
The major fording point at Oldbridge had a significant long-term factor in the settlement history. The ford controlled the junction of two principle local lines of communications – the east-west flowing river and the north-south route across the ford. Increased water flow due to the nineteenth century arterial drainage works upstream and twentieth century dredging upstream increased the rate of erosion and deposition in the river.
The prehistoric period: Mesolithic – (circa 7000 to 4000 BC); Neolithic – (circa 4000 to 2400 BC); Bronze Age (circa 2400 to 500 BC) – Iron Age (circa 500 BC to AD 400) 2. The medieval period: Early medieval 5th – 12th century; high medieval 12th century – circa 1400; late medieval circa 1400 – 16th century
Palaeolithic c. 8000 BC:
A large struck flint flake from Mell, Drogheda. Accepted theory is that settlement commenced in Ireland in Mesolithic times, c.7000 BC, this artefact suggest an earlier human presence. However this find may have been carried from Britain through natural glacial processes. It has been a source of controversy since its discovery by Frank Mitchell in the 1980s.
Mesolithic – (circa 7000 to 4000 BC)
The earliest evidence for human colonisation and settlement in Ireland can be dated to 7000 BC, the Mesolithic Period. The people of this era were hunter-gatherers, entirely dependent on what food could be obtained through hunting and gathering, amongst other things, edible plants and shellfish. The transition of these early settlers from hunter/gatherers to a farming way of life in the Neolithic Period brought about more permanent settlements and a more complex and structured social hierarchy. There are no known archaeological sites dating to the Mesolithic Period within the Study Area. The general lack of sites does not, however, mean that such early settlement and occupation were unknown to the region.
Neolithic Age (circa 4000 to 2400 BC)
The Neolithic period saw the introduction of farming societies into Ireland. Relics of their working implements are found throughout the estate. A few miles upstream on the opposite side of the river is the prehistoric site of Brú na Bóinne which is dominated by the three great burial mounds of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth. Surrounded by about forty satellite passage graves, they constitute a funerary landscape recognised as having great ritual significance. These are the oldest surviving monuments in the valley and were constructed by Neolithic farmers from 3260BC to 3080BC.
The first farming communities arrived around 3700BC, moving into a heavily forested valley of oak and elm on higher ground, flanked by hazel, alder and birch on the valley bottom. People lived in simple rectangular timber houses which were enclosed with large palisaded enclosures.
Neolithic Lithic scatter
Seven tilled fields were examined systematically to assess the range of human activity in the ploughsoil. A field walking survey in 2000 on the site of the Battle of the Boyne (1690) revealed a number of notable flint concentrations. The material dated broadly to the Neolithic and Early Bronze age periods. Flint pebbles are present in the glacial drift which covers this area of the river valley. In field A a particular concentration is close to a break in slope on the western side of the field. In field B a particular concentration was located near the south-east corner of the field known as the ‘Leganass field’. In field C a particular concentration was located above a break in slope demarcated by an island of tree planting.
Flint, cheroot, chert discovered through field walking. Seven hundred and sixty six piece of flint and eighty two items of other stone types were discovered in the survey area. Most of these showed evidence of having been worked and a number were formally crafted tools such as scrapers, knives and blades. A general blanket of flint was found throughout the area but there were a number of different concentrations suggesting industrial and habitation sites. Where there are flint scatters a suggestion can be made that there are additional archaeological features under the plough level. This suggests that a sizeable population resided in this area.
Chert Dress Pin
Chert pin and flint flake
Contract 7, Oldbridge 4
Oldbridge 4 was identified during monitoring of topsoil stripping as two ditches and three pits/postholes. One phase of archaeological activity at the site was dated to the Iron Age (740–390 BC) and comprised the western portion of a possible enclosure ditch with an estimated diameter of 21m.
A stone dress pin recovered from a modern ditch on the site is thought to date to the late Neolithic and could be an indication of earlier activity in the vicinity of the site. The excavated remains from this site and the other sites in the immediate vicinity indicate that this area was the focus of activity over a prolonged period from the early Neolithic to the early medieval period and it is probable that the proximity of the River Boyne may have been a big attraction of this location which resulted in it being revisited repeatedly through time.
A stone pin, made of chert was recovered from this fill (01E0267:68:1). It was broken into at least three pieces and the tip and mid section survive and refit. Such pins are very rare in the archaeological record or, alternatively, are rarely recovered. The pin most likely functioned as a dress fastener and probably dates to the late Neolithic period (Sternke, Appendix 2.2). The stone pin (01E0267:68:1) has broken into at least three pieces. The tip and midsection survive and refit. It has been shaped by grinding and has an octagonal cross section. The pin has a damaged tip and is 46 mm long and 4 mm in diameter. Such pins are very rare in the archaeological record or, alternatively, are rarely recovered. Recently, an almost identical example was found at Busherstown 1 (E3661), Co. Offaly (Sternke 2009). The pin most likely functioned as a dress fastener and probably dates to the late Neolithic period.
Additional Neolithic Material
Neolithic pit Excavation 2000 Oldbridge 1 A single pit was uncovered on the access road route of the Northern Motorway (Drogheda Bypass) 50m north of its junction with the Sheephouse Road. The pit, 1m in diameter, produced sherds of Western Neolithic shouldered bowl.
SMR No: ME020-054— Townland Oldbridge Class: Excavation (Misc) This site was identified during monitoring along the route of the Northern Motorway, Gormanston– Monasterboice, Contract 7, approximately 500m south of the River Boyne. It was on gently sloping, northerly-facing ground. The two-month excavation revealed a series of narrow linear ditches, a curvilinear ditch, a U-shaped ditch and several possible post-holes. No more precise stratigraphic relationships could be established for these features. As before, no dating evidence was recovered to help aid interpretation.
OLDBRIDGE 5 Oldbridge 5 was identified during monitoring of topsoil stripping as a linear feature. The site comprised a linear ditch feature with evidence of two recuts, and four possible postholes. Only one find was recovered from one of the ditch fills, a chert rubbing stone and although it may date to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age it cannot be taken as an indication of dating for the ditch.
Predominantly oat (Avena sp.) with lesser quantities of barley (Hordeum sp.) were identified from two fills of linear ditch C20 and the presence of barley and cultivated oat collectively suggests an early historic/medieval crop assemblage, since the cultivation of oat is primarily dated from the early medieval period in Ireland (Lyons, Appendix 2.5). A sample of charred cereal grain selected for dating from one of the ditch fills failed and as such the site remains undated.
SMR No: ME020-034— Townland Oldbridge Class: Excavation (Misc) Neolithic Pit: A single pit was uncovered on the access road route of the M1, 50m north of its junction with the Sheephouse Road by Kieran Campbell, VJK Ltd. The pit, 1 m in diameter, produced sherds of a Western Neolithic shouldered bowl.
SMR No: ME020-036— Townland Sheephouse Class: Excavation (Misc) Prehistoric enclosure. An oval enclosure, situated on a gentle north-facing slope and measuring c. 30m x 30m, was discovered during test-trenching carried out by Valerie J. Keely Ltd. Topsoil stripping began in November 2000, revealing the extent of the enclosure, long with internal post holes and pits and additional peripheral material including cremation pits. Excavated by Dermot Neilis, lAC Ltd. Multi-phase habitation site. This site was located 1 km west of Drogheda on the Rathmullan road and overlooked the Boyne to the north. It was excavated by Declan Moore, AES Ltd. It consisted of a line of post holes containing Neolithic Pottery, enclosure ditches, an oval enclosure, a circular ditch feature, a large enclosure. Throughout the site there was evidence of hearths, pits and post holes as well as a number of kilns.
Prehistoric activity. This site was discovered during monitoring of topsoil stripping during the construction of the M 1 motorway it was located between the two sites described above 2000:0778 and 2000: 1055. It contained a scattering of typical subsoil cut features such as refuse pits, hearths, stakes and post holes. The site produced very few artefacts and was excavated by Dermot Neilis, lAC Ltd.
In 2000 an excavation at along the line of the M1 motorway at Sheephouse uncovered two cremation pits, one truncating the other, were revealed south of the enclosure. Three definite deposits of burnt human bone fragments were retrieved; the two from the later pit were separated by a small, charred, wooden plank. The pit was sealed by a dark brown, charcoal-rich, silty soil, in which a saddle quern had been deposited. The circular pit with a maximum depth of 0. 28m and a diameter of 0.73m. had steep sides and a flat base, giving it a broad ‘U’ shape in profile. The feature was filled with three deposits, all of which contained inclusions of burnt bone and charcoal, suggesting that it may have served as a domestic refuse-pit or even as a token cremation pit. It is possibly more likely, however, that the pit is related to the large prehistoric enclosure at Sheephouse, excavated by Dermot Nelis approximately 40m to the north.
Ten pieces of struck flint, including two scrapers two quartzite plough pebbles discovered at northern end of potato field while tree planting in 2011.
5,000-year-old logboat found at Oldbridge
|William Gregory and Stephen Murphy (two of the finders) examining the logboat prior to it being lifted onto the riverbank (Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Suspension Bridge in the background).
Scientific dating has confirmed that the remains of a logboat found in the River Boyne close to the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site dates to the Neolithic period, over 5,000 years ago.
The prehistoric logboat was found in June 2016 by four local anglers while fishing on the river at In June 2016 four anglers made a curious discovery while fishing a tidal stretch of the River Boyne at Oldbridge, Co. Meath. Instead of making their usual catch of trout, which the Boyne is renowned for, local angler Stephen Murphy, accompanied by Kieran Mahar, William Gregory and David Johnston stumbled upon the remains of a strange object poking out of the riverbed. Initially it wasn’t exactly clear what they had come across as Stephen and his fellow anglers had fished this part of the Boyne many times previously and had never noted anything usual in the riverbed at this location. However, upon closer examination the group quickly realised they had discovered a section of an ancient boat which they secured for fear it might get washed away. The find was immediately reported to the heritage authorities and following an inspection by the Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service, the find was confirmed to be the base of a logboat (a boat hollowed and shaped from a single tree trunk using axes and adzes).
After obtaining a Licence to Alter and a Licence to Export from the National Museum of Ireland, a sample was recently sent to the Chrono Centre in Queen’s University Belfast which provided a date of circa 3300BC-2900BC placing the construction of the boat some time in or around the turn of the 3rd millennium BC. This also places the date of the boat firmly at the time when Newgrange and many of the other major monuments centred along the Boyne and wider Brú na Bóinne area were being constructed and in their primary phase of use. The Oldbridge logboat is one of only 11 logboats known to have been found in the Boyne but more importantly it is one of only 7 other examples known from Ireland to date to the Neolithic period (c.4000 -2500 BC).
Logboats are known to have been used for a wide variety of purposes in Ireland including fishing, travel, transport of goods, exploitation of natural resources, ritual activity and warfare and it’s likely that the Oldbridge logboat was involved in a number of these activities It has been previously put forward that much of the stone such as the greywacke, the granite cobbles/boulders and quartz used to construct Newgrange and the other Brú na Bóinne passage tombs was transported to the Boyne from the surrounding counties by boat, initially along the established coastal routes and then upstream to the Bend of the Boyne. While there is no direct evidence to link this boat to such activity, it is possible that this boat could have been involved in such activity either carrying stone itself, pulling stone laden rafts or as one of a set of paired logboats (the River Quoile logboat from Co. Down being a possible example of this and also dating to the Neolithic (see Gregory 1997, 16-17). At present, however, there is limited evidence for the use of logboats at sea off the coast of Ireland with the Gormanston boat (late Bronze Age), found in the Irish Sea 1km off Gormanston, being the only example known from an open sea context. There are many other examples from sea loughs, estuaries and inshore coastal waters which hint that their use in such environments was more widespread, even if oak logboats are not ideally suited to navigating at sea if conditions were anyway rough. It is therefore more likely that the Oldbridge logboat spent most of it time plying the waters of the River Boyne and its estuary during the middle Neolithic.
The logboat was found in the River Boyne approximately 300m upstream of the Drogheda M1 suspension bridge. A light layer of silt and stones partially covered the boat which lay upside-down mid-channel in the river in approximately 1m of water at low tide. The boat was found approximately 8.km downstream from Newgrange or 5.6km as the crow flies.
The section of river at Oldbridge where the boat was discovered.
“It is tempting to ponder the part such a vessel might have played in the construction of these burial monuments and the lives of those who built them, in ferrying people along the river, and transporting materials and stones used to build the great tombs.”
Boat: Boats and canoes, generally formed out of a single piece of timber. A fairly well preserved piece of oak. It was found about the year 1844, in the bed of the river Boyne, near the southern bank, in deep water, between Oldbridge and Drogheda. Length 18 feet 9 inches; average width 2 feet 10 inches, height in the side about 20 inches. Through its floor or bottom are three artificial apertures the use of which remains to be explained.
NMI 2010:323 Rathmullan (River Boyne at Drogheda), Co. Meath. Trough Wooden dugout trough. Large oak trunk which has been dugout. One end is a perfect semi-circle in profile, the d part of the semi-circle forming the base of the dugout, and a lug has been carved out, and projects from the end of the object. Would not function well as a boat.
1827 Log Boat discovered during dredging at Oldbridge Fishing boat
Hughes, W.I. 1840-4 ‘On an Ancient Boat found near Drogheda’ PRIA, 2:246-8. Dublin
The Oldbridge boat was very wide and heavy for slow flowing river like the Boyne. Dr. Niall Gregory suggested it carried something heavy eg the stones for Newgrange.
Freeman’s Journal 18 March 1869
Boat found in 1840s
Bronze Age (circa 2400 to 500 BC)
A ritual landscape had developed in the area by the late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age. The landscape has a number of components: ring-barrow cemetery, cist burials and standing stones. It is possible that the ring-barrows and cist burials represent two distinct burial and ceremonial areas. It is likely that the barrow cemetery continued to be used in the later prehistoric periods.
On the Oldbridge estate, work on the Battle of the Boyne site brought to light a series of ring ditches, some revealed in geophysical survey, others visible in aerial photographs of fields on the terrace to the south of Oldbridge House.
A ring-ditch is a circular or near circular fosse, usually less than 20m in diameter and visible as cropmarks/soilmarks on aerial photographs. The function of these monuments is unknown as ring-ditches may be the remains of ploughed out barrows, round houses or other modern features and, in consequence, may date to any period from prehistory onwards.
Ring-ditches and barrows became common burial monuments in the middle to late Bronze Age. These could contain central cremation pits or cremated bone/funeral pyre debris in or beneath a mound or in the ringditch fill. Sometimes there is no direct funerary evidence although often the monuments were located within a prehistoric cemetery complex. It can be difficult to be certain whether ring-ditches formed standalone funerary monuments or the remnants of flattened barrows or were in the case of those with no associated burials, cemetery markers or even non-funerary structures.
There are at least six ring barrows or ring ditches distributed over the Oldbridge estate with a distinct group in the top field to the south of the parkland. Most were visible by aerial photography but a few others were first discovered during the geophysical survey. The most isolated ring ditch is in the north west corner of the Leganassey field. Measuring 10m it is visible as a crop mark in aerial photographs.
Four ring ditches were found on the faint gravel knolls that protrude in places above the surface of the top field to the south of the parklands. Three were visible from aerial photographs. One of these was selected for further investigation with magnet gradiometry which had the result of the discovery of a fourth ring ditch and identifying two small pit features in the ring ditch surveyed.
Ring-ditch A: Situated on a rise. It was first identified by Cooney (et al. 2001, vo. 1, 43-4) as the cropmark of a small circular feature (diam. c. 7m) defined by a single fosse feature that is visible on the OSI aerial images (1995), and also (2005). Remote sensing recorded an outer ditch feature and two internal pits (ibid. Fig. 37). It can also be seen on Google Earth (07/05/2017). See the attached enhanced view from OSI images (1995). References: 1. Cooney, G. , Byrnes, E., Brady, C., and A. O’Sullivan 2001 A pilot archaeological survey of the site of the Battle of the Boyne, Oldbridge estate, Co. Meath. Unpublished report for Duchas, Licence No. 00E0860, University College Dublin.
Ring-ditch B: Situated on a rise. It was first identified by Cooney (et al. 2001, vol. 1, 43-4, Fig. 37) in a remote sensing survey in Panel F as a circular feature (diam. c. 10m) defined by a single fosse feature. It is c. 25m E of ring-ditch (ME020-025016-). References: 1. Cooney, G. , Byrnes, E., Brady, C., and A. O’Sullivan 2001 A pilot archaeological survey of the site of the Battle of the Boyne, Oldbridge estate, Co. Meath. Unpublished report for Duchas, Licence No. 00E0860, University College Dublin.
Ring-ditch C: Situated at the E end of a slight E-W ridge on a NE-facing slope. A small circular enclosure (diam. c. 5m) defined by a single fosse feature is visible on OSI aerial images (1995) and (2005). It can also be seen faintly on Google Earth (07/05/2017). (Cooney et al. 2001, vol. 1, 43-4). See the attached view (R) from OSI images (1995). References: 1. Cooney, G. , Byrnes, E., Brady, C., and A. O’Sullivan 2001 A pilot archaeological survey of the site of the Battle of the Boyne, Oldbridge estate, Co. Meath. Unpublished report for Duchas, Licence No. 00E0860, University College Dublin.
Ring-ditch D: Situated at the W end of a slight E-W ridge on a NE-facing slope. A small circular feature (diam. < c. 3m) defined by a single fosse feature is visible or OSI aerial images (1995). Cooney et al. 2001, vol. 1, 43-4) See the attached view (L) from OSI images (1995)
Ring-Ditch E: At rear of Gate Lodge. Situated on level ground in the parkland of Oldbridge House. It was first identified by Cooney (et al. 2001, vol. 1, 43-4, fig. 33, 16) in a remote sensing survey in Panel C as a circular feature (diam. c. 7m) defined by a single fosse feature and with two internal possible pit features. It was also recorded in a subsequent geomagnetic survey (Davis 2017, Fig. 5, 10). References: 1. Davis, S. 2017 Geophysical survey at Oldbridge, Co. Meath. Preliminary report, License No. 17R0048. Unpublished report for the Office of Public Works. Department of Archaeology, University College Dublin. 2. Cooney, G. , Byrnes, E., Brady, C., and A. O’Sullivan 2001 A pilot archaeological survey of the site of the Battle of the Boyne, Oldbridge estate, Co. Meath. Unpublished report for Duchas, Licence No. 00E0860, University College Dublin.
Ring ditch D
Cists at Oldbridge
A cist is a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead. A “cist burial” is a type of prehistoric burial in which the deceased’s body is placed inside a small rectangular stone-lined grave. This type of burial is common in many parts of the world, including Ireland, where it has been found in various archaeological sites from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age.
A cist located 220 metres southwest of the house near the escarpment and paths leading to the canal and river. The site is now obscured by trees and vegetation. When George Coffey described the site in 1895 he described it as a tumulus 60 feet in diameter and 6 feet high. Coddington marked off the mound with large stones. A narrow sunken path with drystone walling leads to the cist which is visible in section in the mound.
In Ireland, cist burials are usually found in small clusters, sometimes as part of a larger burial site, and are typically constructed using large flat stones to form the walls and roof of the burial chamber. The remains of the deceased are often placed on a layer of pebbles or stones, and the grave is usually covered with a capstone to protect the contents.
Cist burials are important archaeological features in Ireland, as they provide a glimpse into the burial practices and beliefs of our ancient ancestors. The presence of artefacts and other accompanying material within these burials can give us valuable insights into the culture, economy, and social structure of the people who lived in Ireland during the prehistoric period.
Segmented cist described (PRIA 1895, 745-52) as being in a mound (diam. c. 18m, H c. 1.8m). Bowl Food Vessel found in N chamber. Cist preserved with large cap stone (L 2m, W 0.3m, thickness 0.4m). Mound not discernible. In December 1894 Colonel Coddington was reparing the ground to plant a tree on top of a small mound in the back lawn of Oldbridge House. He discovered a large flagstone. Thinking there might be a grave underneath he excavated at the west side of the stone and uncovered several supporting stones. A double cist was discovered. The cist was on the south bank of the Boyne, overlooking the river.
It measured 60 feet in diameter and 6 feet in height. The covering stone measured 7 feet by 6 feet 6 inches by 1 foot 3 inches at its thickest part.
The chambers were equal size 4 feet by 2 feet and 2 feet 8 inches in depth. They were flagged at the bottom. The middle or dividing stone, does not touch the cap stone.
View of a stone tomb in Oldbridge Garden, County Meath.
Copy by William Frazer after an original drawing by Thomas J. Westropp.
When the stones at the west side were uncovered it was possible to see into the southern chamber, where the stone closing that end of the chamber did not fit closely against the dividing stone of the cist. This chamber was apparently empty. Colonel Coddington then broke off the stone hiding the northern chamber. In this chamber an urn was seen resting on its side in the eastern corner of the chamber. The urn was taken out on a spade, without damage. The floors of both chambers were covered to a depth of a few inches with loose gravelly earth and with the exception of the urn the second chamber appeared to be also empty. On taking out a spadeful of earth from the floors of each of the chambers, the earth was found to be mixed with particles of decomposed bone.
The urn is similar to other urns found in cists. It measures three and three quarter inches in height, the diameter at the mouth is four and a half inches, that at the base three and a half inches, while the greatest diameter is six inches. There was some fine mould partly caked towards one side of the inside of the urn. No trace of fire was apparent in the cist or the inside of the urn.
A number of enamel crowns were discovered in the earth on the ground in the northern chamber. These were thought to belong to a male of about forty years of age and those of the other chamber, of a young female with her head towards the west of the chamber. A bead necklace was discovered in the southern chamber. A number of jet beads and a triangular jet pendant were found towards the west of the chamber. On examination it is thought that the material was fine lignite rather than true jet. The beads comprised 13 cylindrical beads from half an inch to seven-eights in length, by about two-eights in diameter. The beads were slightly swelled at the middle. Fifty five discoidal beads were also uncovered. The beads and pendent are similar to jet beads and pendants found in England and Scotland. Jet ornaments are rare in Ireland. It would appear that the northern chamber contained the remains of two men.
When the National Museum learned that the Coddingtons intended to leave the country they instituted inquiries about the Bronze Age artefacts with a view to obtaining them for the nation. Nicholas Coddington was unable to tell the Museum officials the whereabouts of the objects. The garda were asked by the Museum to make inquiries about the items. A spokesman for the Museum said the objects were a well known find and very important scientifically. What made the find unusual was the finding of the necklace with two beautifully preserved pots. As they were not gold or silver they were not regarded as treasure trove and the State had no automatic right to them. Archaeological artefacts of such importance could not be brought out of the country without an export licence which had not been applied for or obtained.
It seemed as if the items were misplaced or mislaid. According to the National Museum the items belonged to the Coddington family. In the 1960s and 70s the items were displayed in the National Museum for twenty years but were requested back by the family in 1976. . At that stage the Museum tried to purchase or have the items donated to the museum but the Coddington family preferred to have them at the Oldbridge estate. None of the items were listed in the goods stolen during two major robberies at the estate over the previous three years and neither were they included in the sale of the contents of the family home. The Museum was anxious to locate the items as they were part of our national heritage and of more historical and scientific value than monetery.
Short cist with a Bowl Food Vessel and inhumation, discovered in 1889 (PRIA 1897C, 570-4)
In December 1889 a cist was accidentally discovered which was discovered when stones which were interfering with ploughing were removed. The find occurred at the top of a hill locally called “ The Mountain” and Colonel Coddington erected a wooden shed over the monument. The cist was built of four slabs of stone resting on the ground which supported a large covering slab. The Cist was investigated by Alfred C. Hayden. The cavity measured 3 feet 2 inches (970mm) in length, 1 foot 9 inches (535 mm) in breath and 1 foot 6 inches (460mm) in depth. The long axis is orientated NE by E. The stones are of local origin, the covering stone is a greenish flag and is pitted on its original under-surface with four depressions which are like cup markings. In the south west corner there was found a cranium. In the centre of the cist were heaped six large bones with fragments of smaller ones on top. Marks of fire were observed on the sides of the cist and on the underside of the covering slab. The cranium and urn were in the possession of Colonel Coddington.
The urn is of a type called “food-vessel” Its dimensions are 4.5 inches (115mm) high, 5.75 inches (146 mm) in diameter at the rim, 6 inches (150mm) in greatest diameter and 2.125 (54mm) in diameter at the foot. The ornamentation consists of horizontal bands of zigzag and herringbone patterns and bands marked with horizontal lines. The patterns are formed by serial repetition of impressions made by two types of stamps, the zigzags were evidently produced by a small semi-circular stamp reversed alternately above and below; the herringbone pattern and horizontal lines were impressed by a small toothed stamp. The underside of the small base is decorated with a star having five broad rays, the field is marked with rudely scored oblique lines. The urn is very characteristic of incinerated internments.
When visited by Hayden there were only a few fragments of a skeleton in the cist, with the one singular bone identified as a portion of the right femur. The femur was that of a powerful man, decidedly curved. The man was estimated to have a height of 5 feet 10 inches (2780mm). This would make him taller than the average Neolithic man who stood at 5 foot 4 inches (1625 mm).
Colonel Coddington lent the cranium to Dr. Frazer to examine. Hayden described it as a cranium of an old male.
The location of this cist was thought to be lost as the wooden hut rotted away and the lands were sold by the Coddingtons. Dr. Steve Davis conducting a dig at a small standing stone to the north east of a well marked as a redundant record ME020-078- in 2023 discovered a plaque which read: “This cyst was discovered on Dec 20 1889 when taking away some rocks which interfered with the plough. In the SW corner the upper part of a skull without teeth was found and close to it an unburnt urn on its side partly decayed with some burnt ashes in it which is now in possession of Lt. Col. Coddington, Oldbridge. Six large bones probably those of the legs and arms with some portions of smaller ones were placed on top of each other in the centre of the cyst. Dimensions are length 3ft 2in, width, 1 ft 10 in, depth 1ft 6 in. Marks of fire were observed on the top and sides. A large green Tullyescar flag covered all. Supposed date between 500 years before Christ and 200 after.”
From the School’s Collection of Folklore
On top of a high hill called “Molly Moor” near Sheephouse, Drogheda, is a little house which is called the Dead Man’s House. About 50 years ago a man named Patrick Coogan was ploughing this field and the plough got stuck under a great stone. When the stone was raised it was found that underneath it was a sort of vault in which was an urn or skillet. In the urn were a skull, ashes, and some massive bones.
It is said that the big flag which covered the vault came from Tullyeskar, and that the body must havebeen buried there before the time of Christ.
Photographs of excavations July 2023
Standing stones are usually dated from the Neolitic period to the early medieval period. They may be territorial markers, memorial stones or ritual monuments.
Standing stones typically date from the Bronze Age period (2,500BC-700BC) although it can be difficult to establish their antiquity owing to the practice of erecting ‘scratching posts’ for cattle. The stones were erected for a variety of reasons such as burial markers. Other stones functioned as boundary markers or were positioned along old route ways. A possible Bronze Age ring ditch (ME020-025003) is located nearby to one of the standing stones (ME020-030). A ring ditch is part of a class of monuments that functioned as burial places, either singly or as cemeteries.
The first standing stone is in Groggins field surrounded by a low cairn of stones, on the crest of a gravel ridge with extensive views across the river to the north and west. From the river’s edge the stone stands out on the skyline. It is located a few hundred metres west of the ford at Drybridge. The land to the east of this stone is wooded today and is much steeper and therefore more difficult to traverse. It is possible that the stone was a route marker or a territorial monument. The standing stone is of coarse sandstone with a high quartzite content. This type of stone does not appear to be common locally. It is just over one metre in height, has a roughly square section and may have been deliberately shaped. This stone is similar to a standing stone at Fennor on the southbank of the river at Slane. The Fennor stone is also surrounded by a cairn of stones.
The second standing stone is located about 100 metres to the south of the first stone in the Leganassey field, about twenty metres from the northern boundary. This stone is not on the skyline, nor does it have extensive views. The stone is similar to the first, made of coarse sandstone, square or trapezoid in section and about one metre in height. There is no surviving evidence of a cairn but it is situated on a little gravel knoll. It is possible that modern ploughing has removed the cairn and there is a number of larger stones in the surrounding surface.
Standing stone on flat field
Standing stone on height
A new group of people, the Beaker people, arrived from Britain. They formed a strong economic base from the rich farmland along the Boyne, practicing mixed farming. Oldbridge/Sheephouse excavations 2006 The total of 111 sherds of pottery that were recovered consisted entirely of Beaker tradition and Beaker/Early Bronze Age sherds, representing at least fifteen individual vessels. A small number of flint flakes, cores and scrapers suggesting short-lived domestic sedentary occupation were also found. Small quantities of burnt sheep bone were recovered. A radiocarbon date is being sought from burnt animal bone and charcoal. This site was interpreted as a levelled midden of Early Bronze Age settlement remains. It can be seen in context locally with large Beaker-related assemblages at Rathmullan (Site 12), excavated by Teresa Bolger (Excavations 2001, No. 1036, 01E0294), Sheephouse, Co. Meath, and Mell, Co. Louth (McQuaid 2005). It is clear that archaeological deposits continued beyond the edge of the excavated site.
Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age
The unusually dry summer of 2018 brought exceptional conditions for aerial archaeology across Britain and Ireland. At least four linear post alignments have now been recorded in the wider area, including one each at Dowth and Oldbridge to the south side of the river and two examples at Newgrange.
The Oldbridge alignment occupies an elevated position on the south side of the Boyne. It comprises two parallel rows of regularly spaced pits or post-holes which extend for c. 40 m in a north-west to south-east direction. The central pits/post-holes are enclosed within a weakly magnetic rectilinear feature. This alignment has clear similarities with those identified at Newgrange and Dowth. and bears a striking similarity to the undated Scottish free-standing timber avenues reviewed by Millican.
Oldbridge pit/post alignment OLD12 (transcribed geomagnetic survey;
In the late Bronze Age about 1400 BC there was a small community in a natural basin above the south bank of the Boyne at Sheephouse, whose presence is indicated by the number of cooking sites, Fulachta fiadh. Two fulacht fiadh (ME020:029002–003) and a possible third (ME020:029001) are recorded in the townland of Sheephouse.
Fulachtai fia, have been interpreted as cooking places, bathing places or steam baths. A fulacht fiadh, Irish: fulacht fiadh or fulacht fian; plural: fulachtaí fia or, in older texts, fulachta fiadh) is a type of archaeological site found in Ireland. In England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man they are known as burnt mounds. They commonly survive as a low horseshoe-shaped mound of charcoal-enriched soil and heat shattered stone with a slight depression at its centre showing the position of the pit. No one is certain of their use or purpose. However, most theories and experiments favor their use as outdoor, multipurpose kitchens and washing areas, with probable uses including cooking, brewing, dying of cloth, and bathing in water or possibly steam.
Reconstruction of Fulacht Fiadh
Fulacht Fia ME01053 – Charcoal in the torugh was dated to 1415–1220 BC. Situated on a broad hollow on the NW-facing slope of Platten. Archaeological excavation (E000973) recorded a rectangular spread of burnt stone (dims 10.5m N-S; 6m E-W; max. T 0.4m) that sealed a rectangular trough (dims 0.95m x 0.7m; D 0.6m) cut into the shale bedrock at N. The trough was located excavated into the natural shale bedrock. It was oval in shape and measured 2.2m by 1.45m with an overall depth of 1m. The fill was composed of silty material and no lining was evident during excavation. Hazelnut shells were recorded in the fill of the trough. Beneath the spread at the S was a possible hearth visible as a circular spread of silty clay with charcoal (diam. c. 1m; T 0.2m). Recovered from the stone spread was a burnt fragment of a stone axe. Extending NW from the stone spread were 7 pits (diam. 0.7-1.3m; D 0.1-0.7m) filled with burnt stone. Excavation of the site revealed two areas of burnt mound activity which were not contemporary in date. Both contained deposits of heat-shattered stone associated with a pyrolithic water-boiling activity.
Fulacht fia (ME020-029002-) is c. 50m to the W and the burnt spread (ME020-029001-) is c. 100m to the N. (Campbell 1994 3, 4 site 2; 1995e, 73-4)
Fulacht Fia ME01051 Located on the broad plateau of Platten. Archaeological excavation (E000973) recorded a spread of burnt stone (dims 28m E-W; 23m N-S) in probing topsoil c. 90m N of the excavated fulachta fia (ME020-029002-; ME020-029003-), but it has since become incorporated into a quarry without investigation. (Campbell 1994, 4; 1995,)
Additional Bronze Age Material
SMR No: ME020-088— Townland Oldbridge Class: Enclosure
Located at the bottom of a N-facing slope down to a W-E section of the River Boyne, with the river c. 100m to the N, and just E of the M1 motorway. Archaeological testing (08E0506) identified a large enclosure (int. diam. c. 70m) defined by a ditch which produced a wealth of Middle Bronze Age pottery. Enclosure – Bronze Age Excavation 2008 Oldbridge townland – surveyed for housing in 2008. The study area was located immediately east of the M1 motorway and south of the River Boyne. It comprised four fields, covering an area of c. 64 acres, under grassland and tillage. A prehistoric enclosure, of probable Middle Bronze Age date (c. 1500 bc) and c. 70m in diameter, was discovered in Field 3. An impressive array of Middle Bronze Age pottery was retrieved from a single slot excavated to its base. A relatively dense cluster of archaeological remains was also encountered, mostly to the exterior of the enclosure. The potential archaeological remains comprise undated ditches and pits. The geophysical report proved of limited value in Field 3 with most anomalies proving of relatively recent or non-archaeological origin.
Contract 7 Sheephouse 3: Sheephouse 3 was identified as a result of archaeological assessment undertaken in 2000 (Valerie J. Keeley 2003; Licence No. 00E282). A circular ditched enclosure was identified at the site. The excavation area measured c. 5380m².
A linear gully (Phase 1) which traversed the site predated a late Bronze Age enclosure and may have dated to the middle Bronze Age. The middle Bronze Age activity (Phase 2) comprised a possible slot structure and associated pits, postholes and cobbled surfaces in the north-west of the site, along with a gully in the south- west, and pits and cobbled surfaces in the west. A series of dates from these features ranged from 1630–1260 BC. Finds recovered from these features included a number of hammer/rubbing stones dated to the middle/late Neolithic or early Bronze Age and a Neolithic convex end scraper. Grooved Ware pottery and late Bronze Age domestic pottery recovered from these features indicate both disturbance of earlier features and later disturbance.
Late Bronze Age activity (Phase 3) comprised a circular ditched enclosure (C2) and two pits in the south of the site. The enclosure, as defined by the ditch, measured c.32m east–west x c. 28m north–south and was a maximum of 3m wide and 1.9m deep. The enclosure had an east facing entrance defined by a gap in the enclosing ditch. Radiocarbon dating suggests a late Bronze Age date for the ditch (1120–910BC), with the final backfilling taking place in the late Bronze Age / early Iron Age transition (790–520 BC). One of the pits in the south of the site also returned a late Bronze Age date (1130–920 BC). Lithic finds recovered from the ditch fills mainly comprised rubbing stones and convex end scrapers, along with various cores and flakes, the majority of which were thought to date to the middle/late Neolithic or early Bronze Age (Sternke, Appendix 2.3) and could be an indication of earlier activity on the site. A small quantity of late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery was also recovered from these fills further suggesting disturbance of earlier activity. Another, contemporary, enclosure was also identified as part of this scheme c. 1.7km to the south-east at Lagavooren 17 (01E0396).
In the extreme south of the Sheephouse 3 site there was a concentration of pits, postholes and cobbled surfaces of unknown date. The closest dated features were a pit c. 12m to the east dated to the late Bronze Age and a gully located c. 15m to the north-west, dated to the middle Bronze Age. Like the other areas on the site the majority of the finds recovered from these features indicate activity in the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age. Post medieval activity on the site (Phase 4) comprised linear field drains and ditches.
The main focus of archaeological activity at Sheephouse 3 was a large circular ditched enclosure dated to the late Bronze Age and a possible structure defined by curving slot trenches dated to the middle Bronze Age
Middle Bronze Age possible structure – function, form and comparisons The possible structure at Sheephouse 3 was defined by two portions of curving slot trench which may have been the remains of a circular or oval structure with a diameter of c. 10m. A study of Bronze Age houses by Doody (2000, 139), found that of 28 examples for which accurate measurements were available, the majority (over 60%) were between 5–9m in diameter, while eight measured less than 5m and three over 10m. Due to the possible truncation in the west and north-west of the Sheephouse structure it has only been possible to estimate the diameter of the structure which may have been c. 10m and as such this possible structure falls towards the larger end of the scale in Doody’s study.
The material uncovered so far hints at various levels of settlement activity. Small shallow pits containing varying amounts of Carinated Bowl pottery, flint and burnt material have been found, for example, at Balgatheran, Mell and Oldbridge (Campbell 2002a, 2002b, 2002c). These pits may be the last visible remnants of temporary, shifting settlements (e.g. Pollard 2001, 316), or may represent more abstract and isolated acts of deposition in the landscape. Given that most of these features have been uncovered along relatively narrow road takes or pipeline corridors, we currently do not know how separate or isolated this activity really is.
Rectangular timber houses have been uncovered in a number of locations outside the WHS: along the Boyne, at Coolfore, Lagavooren and Cruicerath (Ó Drisceoil 2003, 2004; Moore 2003; Ellen O’Carroll, pers. comm.); along the River Dee at Richardstown and Newtown (Byrnes 1999, 2000; Halpin 1995); and in north Louth along the Castletown River at Plaster and Aghnaskeagh (John Turrell, pers. comm.; NRA 2006). It has been argued that these types of buildings have a limited date range, approximately 3800–3600 cal BC (McSparron 2003, 2008; Smyth 2006), and as such must represent only part of the wider settlement picture
Iron Age (circa 500 BC to AD 400)
The Early Bronze Age seems to have been followed by a period of virtual inactivity from 1800 BC to the first century AD leaving little tangible landscape impact. The valley was apparently deserted with pollen cores showing that arable cultivation virtually disappeared during this period.
In the early medieval period (c.AD 432 to c.AD 1169) Oldbridge and the Brú na Bóinne formed part of the petty kingdom or tuath of Brega ruled by the Aed Sláine dynasty, which rose to prominence in the late sixth and early seventh centuries as high kings of Ireland. It had its royal centre at or near the passage tomb at Knowth. This was a strictly rural settlement dominated by the dispersed protected farmsteads known as ringforts associated with a farming economy. There are upstanding ringforts at Knowth and Newgrange, and levelled examples appear as crop-marks in Gilltown, Oldbridge and Sheephouse. Subsequently, souterrains (subterranean structures constructed with drystone walling and capped with large stone lintels) were built as refuges in the area. The souterrains found in Brú na Bóinne have beehive chambers, a form found in an area roughly corresponding to the kingdom of Brega.
The cropmark on aerial photograph (ACAP, 912) shows a possible enclosure (diam. c. 50m) in the southern part of the Potato field. There are no surviving internal features. Fieldwalking in the vicinity produced some pieces of slag which would indicate some light industrial activity.
Archaeologist Claire Walsh suggested that this is in fact a ring fort. The possible enclosure ditch is dated to the Iron Age (740–390 BC) and is evidence of a continuation of activity in the surrounding area through much of prehistory and into the early medieval period.
Reconstruction of a ring fort
Ringforts are generally viewed as the farmsteads of an early medieval rural society. Ringforts (also known by the names rath, lios, cathair or caiseal/cashel) are defended farmsteads and are the most characteristic monument of the Early Medieval Period. Their main phase of construction and occupation dates from the beginning of the 7th century AD to the end of the 9th century. They are generally circular or oval in plan, defined by an earthen bank with an external ditch or fosse. Larger ringforts are generally interpreted as higher status sites and these can be particularly associated with specialised craft working. The sub-surface remains of circular dwelling houses and associated outbuildings are frequently revealed within ringforts during excavation. Some ringforts have associated souterrains (underground chambers connected by narrow creepways) as defensive features which may have also been used for storage. Others have associated corn-drying kilns and sometimes external structures.
This enclosure/ringfort may have been associated with activity at the adjacent site of Sheephouse 1 where a kiln dated to the Iron Age (160 BC–AD 60) was excavated. This was located in the southern end of a field close to the road between Oldbridge and Sheephouse town lands and the area of excavation measured approximately 130m x 10m. A bowl shaped feature that may represent the remains of a kiln was excavated by Dermot Neilis, lAC Ltd, along with a series of irregularly shaped pits. This kiln at Sheephouse 1 was somewhat later and could indicate continuity of activity at this location through the Iron Age.
There are a number of souterrains in the vicinity of Oldbridge. A souterrain is an underground structure consisting of one or more chambers connected by narrow passages or creepways, usually constructed of drystone-walling with a lintelled roof over the passages and a corbelled roof over the chambers. Most souterrains appear to have been built in the early medieval period by ringfort inhabitants (c. 500 – 1000 AD) as a defensive feature and/or for storage. Souterrains, also referred to as earth-houses or underground structures, are a type of archaeological feature unique to Ireland. It is believed that these subterranean structures served a variety of purposes, including as storage facilities, living quarters, and ritual spaces, during the Iron Age and Early Middle Ages.
Souterrains are prevalent in the northern and western regions of Ireland, where they are frequently associated with ringforts and other forms of defensive structures. It is believed that the presence of souterrains in these regions may have afforded additional protection and security to the locals during times of armed conflict.
The souterrains found in the Boyne Valley are those with beehive chambers, a type of chamber that occurs in a tight cluster approximately to the kingdom of Bregia.
Souterrains are characterised by their intricate construction, which frequently consists of stone slabs, dry-stone walls, and corbelled roofs. The use of these building techniques and materials demonstrates the ancient builders’ technical expertise as well as their familiarity with local geology and building traditions.
It is believed that souterrains served a variety of functions, including as places to store valuable goods, as dwellings, and as ritual spaces. The presence of hearths, cooking pits, and other domestic features in some souterrains indicates that they were used as living quarters, whereas the presence of ritual deposits, such as animal bones and pottery, indicates that they were utilised for religious or spiritual purposes.
There are two possible souterains in the Groggins field and two near Glenmore. A recorded souterrain (ME020-004) is located a little to the northwest of the standing stone in the Groggins field. A possible second souterrain was identified in the south of the field in 1983, discovered just a month after the discovery of the first in the north of the field. The exact location of the second is now lost. This site was discovered during land relamation works, a bulldozer uncovered several “tunnels”. This proved to be an impressive 6.5 m
Souterrain ME020-004 is a Y-shaped, drystone-built passage (cumulative L 6.5m), each prong ending in a beehive chamber. SMR No. ME020-004 is described as having two circular chambers connected by a Y –shaped passageway. Field Survey, 13/06/83, Sweetman: “The original entrance is now completely blocked with collapse. There is a well preserved chamber at the east side. It is constructed with dry-stone walling with largish boulders (up to 2.50m x .40m) near the base and getting smaller higher up. “The passages are built with dry-stone walling and lintels over. In some cases, there are substantial gaps between these lintels, which are filled with boulders. The eastern chamber has a jamb at the south side of the exit; otherwise the dry-stone rises directly from the floor level. Some animal bone was to be seen to the east of the chamber, and maybe some occupation debris.”
The souterrain has now been filled in, with just some corbelling and a capstone visible in one of the chambers.
Souterrain in Groggin’s Field
There are two souterrains in the vicinity of Glenmore House. Historic 25 Inch OS Map showing the location of two souterrains.
Souterrain ME020-007 is near the river upstream between Oldbridge and Glenmore. It is described as a Z-shaped souterrain with drystone-built, corbelled passages (total revealed L 15.8m). Passage ends in beehive chamber (diam. 2.70m, H 1.6m). Second passage (L 1.85m) runs E from main passage and terminates in beehive chamber (diam. 2.5m, H 1.7m). Two men ploughing on the Coddington estate in 1983 came across flagstones. When they were raised, a passage leading to a circular chamber was exposed. Charcoal and ash were observed on the floor of the circular chamber. A further inspection of the site revealed a complex Z-shaped souterrain formed by a passage with two corbelled chambers off it.
Location of souterrain high on riverbank.
Opening on roof of chamber
The souterrain, ME020-079, is located in a field called “Glenmore Lawn”. Situated just off the brow of a ridge on gently sloping land overlooking the Boyne river valley to the north. The remains of a souterrain passage is visible via three gaps in the roof that were exposed as result of ploughing resulting in a shallow depression c. 6m x 4m. The passage, 0.7m wide and averaging 0.70m high in the exposed sections runs approximately north-south and it proved possible to examine only a small section of it where lintels have been removed. The walls are composed of dry-stone walling on top which rests a series of lintels. The passage measures at least 9m in length and curves northwards from the exposed section in the depression. Further collapse of a section of the souterrain took place in 2014 some 3.8m north of the existing openings. The souterrain appears to terminate immediately south of the southern-most gap but it is very collapsed in this area and the visible corner may represent an angled turn with the passage turning towards the east.
An interesting feature of the chamber is that there is an air-vent towards the “back left” (as one stands at the chamber entrance) of the chamber. This air-vent would have connected to the outside and would have been used for, as the name suggests, supplying air to the chamber and preventing suffocation. The surface opening of the air-vent would be located nearby, often disguised. The presence of an air-vent clearly suggests that occupancy of the chamber was expected on occasion. Air-vents may also have been a way in which people outside the chamber could communicate with those inside.
An examination of the remainder of the passage made clear that the rest of the souterrain is in danger of collapse too. This can clearly be seen from looking at the lintel over the door of the entrance from the passage into the chamber.
Given the size of the chamber, the restricted passage and the air-vent it would seem probable that this souterrain was intended for use as a place of refuge. The souterrain may have also been used as storage. The original entrance passage to the chamber would have been much longer, including the collapsed sections.
A report from JRSAI 1895 describes the discovery of an artificial cave at Oldbridge by ploughmen in the employ of Colonel Coddington. A large flagstone was discovered in a ploughed field. When the flagstone was lifted and an opening created, a drystone-built passage leading to a central circular chamber was discovered. At one end of the chamber a quantity of ashes were found. It is not known if this description relates to one of the souterrains known at Oldbridge or the cist discovered when ploughing in 1889.
Schools Collection 1930s. Once upon a time there lived in a little hut in the woods of Glenmore (Sheephouse, Drogheda) a very old woman. Her hut was situated at the entrance to a cave, and from time to time people used to come to examine the cave.
On a certain Sunday evening there came two musicians – a brother and a sister – who went into the cave but never came back. It is thought that they may have gone too far and lost their way, and it is said that their music was heard under the Railway Bridge Duleek.
Early medieval 5th – 12th century
The traditional story is that St. Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland through the Boyne river. He lit his pascal fire on the Hill of Slane.
Monasteries became a focal point for the lay communities of this period who were spread throughout the countryside in settlements such as ringforts/raths, crannogs and simple huts. In Duleek, c. 2.5km to the southwest, the stone church of St. Cianán (ME027- 038003) was established within a large ecclesiastical enclosure (ME027-038019).
Tirechan’s Life of St. Patrick and the Annals of Ulster for the year AD724 make reference to a stone church in Duleek. The present-day concentric street patterns of Duleek town follow the original circular shape of the ecclesiastical enclosure that was such a distinctive feature of the early monastic sites. According to Swan the ecclesiastical enclosure ‘has become fossilised in the street system’. Recorded archaeological sites dating to this period within the Study Area include ringforts and souterrains.
Vikings and Oldbridge
We can imagine how the Vikingships rowed upriver striking terror into the residents here on the banks of the Boyne. The Irish annals tell of the horror of the Viking raids and the destruction inflicted upon the monasteries and settlements. Seeing them shoot out of the fog on mornings like this would wake you up fairly sharpish.
Duleek monastery was plundered by the Vikings in 830. In 833 Slane was attacked. In 837 large fleets of sixty ships appeared on the rivers Boyneand Liffey and ravaged the surrounding areas. Churches, forts and dwellings possibly souterrains were plundered.
In 841 there was a fleet of Northmen on the Boyne at Rosnaree. There was a longphort at Rosnaree. The Annals of the Four Masters refer to a fleet of sixty ships on the Boyne in 836, this would have equated to a raiding forced of between 3,000 and 4,000 men. There is a mention of a Viking site at Linn-Rois in 841 which has been interpreted as the pool of Ross. Conor Brady of Dundalk Institute of Technology has uncovered the possible site of the longphort at Rosnaree. The D shaped enclosure that he excavated dated to the early medieval period. Its location backing onto a river and defended by multiple ditches is reminiscent of the Viking longphorts recently uncovered at Annagassan, Co. Louth and Woodstown, Co. Waterford.
The Vikings were on the Boyne with their longboats in the ninth century. They were expert boat-builders and they revolutionised the design of boats with their clinker built systems of overlapping planks. The Viking longboats of the Boyne were beautiful and graceful vessels. They could dart at speed across shallow waters, reverse at command and were even light enough for portage across land.
In 2006 the wreck of a Viking ship was discovered in the riverbed of the Boyne at Drogheda. This may be the first Viking longship found in the country. The vessel, nine metres (30 feet) wide by 16 metres long, was discovered accidentally during dredging operations in November 2006. The wreck lies close to Drogheda port. It is described as clinker built, a shipbuilding technology dating from the Viking era but also still in use centuries later. The vessel is lying midstream of the Boyne, meaning it poses a potential shipping hazard and cannot be preserved where it is. It is hoped that after excavation and further investigation the vessel may eventually be put on public display. It is envisaged that the investigation and excavation operation will be completed by the end of March. A find like this can tell us much about the technologies, trading patterns and daily lives of our ancestors and can open a window onto how life was in Ireland over a thousand years ago.
In 848 the Vikings became the allies of the king of Cianachta Breagh (east Meath) and together their forces attacked Maelseachlain. In 849 Tigernach and Maelseachlainn drowned the king of Cianachta Beagh in the river Nanny. Also in the year 849 a rival group of Vikings arrived in Ireland and an internal civil war began between the two groups. Sodhomna, the abbot of Slane, was killed by the Norsemen in 854.
In 863 Ímar, Amlaíb, and Oisle made an incursion into the Boyne valley, and plundered the caves(souterrains) at Knowth, Dowth and Oldbridge (at Drochet-atha in the Annals). They also raided the territory of the king of Brega, Flann son of Conaing. The cave of Achadh Aldai, in Mughdhorna Maighen; the cave of Cnoghbhai; the cave of the grave of Bodan, i.e. the shepherd of Elcmar, over Dubhath; and the cave of the wife of Gobhann, at Drochat Atha, were broken and plundered with many people murdered by the same foreigners.
From 873 to 902 Viking activity decreased but sporadic raiding continued throughout the ninth century. In 902 the king of Brega and the king of Leinster attacked Dublin and expelled the Vikings from it for fifteen years.
In 1846 there was a hoard of Viking coins, dating to 905, found in Drogheda; the exact location has never been identified however, the coins, dating to the earlier part of the 10th century, were identified as being from Viking York. The Vikings introduced coins for trade and exchange. Nearly all of the Irish Viking silver recovered has been traced back to Afghanistan and included many Kufic (Arabic) coins. The only person that examined some of these coins was numismatist Aquilla Smith, who concluded that these were Kufic dirhams and a penny from York. An estimate made by Michael Dolley based on the original testimony that the hoard weighed “close on two gallons” would have rendered some 5000 coins. Unfortunately these coins were not further examined to establish if they were Abassid or Samanid dirhams, due to the disappearance of the hoard. Dolley, however, mentions that from the available information given by Smith, the find was closely reminiscent of the early 10th century Samanid dirham finds from Scandinavia. It is also worth noting that the t.p.q. in this hoard is AD 905 so it closely matches the early Samanid hoards in question. The huge silver-hoard deposited at Drogheda about 905 may represent money acquired by Flannacán of Brega as a result of his role in the attack on Dublin. The distribution of silver-hoards in the following decade suggests that overkings of the Southern Uí Néill later reaped the economic benefits of Dublin’s subjection. The capture of Dublin was a major blow to the power of Ívarr’s descendants.
Kufic Dinars and Dirham coins, probably found in Drogheda
Viking Series filmed along the Boyne
In Season 4 of the show, the Vikings sail down the Seine River to take Paris. However, this was actually filmed on the Boyne River in County Meath, with the city of Paris being added in later with CGI. Scenes were also filmed along the walls of nearby Slane Castle.
High Medieval 12th century – circa 1400
In the later Medieval period Oldbridge was a grange, part of the monastic holdings of the Cistercian monastery at Mellifont. The location of ridge and furrow cultivation marks, plough pebbles and medieval pottery sherds provide evidence for medieval agriculture in the northern part of the estate.
Oldbridge and Mellifont
A Cistercian monastery, the first Cistercian abbey in Ireland, was founded at Mellifont in 1142. The monastery of Mellifont established 3.5km northwest of Oldbridge on the banks of the river Maddock. The name Mellifont comes from the Latin, Fons Mellis meaning ‘Fount of Honey’. The abbey was extremely successful from its earliest stages and it developed rapidly. Monks from Mellifont were dispatched to found ‘daughter houses’ around Ireland;
The Ua Cerbaills regained the territory on the north side of the Boyne in the mid twelfth century. Lands on the south side of the Boyne from Collon and Slane to Drogheda were granted to Mellifont by Ua Cerbaill.
Tigernán Ua Ruairc and his wife, Derbforgaill, attended the consecration of the abbey church at Mellifont in 1157 and endowed the church. Tigernán Ua Ruairc was described as king of Mide by Giraldus.
Prior to the arrival of the Anglo-Normans the Cistercian abbey of Mellifont held lands in the lordship of Mide at Rathmullen, Oldbridge, Fennor (Drogheda), Staleen, Rossnaree, Collen, Knowth and Fennor (Slane). These possessions were confirmed by a grant of Henry II in 1177-8 which was witnessed by Hugh de Lacy. Oldbridge is described as Grania de vetere pnte in the 1178 charer, Drocheta in the 1185 charter and Oldebryge in the extents of 1539. Shephowse is mentioned in the extents. De Lacy and his tenant, Robert of Flanders, were patrons of Mellifont making grants of lands in east Mide. In a charter of 1185 John confirmed his father’s grant to the abbey of Mellifont. De Lacy’s grant of two carucates at Croghan and Inseil was also confirmed in this charter.
Needing to create a buffer zone between his settled area and the native Irish to the north de Lacy’s establishment of a monastery and estate would reduce border incidents. Monastic establishments were a stabilising influence on a newly colonised area. Such land grants made it difficult for the dispossessed to reclaim property which had been granted to the church such as at at Mellifont.
The Grange at Oldbridge
The Cistercians divided their large estates into outlying farms called granges – Sheepgrange, Newgrange, Roughgrange. Monastic granges were centres of intense agriculture including grain cultivation and cattle and sheep rearing. Sheep were a valuable commodity linked to the woolllen industry which the Cistercians developed – Sheephouse, Sheepgrange.
The site of the village of Oldbridge, one of the granges of Mellifont, has been provisionally identified close to the area of the farmhouse complex. Several probable house sites have been identified in an area to the south of the farmyard. Farmyard – medieval building rubble Excavation 2014 Hayden identifies it as a grange
The excavation of a proposed service trench in the farmyard was monitored. Work was halted after only a length of 3m of trenching had been dug as the remains of the robber trench, floor, occupation deposits and demolition rubble from a substantial medieval building were uncovered immediately below the modern yard surface. The services will be laid outside the farmyard to avoid disturbing the early remains.
Two shards of a Frenchen/Cologne jug dating to 1550-1660 was discovered during test pits in the potato field in 2007.
The remains of a demolished medieval building with an intact floor was discovered by an archaeologist during excavation of a service trench in the farmyard in 2015.Asa result of this find excavation works were ceased. The floor and occupation level of the building was overlaid with a thick layer of broken roof slates and a piece of ridgetile. This layer was clearly the remains of a demolished roof and other parts of a substantial medieval building.
The fact that it had a slated roof with ceramic ridgetiles suggest that it was an important building in the medieval grange of Oldbridge. It may have been a large barn or administrative centre. The building depicted in Maas’s engraving is unlikely to be the building which produced these remains.
The Cistercians exploited their lands through a series of ‘model farms’ known as granges, a generic term for buildings, especially store houses devoted to agricultural production. Granges ere worked directly by the monks using lay brothers as additional agricultural labour. The Grange, was introduced to Ireland by the Cistercians as a method of applying intensive agricultural practices to produce a surplus for its monastery. Grange buildings could be anything from a simple wooden structure to a highly organised settlement which might have been much like a small monastery
The grange of Oldbridge contained two messuages, 168 acres of arable land, ten acres of pasture, five acres of enclosed pasture and five acres of meadow were located as was a weir called the ‘salmon were’. Sixteen fishermen with sixteen boats or ‘corrachs’ paid customs to the monastery from this location.70 In Sheephouse the monastery had one messuage, one cottage, and sixty acres of arable land, five acres of pasture and five acres of meadow.
Low-lying Cistercian abbeys in Ireland tend to have more compact groupings of granges as they are located in fertile river valleys associated with arable cultivation. Both documentary and archaeological evidence indicates that the grange farm was a key feature in the Cistercian farming system throughout Europe. Their farmsteads were contained within large rectilinear enclosures bounded by multiple ditches and banks. Earthen grange enclosures are rarer in Ireland. Every grange farmyard would have had at least one building where animals, particularly cows were housed. Because the care of livestock requires a supply of fodder, principally hay and corn, this would have been stored near to the cow byre.
Plan of Augustinian grange at Duleek
The description of the buildings attached to the Augustinian grange in Duleek, Co. Meath is the best surviving description of an Irish monastic grange The buildings were set around a rectangular courtyard and organised into four units, on the east side were the church, hall, kitchen, dairy, and stable for the horses; in the south were located the bakery and brewhouse and a little granary; in the west a haggard or stackyard in which corn and hay were stored and in the north was a sheep pen. There were gates in the north and south-west.
Some granges were centres of sheep rearing, as opposed to arable farming, and this has left an impact in the prefix of placenames such as Sheepgrange and Sheephouse on Mellifont abbey.
In the later period granges were leased out to tenants. By the fifteenth century the use of lay brothers had virtually vanished.
Sizeable exports of grain from this area to England in the thirteenth century indicated by the plough pebbles which were inserted into wooden ploughs as an anti-wear device. A medieval plough consisted of a beam supporting a coulter that cut the sod vertically, and a mould board which turned the sod over. A plough team consisted of a number of pairs of oxen.
The Cistercians were at the forefront of technological developments in farm machinery which contributed to improving the volume of agricultural produce. They are associated with a new type of plough which used quartz pebbles fitted into the wooden sole to slow down wear. Plough pebbles have been found on five granges of the Mellifont abbey monastic estate. A significant concentration of seventy plough pebbles was recovered at Bective abbey. Their concentration in a barn at Bective remains the clearest indication so far in Ireland for an intact plough.
Plough Pebbles discovered during fieldwalking
A number of shreds of medieval pottery which were deposited as a part of the manuring process. A number of plough pebbles were discovered in the survey area. The plough pebbles date to the 13th and 14th century.
Plough pebbles were an anti-wear device wedged into the edge of the mouldboard of the plough, small pebbles of particularly durable stone such as quartzite or flint. Thirteen pebbles were recovered at Oldbridge during field walking dispersed over five of the six fields surveyed. Field 3 had no plough pebbles. Ten were of quartz or quartzite and three were of flint.
Plough pebbles are essentially worn stones. They are ordinary hard field pebbles and in Ireland are usually flint or quartz. They are small, an average pebble measures 35X25X30mm lengthXbreadthXdepth. When in use a characteristic patter develops on one surface. The worn or facetted, surface typically consists of a smooth, slightly convex face with characteristic rounded edge opposite a sharper frequently plucked one. The smooth side is covered with a set of parallel closely placed striae or scratches in line with the two edges. The more rounded edge is termed the leading edge while the sharper plucked one is the trailing edge. When two faces are smooth it shows re-use. The identity of the pebbles rests on the presence of wear. Pebbles tend to be a medieval phenomenon and dated to the thirteenth century in Ireland. Level and good lands were cleared for cultivation in the thirteenth century. Horses take over from oxen as draught animals. With the development of the collar and shoes this allowed horses to pull larger weights more efficiently and at a faster pace than before.
Plough pebbles have also been discovered at Donore, Newgrange and Knowth. The recovery of plough pebbles indicates a clear association both with the thirteenth century and with Cistercians and related activities. The fact that plough pebbles existed in Ireland for such a short period that is directly associated with the prosperity of the thirteenth century allows us to conclude that these must have been associated with new plough types, and ploughs that were innovative for their day.
In the medieval period the land was not enclosed, instead the open fields were divided up into strips which were farmed in rotation. Hedges were few and rarely provided complete circuits. Story described Oldbridge village as having several hedges and little houses, close to the river and one house of stone that had a court and some works about it. Another eye witness described ploughed fields enclosed by fences or hedges. Three field systems uncovered in vicinity of farmyard. Foundations were discovered for three houses. The remains of a double banked roadway run south from the ford and acted as the main north-south system of transport. It runs for 400 metres along the side of the parkland and may continue for another 500 metres along the side of the top field.
A large number of ridge and furrow and cultivation ridges are visible in the parkland to the front of the house. They run in a north south orientation.
Medieval pottery discovered during field walking
Ten shreds of medieval pottery were discovered during field walking and were found dispersed over fields 1, 5 and 6. The shreds were small probably as a result of being hit by the plough repeatedly over the years. Two were rim sherds, six were body sherds, two were portions of handles and one was a fragment of a thin tile or platter. One of the rim sherds and three of the body sherds retained glaze. The pottery is dated to two periods – the mid twelfth to the early thirteenth century and the thirteenth century.
The Cistercians played a key role in developing the fishing resources of the river Boyne. Substantial fishing rights were granted to Mellifont as early as 1203. In 1203, King John “of his own fee” granted a new charter confirming that given by his father some years before, and also giving the monks free customs, together with the fishery on both sides of the Boyne.
A fishing weir was constructed at Oldbridge – an obstruction across the river channel which forces fish into a particular channel. Netting for salmon was practiced on the Boyne from medieval times. The fish were surrounded and pulled on to a flat hauling ground.
In 1358, the Abbot of Mellifont made good his claim to three weirs upon the Boyne, at Rosnaree, Knowth, and Staleen; but, in 1366, he was indicted at Trim, for erecting an unlawful weir at Oldbridge.
At a trial held in 1366: ‘Reginald Leynagh, Abbot of Mellifont, was indicted at Trim for erecting a weir on the river Boyne, at Oldbridge; the jury found, that, from the time of the arrival of the English, the king had a certain free passage in that river from the town of Drogheda to the bridge of Trim, usually called a watersarde, twenty-four feet in breadth from the bank on each side of the river, according to the discretion of twelve honest men, six from the neighbourhood of one side, and six of the other; and that through that aperture, boats, called corraghs, with timber for building and flotes, had liberty to pass constantly free from Drogheda to the bridge of Trim; they also found that no weir had been erected there for upwards of thirty years. The court ordered the said weir to be totally removed for the said breadth of twenty-four feet, and the abbot to be committed to gaol; he was afterwards pardoned the imprisonment on paying the fine of £10, which sum was paid in court to Roland de Shalesford, sheriff of the county of Meath.
Ten years later, John Terrour, successor to this Abbot, was sued for obstructing the King’s passage of the Boyne.
In 1380 the king’s escheator took into his hands two weirs at le Oldebrygge, one weir at Staghlyin and one weir at Knothe on the water of Boyne, co. Meath, belonging to the abbot of the Blessed Mary of Mellifont. The escheator returned into chancery that the K. had and by right ought to have in the stream of the said water a royal road called watershard, 24 feet wide so that boats and floats laden with goods might have a free passage from Drogheda to the bridge of Trim, but that the abbot had built and raised around his weirs for the taking of salmon so as to obstruct the said passage so that boats could not now pass as before as they still ought to do. The abbot appearing in person in chancery pleaded that no man should be ejected from his freehold until he was duly brought to give his answer and adjudged by law; and that the weirs were his freehold; and he therefore pleaded that the King should remove his hand and restore the same to him. Order to remove the King’s hand from the said weirs.
By Dissolution Mellifont has a salmon weir at Oldbridge worth 53s 4d, another at Stalleen worth 60s and a third at Monktown, Rosnaree where it collected half of the salmon from the pond at the weir and four out five salmon caught at the weir. Sixteen fishermen using coracles at Oldbridge paid £13 6s 8d to the monks. A fishery and a boatman valued at 66s 8d were also located at Rathmullan, downriver from Oldbridge.
Fourteen shreds of medieval pottery were discovered from a trench to the south of the outbuildings, south of Oldbridge House. This was the highest concentration of medieval pottery discovered on site suggesting that the parkland was the infield for the settlement.
Late Medieval circa 1400 – 16th century
Altar Furnishings including a bell, processional cross and candlestick dating to c. 1450-1500 AD were discovered at Sheephouse, Oldbridge. They are currently in the National Museum of Ireland
The very fine processional cross which, together with a pricket-candlestick and a small hand-bell of bronze, was discovered in 1899 by John Farrell, resting on the rock, covered by some stones, a few feet from the surface of the ground in a quarry at Sheephouse, near Oldbridge. These items may have belonged to nearby Mellifont Abbey and been buried during the Reformation. Found on lands once owned by Mellifont. Until the end of the fifteenth century there was no difference between the altar cross and the processional cross . The same cross fulfilled both purposes , being furnished with a socket, as in the present example , so that it could be mounted on a staff for processions, or placed upon a base for an altar cross. The three pieces are almost certainly English imports. JRSAI Vol. XLV (1915) Series VI, Vol. V Part I 31 March 1915Armstrong, E.C.R.: Processional cross, pricket-candlestick, and bell found together at Sheephouse, near Oldbridge, Co. Meath, 27-31.
Meath Chroncile 3 June 1899
DISCOVERY AT OLDBRIDGE
A quarry labourer, while working at Sheep House quarries, near Oldbridge, after excavating about three feet of earth, found a bronze crucifix about 2 feet 6 inches in height, and a small bell, composed of silver or white metal. On the apex of the cross was the figure of an eagle with outstretched wings, and at the end of each arm a lion and a1 lamb. The base of the crucifix was bound in iron, bcaring elaborate scroll work. The bell had neither tongue nor handle. Where they were found some decayed pieces of wood, almost reduced to dust, were found, which leads to the belief that the articles found had been enclosed in a wooden box.
Church properties were confiscated, and in 1566, the lands formerly held by Mellifont (including Balfeddock, Donore, Knowth, Monknewtown, Newgrange, Oldbridge, Rathmullan, Sheephouse and Stalleen) passed to Edward Moore, an English ‘soldier of fortune’
The Abbey, with all its spiritual and temporal possessions, was given, in 1541, to Laurence Townley, for 21 years. They passed by reversionary lease to —— Brabazon, in 1546. In 1551, they were leased to the same for 21 years more, and in 1566, they came by reversionary lease to Edward Moore, the founder of the Drogheda family, who, at that time, came into Ireland, as a soldier of fortune. This Edward Moore, who was accompanied by his brother John, the founder of the Charleville family (now extinct), was descended from an ancient Kentish House. He fixed his residence at Mellifont, changing the church into a dwelling, which he strongly fortified against the attacks of the Ulster Irish. The statues of the Twelve Apostles, which once occupied places in the church, he caused to be removed to the hall, clad in red uniforms, with muskets on their shoulders, as a protest, no doubt, against “Popish idolatry.” He was knighted by the Deputy, Sir Wm. Drury, and dying soon after, was succeeded by his son, Sir Garret, to whom Mellifont, with six other dissolved monasteries, and all their spiritualities (that is, the revenues of them, right of patronage, etc.) and temporalities, were granted in fee.
In 1566 the lands at Mellifont were granted to Edward Moore, the lease stated – “the said house was situate near the borders with Ulster and had been in all times of rebellion in those parts subject to the invasion of the enemy and could not be defended from burning or spoil.
In 1615, July 20th, Sir Garret was created Baron Moore of Mellifont, by King James I. In 1619, Baron Moore obtained a royal grant of St. Mary’s Abbey, Dublin, from the same King; and in 1621, he was created a Viscount, with the title of Viscount Moore of Drogheda.
Drogheda was secured by loyalists in 1641. The rebels won a victory over the loyalists at Julianstown Bridge in November 1641. The rebels under Sir Phelim O’Neill surrounded Drogheda with their headquarters at Beaulieu. A detachment of rebels occupied a stone house at Oldbridge. There was an allegation that the Nettervilles were associated with efforts to starve the defenders of Drogheda. In March 1642 the Boyne froze, removing a barrier placed in the river by the rebels to block supply boats. The rebels retreated northwards. Lord Moore had remained lyal to the crown and successfully defended his estate at Tullyallen.
In the aftermath of the siege, 5 March 1642 Moore, Lord of Mellifont, led out 400 foot and 80 horse from his own estates and defeated the rebels in the area.
In the Rebellion of 1641, Mellifont and its owner, Lord Charles Moore, son of Garret, the first Viscount, became involved.
On 3 September news reached Sir Arthur Aston, governor of Drogheda, that 500 of the enemy’s horse was drawing towards the ford at Oldbridge. Two days later Aston reported that a aprty of Cromwell’s men had crossed a ford near the town at low tide the previous day but had been driven back down Drybridge Hill to the river. On 4 September Aston reported to Ormond that a party of Cromwell’s men had crossed the Boyne at a ford near the town but had been driven back by a sally from the garrison, both horse and foot. He said there was no considerable force of the enemy north of the river and this continued to be the case up to the time the town was stormed.
In the Civil Survey 1654-56 the proprietor of Oldbridge and Sheephouse was Charles Moore Lord Viscount. Oldbridge had 402 acres – 250 arable, 12 meadow and 40 pasture. There was one stone house and a number of cabins in the townland. Sheephouse had 120 acres, 60 arable, 8 meadow and 52 pasture. There was one stone house and a number of cabins in the townland.
Henry, the first Earl of Drogheda, did not long enjoy his honours; nor did his son and successor, Charles, who was succeeded by his brother Henry, the third Earl, who, on the eve of the ever-memorable Battle of the Boyne, entertained a party, amongst whom was one of King William’s highest officers. On the morrow, July the 1st, the booming of King William’s fifty pieces of “dread artillery” echoed along the hills and the valley of the Boyne, and shook the old abbey walls to their very foundations; and on that night, the oaken rafters of Mellifont rang to the cheers and toasts of the “glorious, pious, and immortal memory” of the Prince of Orange, on whose side Earl Henry commanded that day a regiment of foot
Charles, Lord Moore, son of Henry, the third Earl, married Jane, heiress of Arthur, Viscount Ely, who received as her portion the suppressed Abbey of Monasterevan, a Cistercian monastery founded by O’Dempsey, in the 12th century. When it came into Earl Charles’ possession, he changed the name to Moore Abbey, and made it his residence. The sons of this Lord Charles, Henry and Edward, became earls successively, and Edward, the fifth earl, having settled down permanently at Monasterevan, sold Mellifont and some of the property in its immediate vicinity to Mr. Balfour of Townley Hall, in 1727
In 1541 the monastery of Mellifont was leased Lawrence Townley for twenty one years changing hands in 1562 to William Brabazon and in 1583 to Sir Gerald Moore. The Moores lands were confiscated under Cromwell but were later restored.
In 1690 on the southside of the the river a little lane, also described as “ a stony path bordered by a hedge” ran close to the river’s edge from Drogheda to the village of Oldbridge. There was a road to Duleek and a road to Platten.
Donore Church and Tomb
The medieval parish church at Donore presumably replaced the early Christian foundation there. A slab-lined burial was discovered at Stalleen in the mid 1930s. The body was extended east-west in a form consistent with early Christian practice and may indicate another ecclesiastical centre.
In the townland of Sheephouse this church is located on the top of Donore hill. The remains of the medieval church are located in a walled graveyard which contains a 17th century tombstone and a cross-head. There are also 18th century and 19th century memorials, which are recorded. Near the gate of the graveyard is a watch-house, which would have formerly used to guard against the possible exhumation of the recently buried by body-snatchers. Inside the entrance gate (Donore cemetery) is a small strongly built house which people call the ‘dead house’. The old people say it was built to prevent body snatching, and there seems to be some truth in this, because the door is made of metal and there are slits in the walls instead of windows. The head and part of the shaft of a disc-headed cross were in Donore graveyard in 1968. One side is plain and the other has a raised cross in a solid ring, a cap and blank panelling. It was not present in 1984, but it might be inside the locked watch house
Tomb – chest tomb
A 17th century graveslab is located at the E end of the medieval church (ME020-011—-) within Donore graveyard. It is sandstone and has a crest inscribed on the surface. It is dedicated to John Genet, who died in 1609 (D’Alton 1844, 2, 464; Wilde 1850, 243). It has been described by Sadlier (1913-14) as: Large altar-tomb, in ruined chancel, with arms of ||Genet impaling Blake (?), and below the initials I.G. On either side of the shield, and running parallel to the sides of the slab, are the following lines: ALL PEOPLE THAT ON EARTH / DRAW BREATH / IN HEALTH PREPARE FOR THE HOUR / OF DEATH. Above and below the shield is the following: ….TH…THE / ……JOHN GENET / ….RIDGE ../ THIS TOMBE WHO DEPARTED / THIS LIFE 1690 (?) / THE POORE OF THE WORLDE THE / HEAVENS AND THE GRAVE HIS / ALMES HIS PRAISE HIS SOULE / AND DODIE HAVE… This curious monument is evidently to John Genet, of Oldbridge, referred to in the previous inscription. The charge on the impaled shield is not quite clear, but appears to be a fret, so the arms are possibly those of Blake. To obtain its proper meaning the last four lines of the epitaph should be read thus: The poore have his Almes, / The worlde has his Praise, / The Heavens have his Soule, and / the Grave has his Bodie. See attached image of the graveslab. John Jennet of Oldbridge, co.Meath, gent. is mentioned in 1685 in the Prerogrative Wills Index.
It is told that Mass was said on Mr Coddington’s Old Bridge Drogheda land during the Penal Days by a Father O’Reilly. One evening while he was out walking he saw the soldiers coming. He ran in all haste to the house of a Catholic man and asked him for his horse. The man gave him the horse and in this way he escaped.
In a house in Sheephouse there is supposed to be a stone with an iron ring in it. This stone is supposed to have concealed a little room where priests were hidden. The house is situated in Sheephouse farmyard, and at one time belonged to the Monks of Mellifont, and was used by them as an infirmary for the sick people of the district. It is a very old house with very thick walls, but still habitable.
In Donore Graveyard is the burial place of William Reynolds of Oldbridge, Artist – “Pray for the soul of William Reynolds of Oldbridge to whose memory this cross has been raised by his friends at home and abroad who admired him for his many virtues, sterling patriotism, and great varied gifts, and as an artist who loved and successfully illustrated the religious and national glories of his native land. Born 22nd September, 1842 Died 30th December, 1881.”
There are lead and copper deposits to the west of Oldbridge which seem to have been exploited at some early stage.
The building stone quarries at Sheephouse and Oldbridge provided ashlar limestone for the front of the chuch at Donore in 1838, the parochial house in 1860 and many of the stone houses in Donore and Drogheda. Between 1866 and 1884 four churches were built in Drogheda, all using Sheephouse stone. The Boyne Viaduct was also constructed of this stone in the 1850s. The quarry at Sheephouse is noted by Lewis in 1837 as being well worked and containing an abundance of limestone of a handsome light colour.
House at Sheephouse
Situated at the base of a North facing hill along an irregular bend in the road that runs from Donore to the River Boyne. This house cluster is identifed as Sheephouse on the OS 6-inch map. The lands at Sheephouse were held as a grange (monastic farm) by the Cistercians until the dissolution in 1539. The placename Sheephouse indicates a barn where sheep were sheared and their wool stored in medieval times. There was a farmhouse here in 1539. It lies within the area designated as the Boyne Valley World Heritage Site and the immediate environs of the Battle of the Boyne 1690 Battlefield. The house is a two-storey, three-bay stone building with a rear stair block indicating a 17th century date. It has an external chimney in the east gable. There are blocked windows with punched stone surrounds in the south elevation. There are also possible batters to some of the walls and internal evidence for the use of heavy floor timbers with supporting stone corbels. On the ground floor is a central lobby with a single room off each side. This plan is repeated on the first floor. There is a local traditions that this farmhouse was used as a rallying point for the Jacobite army during the Battle of the Boyne and that it withstood prolonged attack after the defeat at the ford of Oldbridge. There is also a tradition that it was used as a hospital during the Battle. A number of liturgical objects of late 15th-16th century including a cross and processional cross were found in a quarry immediately behind the yard of the house in 1899.
Sheephouse recorded by Du Noyer 1842