News Archives - 2009.


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December 2009.

Monday, 14th December, 2009: Interesting weekend.  I decided that because of the recent floods I should probably stick to high ground so I thought Offaly in the Slieve Bloom mountains would be the safest bet. How wrong I was.  The started with another failed attempt to see a barrow and standing stone at Kilcreman on the Laois/Offaly border.  I think that this barrow has been lost to the undergrowth since forestry was planted around it. Next I tried to see a Holy Well, the field was too flooded to get to it. Then a failed attempt to see a castle and a few barrows.  Finally I managed to see a massive hill fort near Leap Castle and then the high cross at Kinnitty.  I rounded off the day by battling the mud (and by being chased by a bull) to get to a wonderful medieval bridge at Cadamstown.  It's near collapse so I was glad to get to it and will get it up on the site as soon as possible.  I think that last weekend will be my last visits to places this year.  Christmas is looming and I've got a lot of work to do and family to spend time with.  Happy Christmas to all...

Updates will continue but there will probably be no new till the new year...see you then...

Wednesday, 9th December, 2009: Just a quick notification about updates.  As you know I usually do updates every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.  For the next few weeks they may be up in the air a little bit.  There will still be 3 a week but I may have to do them on different days and times.  Also, there is likely to only be 2 updates per week for the Christmas week and New Years week.  Both Christmas Day and New Years Day fall on Fridays so naturally I won't be anywhere near my computer.  I'll try to fit in a 3rd update if possible but obviously time seems to vanish at Christmas.

This weekend I will be roaming around Offaly in the Slieve Bloom area.  There are many scattered places around that area and I hope to get to most on my list.  Hopefully I will get to Carlow next weekend all being well.  I've run out of Carlow sites to put onto the site to I need to get down there.  There's now over 40 sites on this site.  This is still small in comparison to many websites out there but it's growing all the time and hopefully these are places that people are not familiar with and find interesting.

Wenesday, 2nd December, 2009:  I'm pleased to say that finally we have a proper domain name now.  From now on this site will operate under the domain of  Please update any bookmarks you may have.  You will still be able to get here, however, under the old address.

Tuesday, 1st December, 2009:  After months of fiddling around with it the new glossary is completed and should be working smoothly.  Pictures of certain features have been included and the different pages are now interlinked with each other.  I will now move back to the early pages of the site to relink them with the new glossary.  On some of the older pages the links will take you to the glossary index page as opposed to the correct letter page.  This will be fixed soon.

As many of you are aware there has been widespread flooding in Ireland over the past two weeks.  This will hinder me in the next few weeks so I can't really envisage too many visits this month.  Also, while the people and their homes that have been affected are of the primary concern, I suspect then when the water retreats over the following weeks we may find that many antiquities have been irreversibly damaged and many may collapse.  This goes to show the importance of conservation  work on these sites.  Sometimes the simplest work can prevent a site from crumbling into nothing.  Please, always encourage conservation when you see it and encourage it at places where it has not happened.  The more people that write to councils and TDs and the more people joining historical societies the will help to save our heritage.

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Glossary - Z

Glossary - Y

Yett hole - A hole in stonework for the placement for an iron grille on the main door of a castle.

Glossary - X

Glossary - W

Wall walk - A walk way high up on a wall, usually a bawn, and is used for defence purposes.

Ward - A ward functions in the same way  as a Bailey in that it is a courtyard area enclosed by a curtain wall.

Wayside Cross - A high cross that is not in an ecclesiastical site but rather on the side of a road.

Wedge tomb – The most numerous megalithic tomb type in Ireland with over 530 examples known.  They are built within cairns and usually consist of a short front chamber and a longer main chamber which will increase in width and height toward its western end.

Wheeled Cross - A form of high cross noted for it's wheel shaped head.

Wheeled cross at Nurney, Co. Carlow.

Wicker centring - Wicker centring is a pattern left in the mortar on the inside of a castle from during construction. During the construction of vaulted ceilings a timber framework and wicker mats would be built before the stone being placed on top. The wicker mats left patterns in the mortar which can often be seen today. 

Glossary - V

Glossary - U

Glossary - S

Sacristy – The Sacristy is the room of a church where the sacred objects and vestments were stored.

Septal slab – A dividing stone in the gallery of a wedge tomb.  Unlike sill stones and jambs septal stones completely divide the chamber and are chosen because they fill the size of the gallery.

Sheela-na-gig – Medieval exhibitionist figure that is generally female.  The figure is usually depicted holding open the vagina and are generally found at church sites but others have been found at castles.  Their meaning is debated but may be a warning of sin to people or some form of fertility charm.

Sill stone – A dividing stone in a tomb that does not reach the roof of the chamber but is the same width.

Slop stone - A channel through the thickness of a wall for the disposal of waste water.

Souterrain - Underground passage way often associated with ringforts.  They were used as escape routes and as places for storage.  Due to their underground nature there are very few known and likely to be many more yet to be discovered.

Spandrel – A spandrel is the triangular space between and arch and a containing rectangular.

Springing – The starting point of an arch or barrel vaulted roof.

Stone circle - See standing stone.

Stone pair - See standing stone.

Stone row - See standing stone.

Standing Stone -  Standing stones, as well as circles, rows and pairs date to the early bronze age (c2200 – 1650BC), although dating of these stones is not reliable and they may be older or later. However, bronze age dates are consistent with the dating of stones in Britain. Some may have an Iron Age date while some appear to be early Christian. However, some may be modern and may have been erected as cattle scratching posts. Usually the presence of another site such as a barrow may indicate its date. At some circles beaker ware has been found which is strong evidence for the presence of beaker people in Ireland, although their population is thought to be small and their presence peaceful. The function of a monolith (single standing stone) is thought to vary. They may be burial sites as the presence of cist and urn burials indicates. They may also function as boundary markers or as a commemoration. They may also be associated with ritual.

Standing stone at Timoneyhills in Co. Tipperary.

Stone rows and stone pairs and similar monuments and are generally associated with stone circles and possibly had a ritualistic function as did stone circles. Circles may have also served a calendar function and are possibly the oldest standing stone structures in Ireland and may possibly be dated to the Neolithic period.

Stoup stone - A stone that holds holy water.  Found at ecclesiastical sites.

Glossary - T

Tenon - In stone or wood, a projecting piece that fits into a socket, also called a mortise.

Tower House - Built between the 14th and 17th centuries, the tower house is a fortified dwelling, square in plan and up to 5 storeys high. Highly defended buildings they were hard to defend and eventually gave way to fortified houses.

Tower house at Ballagharahin in Co. Laois.

Transept - The portion of a church that forms the cross shape.  The transepts of a church will be usually aligned N-S as opposed to the chancel and the nave which will have a E-W alignment.

Transom – A horizontal bar of wood or stone across a window and entrance.

Tracery – The ornamental work in the upper part of a window.

Tumuli – A round-barrow.

Turrett – A small circular tower that is used mainly for defence.  They are often found at castle sites and rarely at ecclesiastical sites.

Glossary - R

Rag Tree – A rag tree is a small tree to which people tie rags as votive offerings for ailments. Still a common practice today the rag tree tradition goes back to pre-Christian times.

Rampart – Defensive earthworks.

Rath - Earthen ringfort (see Ringfort)
Rath at Carrowreagh in Co. Laois.  Click on the picture for a larger view.  In the larger picture you can clearly see the banks that make up the defences.

Refectory - The eating area at an ecclesiastical site.

Relic – Precious religious object usually associated with a saint.

Ringfort - Ringforts are the most common historical site in Ireland and are one of the most mysterious. There is still much debate about their date and purpose. The general consensus is that they are defensive homesteads dating from the early Christian period (500 - 1100AD). However dates have been suggested as far back as the Iron Age (700BC - 500AD) and as late as the Medieval period. Also people have suggested that they might not actually be homesteads but rather should be associated with industry. The ringfort can be divided into two types in Ireland, the rath and the cashel. The rath is the most common type and is made of earth, while the rarer cashel was made of stone.

Ringwork – Defensive enclosure that differs to a ringfort in that these are generally later in date and purely defensive.  Ironically they can be rectangular in shape.

Rock Art - A type of Bronze Art usually found on natural boulders and standing stones. Cup marks are very common motifs.

Romanesque – Style of architecture that began in the 7th century and lasted until the 12th century and is identifiable by rounded arches which gave way to the pointed arch of Gothic architecture.
Romanesque archway with decoration (first picture) and gargoyle figure (second), at Monaincha Abbey in Co. Tipperary.

Round tower – Tall tower structure, round in shape, constructed by ecclesiastical sites.  There were used to store precious objects as well as people during raids.
  Round tower at Timahoe in Co. Laois.

Glossary - Q

Quoins  – Dressed stones at the angles of a castle.

Glossary - P

Packing stones – The stones around the base of a standing stone which help to keep it upright. Most packing stones are below the surface of the ground but can often be seen on the surface.

Parapet – A low wall that is places high up on a wall with the purpose of protection. Similar to a wall walk on a bawn.

Passage tombNeolithic tomb where a passage leads to one or more chambers used for burials. The best example of these are Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth in Co. Meath. Passage tombs can differ in styles. Common is the cruciform chamber where a passage leads to three chambers that form a cruciform shape. Some have circular chambers and some polygonal and ironically some lack passages. An undifferentiated passage tomb does not have a definite chamber but rather a widening of the passage that defines the chamber. Passage tombs are covered with cairn material which quite often survives.

Piscina - Place where the chalice and other items were washed.

Pit burial - Similar to the cist burial but with no sides. Neolithic/Bronze Age.

Portal Dolmens – Portal tombs are called so because the front often looks like a door. They are some of the oldest tombs in Ireland dating to the middle and late Neolithic period. Most of the 163 portal tombs in Ireland are found in the northern part of the country with some scattered examples along the west and east coasts. They are rare in the midlands, although county Carlow has some fine examples. They usually have two orthostats which define the entrance and are known as portal stones as they form the ‘door’ shape. Other orthostats usually define the side of the chamber so that the only way into the chamber is through the ‘portal’. A single slab rests on these stones and is called the capstone. Some examples have two capstones. The capstone slopes towards the rear and usually rests on a smaller rear stone. A closing slab is often placed between the two portal stones, but not always to full height. The tombs, more often than not, will face to the E and only the E end would have been visible at the rest of the dolmen would have been hidden under a cairn which can be round or long. In general these cairns do not survive and only the barest of traces can be seen. Most of these tombs have, unfortunately, been unexcavated. Archaeologists are divided as to where the dolmen originated with opinion split between Ulster and Cornwall in Britain. The majority of archaeologists believe the portal dolmen to have been a native Irish development that transferred to Britain. One thing this has revealed is the close contact between the populations in Ireland and Britain for the transfer of ideas to travel. This contact can been seen in the Bronze Age in regard to standing stones which seem to be an import to Ireland from the Beaker people in Britain.

Portal dolmen with two capstones at Haroldstown in Co. Carlow

Portal stones – The two stones which form the ‘portal’ or ‘door’ to a portal dolmen. (see portal dolmen)

The two stones that the capstone is resting on are the portal stones. The central stone is the closing stone and the stone to the far left is the remaining stone of the fa├žade. Kernanstown (Browne's Hill) Co. Carlow.

The two portal stones here are set with the their narrow edge facing outwards. Haroldstown, Co. Carlow.

Portico - Small chamber in an ancient tomb separated from the larger chamber by a septal stone.

Glossary - O

Ogee – A common design in windows, an ogee is a double curve which is both convex and concave.

Oubliette - Hidden hole in a floor through which people can be pushed in and kept there. Spikes are often placed at the bottom to impale the victims.  It is a rare castle feature.

Ordinance Survey map (OS maps) - These are maps compiled from aerial photography and then mapped digitally. They are highly detailed and very useful. All map references on this site are based on the OS grid reference system.

Orthostat - A standing stone that helps to form the side of a chamber in a tomb.

Glossary - M

Machicolation - A hole built over the entrance to a castle through which objects and liquids could be dropped on enemies below.

Mason marks - A mason mark is a mark cut into a piece of dressed stone. Their exact purpose is debatable but it likely that they served multiple purposes. Some, and more simple marks, may indicate where certain stones were to be used in a building plan. More complex marks may be the particular symbol of a mason to identify the stone as the work of that particular mason.

Motte and Bailey - Norman structure built in the years following the Norman invasion of 1169. They are usually a steep sided, cone shaped, flat topped mound which is surrounded by a earthen bank. Wooden structures consisting of houses and defence structures would have been built on top. Many were replaced by later stone structures and many were built on the site of earlier ringforts.

Motte and Bailey at Aghaboe in Co. Laois.

Mullion – The upright that divides a window into two.

Mural Passages - A passageway built into the thickness of a wall of a castle.

Mural passage at Loughmoe, Co. Tipperary.

Murder Holes - Similar in fuction to a machicolation but on the inside of a castle.  They are usually just holes in the floor over an entrance way.

Glossary - N

Nave - The main body of a church in which the congregation would sit.

Glossary - L

Lancet – A tall, narrow window in the Gothic style with a pointed head.  

Lime Kiln - Large outdoor, stone made kiln for making lime. Often found on farms.

Linkardstown burial - This is a form of cist tomb that is pentagonal in shape and has sloping orthostats forming the chamber. They are quite rare.

Loggia - A covered gallery or corridor which is supported by a series of columns and exposed to the elements on one side. Intended as a place of leisure it functioned as an outdoor sitting room and is highly associated with warmer climates in Southern Europe although Irish examples can be found.

Glossary - K

Keep – The keep is the main tower of a castle.

Kerb - A ring of large stones that surround an ancient tomb. These are often place where rock art is found.

Glossary - J

Jamb – Dividing stones in a tomb that are the same height as the chamber but do not fill the width.  They are placed opposite each other and leave a gap into a smaller chamber.

Glossary - I

Glossary - H

Hall house - Medieval castle usually two storeys high with the first level used for storage and the second as a grand hall used for entertainment and meetings.  These were not used as residences.

Hanging eye - A hanging eye is a projecting stone with a socket to accommodate the upper hinge of a door.

Henge - Neolithic/Bronze Age earthwork.  Circular or oval in shape and often associated with standing stones and stone circles. These may have served a ritual purpose.

Part of the bank and ditch of a henge.

High CrossEarly medieval stone crosses usually found at ecclesiastical sites and highly decorated.

High cross at Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

Holy well – A natural well or spring that is believed to be holy or to have some kind of magical power (often healing powers).  Many of these sites are pre-Christian in origin but continued to be used after the introduction of Christianity and became identified with saints.

Holy well at Roscomroe, Co. Offaly.

Glossary - G

Gable end - The triangular portion of wall which holds up a sloping roof.

Gable end of a church at Rathurles in Co. Tipperary.

Gallery – A gallery is the collective name of the chambers in a court and wedge tomb.  They are known as galleries because together the chambers are long and narrow.

Garderobe - A toilet found in a castle. Usually a stone seat with drop behind leading to an exit on the exterior of the castle. They are sometimes disguised externally as machicolations.

Gate House - An outhouse in a castle bawn through which people seeking to enter the castle would have to pass.

Gothic – Style of architecture that evolved from the Romanesque style in the 12th century and lasted until the 16th century. Gothic architecture is defined by its pointed archways which support the weight of the building more efficiently than the Romanesque rounded arch.
Note the pointed arches which are the defining feature of Gothic architecture.  Nenagh Friary, Co. Tipperary.

Grave slabs – Grave marker made of a flat piece of stone and usually laying down.

Groin vault - A type of vaulted ceiling named because of the sharp rib like angles caused by two barrel vaults intersecting. 

Gun-loops - Slits in bawns through with guns were fired during an attack.  Also found in castle walls.
Looking out of a gun-loop at Loughmoe Castle in Co. Tipperary.

Gun turret – Small turret shaped building, often with a conical roof used for defence with a gun placed inside.
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Glossary - F

Fortified House - Built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the fortified house emerged as a new type of castle. Designed to repel an attack the fortified house was usually symmetrical with many storeys and huge chimney stacks. Many also had large bawns in which to store cattle at night and defend against attack.

Fortified house at Cloncourse in Co. Laois.

Fortified house attached to the side of an earlier tower house at Loughmoe in Co. Tipperary.

Fosse – A ditch or moat surrounding a defended area. Usually used to describe the ditch around a barrow or ringfort.

Bank and fosse of a ring barrow.

Glossary - E

Embrasure – A recess for doorways and windows in a buildings wall.

Glossary - D

Dogtooth - Type of decoration formed by many small pyramid shapes.

Drawbridge - A bridge that can be lowered and raised, usually over a moat.  Common feature in medieval castles.

Glossary - C

Cairn – Similar to a barrow, a cairn is also a burial mound dating to the Neolithic, Iron and Bronze Ages. Rather than being constructed of earth, cairns are made of loose stone which are then covered in earth.

Capstone – The large stone which sits on the portal stones and side stones of a portal dolmen (see portal dolmen)

Cashel - Stone ringfort (see ringfort

Chamber - The area inside a megalithic tomb where a burial is placed.

Chancel -  East end of the church in which the altar is placed.

Chevron - V shaped design that creates a zig-zag shape when place side by side.

Cillin - Burual ground for unbaptised children.

Cist burial - Found underground with a stone base, sides and top. Can be found near standing stones and often have a covering barrow or cairn. Neolithic/Bronze Age.

Cloister – Common part of a monastic settlement.  A cloister consists of a covered arcade.

Closing stone - A stone which closes a megalithic tomb once a burial has been placed inside.

Coarb – The heir (abbot) of a monastery. 

Corbel – A stone that projects from a building with the purpose of supporting roofs and floors.


Crannog – Artificial island on a lake formed by a ring of large boulders being dropped into the water and the inner portion being filled up with earth and brushwood.  These generally date to the early Christian period and were used as dwellings.

Crenallation – Crenallations are also known as battlements and are usually high up on buildings and are parapets divided into short lengths with frequent embrasures.

Cross slabs – Cross slabs are early Christian slabs of stone on which a crucifix has been carved. These were later replaced by high crosses. They usually date from the 6th to 9th centuries.

Crypt - An underground chamber in a church.

Cup Marks - Circular shapes found in rock art called cup marks because they look like a cup ring. 

Curtain wall - Similar to a bawn (associated with towers houses and fortified houses).  An encompassing defensive wall around a medieval castle and grounds.

Glossary - B

Barrel Vault - A simple stone vault used for roofing which is semi-circular in profile.
Example of a barrel vaulted ceiling in Loughmoe church, Co. Tipperary.

Barrow – Barrows are earthen constructions which can be divided into 6 types. The dating and function of barrows can be difficult and may range from the Neolithic to the late Iron Age. They are also sites that have been reused in different periods. Early barrows were often reused as motte and baileys and later as castle sites. The 6 main types are as follows:
           Ring-barrow – Low circular mound surrounded by an inner fosse and outer bank.
           Bowl-barrow – Steep sided, conical or flat topped mounds which can be surrounded by a fosse. Not all examples have banks.
           Mound-barrow – Circular or oval shaped burial mounds with a gradual slope. This type is also known as tumuli and date to the bronze and iron age and often contain cist burials.
           Stepped-barrow – Earthen mound with a berm around its base often with a bank and/or fosse.
           Pond-barrow – Earthen mound with a concave interior below ground level. It is thought that they are related to burials.
           Ditch-barrow – Slightly raised oval area defined by and bank and/or fosse. Some ditch-barrows may be destroyed ring-barrows.

Two barrows with their ditches destroyed.

A well preserved but overgrown ring barrow.

The bank and fosse of a ring barrow.

Bartizan – Associated with tower houses and fortified houses, bartizans are a floorless turret that are located high up on building and protect the corners of a building.

An example of a bartizan at a tower house.

Batter – The widening of the building at the base of a building, more often found on a tower house.

Battlements – Battlements are usually high up on buildings and are parapets divided into short lengths with frequent embrasures. Also known as crenallation.

Bawn - Wall around a fortified house or tower house, usually with gun-loops built in.

Beaker people - Bronze Age people of Britain named after their pottery remains. It is thought that they built the monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury in England. Their presence in Ireland is thought to have been small as no burials have been found, although pottery has. They may have introduced the idea of the standing stone to Ireland.

Beaker ware - Type of pot in beaker shape made by the Bronze Age beaker people.

Bellcote - Usually high up on the gable end of a church used for housing a bell.

Berm – Flat area between the bank and fosse of a barrow.

Bullaun stone – A bullaun stone is a stone in which a cup shaped hollow has been made either naturally or by hand. The stones are associated with religion and magic and the water collected within was thought to have the ability to cure ailments. These stones were common in the early centuries of Christianity in Ireland.

Stone with a singe cup shaped depression in it. 

Buttress - Small wall that projects at right angles to a main wall of a building.  The purpose of a buttress is to support the main structure.

Glossary - A

Arcade – A series of arches supported by pillars.

Arrow loop - Like a gun loop but earlier in date and is a narrow slit in a wall which provided protection for an archer while still allowing room to shoot.