Rathfarnham Castle Conference


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Jump to abstracts of all the talks.



Franc Myles MUBC MIAI Keynote speaker
Franc Myles has been a professional archaeologist for over 25 years. His Dublin practice Archaeology and Built Heritage specialises in Historical Archaeology and architectural conservation, which Franc teaches in Trinity College Dublin. He has published, spoken and broadcast widely on subjects from Early Christian west coast settlement to the Archaeology of Disco. He is news editor of Archaeology Ireland and sits on the committee of the Irish Post Medieval Archaeology Group.

Antoine Giacometti    Excavating at Rathfarnham Castle
Antoine will present an overview of the Rathfarnham Castle excavations, and provide a context for the discovery of c. 18,500 artefacts dating from c. 1680-1720 found in a 16th century washpit.

Antoine Giacometti has worked as an archaeologist since 1995, and specialises in the archaeology of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and industrial archaeology. He established Archaeology Plan consultancy in 2011. He has been directing archaeological excavations at Rathfarnham Castle from 2014 to 2016 and plans more work in 2017.

Dr Ruth F. Carden       Animal, fish and bird remains
A total of 2,457 mammal, fish, amphibian and bird bones were recovered from the 10 contexts within the excavations at Rathfarnham Castle between June 2014 and January 2015. Of the full recovered assemblage, 64.5% of the fragments were identifiable to a taxonomic category. At least 16 different wild/domestic mammals (20%), 15 different birds (8.7%), 8 different fish (11%) were identified, along with one amphibian (1.5%) and one crustacean (crab claws) (0.2%).

Sheep, pig, rabbit and cod remains were amongst the most predominant species within the assemblage. Juvenile remains of the partial carcases from pig, sheep/goat, cow and rabbit showed evidence of butchery, jointing and cooking preparations at certain times of the year rather than a daily diet. Notable among the identified wild animals were fallow deer, red squirrel, turkey, corncrake and bream. Such diet reflects high status, or high social class feasting events.

Dr Ruth Carden is a zoologist who specialises in the ecology, biology and the identification of animal bones from the Pleistocene and Holocene periods.

Penny Johnston & Stephen Davis Plant remains & diet: evidence from Rathfarnham
Plant remains from Rathfarnham Castle were primarily from fruits, including native berries like blackberry, and imported fruits like fig. Although many of the exotic fruits may have been imported, these remains are from a period when there is an increasing interest in “improving” cultivation, gardening and landscaping. In the plant remains evidence there are hints that this may have been one of the accomplishments of the estate at Rathfarnham Castle.

This second part of this paper discusses three insect assemblages analysed as part of the Rathfarnham Castle post-excavation project, two of which were derived from the washpit, the third the fill of a near intact chamber pot. All three assemblages were broadly similar, containing a variety of synanthropic taxa characteristic of structural timber and stored products. This short presentation will briefly discuss species of note and offer some interpretations as to the derivation of the assemblages.

Penny Johnston has been working on Irish archaeobotanical assemblages since the late 1990s. She is particularly interested in using plant remains to look at wider archaeological and societal questions. (http://ipean.ie/profile_Penny.html).

Dr Stephen Davis is the Graduate co-ordinator of UCD School of Archaeology. He graduated from the University of Reading with a degree in botany in 1994 and after a brief spell as a molecular biologist headed to Sheffield to study Environmental Archaeology. He undertook a PhD at Liverpool John Moores University looking at lowland raised mires in NW England. He joined the staff at UCD in November 2006 as part of the departmental strategy to expand environmental archaeology within UCD. In recent years he has become increasingly involved in remote sensing technologies, in particular LiDAR and multispectral satellite data, and their use in archaeological prospection.

Joanna Wren      Bricks and tiles from Rathfarnham Castle
The building material recovered from Rathfarnham Castle included just one sherd from a late medieval ridge tile. The ridge tile pre-dates the construction of the sixteenth century fortified house and it is evidence for earlier, medieval settlement at the site. The rest of the assemblage was comprised of seventeenth-eighteenth century, roof tile, floor tile and brick. Amongst this material the most significant finds were particular varieties of floor tile and brick dating to the seventeenth century which occur frequently at fortified house sites. A few of the bricks were fire-damaged which may suggest they were being manufactured on-site.

Joanna Wren qualified from UCD in 1987 with a masters degree in archaeology entitled Crested Ridge Tiles from medieval town sites in Leinster. Since then she has been living in Waterford and working as an archaeologist. Over time she has worked variously as a site director and project manager and, behind the scenes as a specialist on clay building materials.

Michael Kenny     Coins and tokens
The coins and trade tokens were identified by Michael Kenny, with assistance from Alva Mac Gowan. The earliest item is a late 16th century Nuremberg jeton, and the coins and Irish trade tokens date from 1602 to 1692. The most valuable and exotic coin is a Potosi silver 8 reales, issued from a Spanish South America mint in 1655. Of particular interest is an emergency coinage ‘gunmoney’ James II halfpenny that was minted in Limerick during the siege in 1691. It is at this siege that Adam Loftus lost his life in the same year, and the presence of this coin in the assemblage might not be a coincidence.

Michael Kenny worked in the National Museum of Ireland, Decorative Arts and History, and has had an interest in coins all his life.

Guild of Irish Lacemakers     Demonstration of 17th century lacemaking in the Small Withdrawing Room during morning break
The Guild of Irish Lacemakers identified a number of the Rathfarnham lacemaking artefacts. These are represented by brass pins, lace bobbins, divider pins, thread lifters, gold thread, needles, a needle-case, and a thimble. The assemblage may represent the earliest archaeological evidence found to date of lacemaking in Ireland.

Very little documentary evidence of early Irish lacemaking survives, but the Rathfarnham Castle evidence suggests it was practised from the late 17th century in high-status households instead of by the ‘village woman’ as suggested by 19th century documentary evidence. It is unclear if this would have been done by the Loftus ladies of the house, or the servants. The bobbins are ‘South Bucks Bobbins’ of a style known from Buckinghamshire in England, and this may well be the origin of the Rathfarnham lacemaker. Portraits of late 17th century nobles, both men and women, show outfits with flouncy lace sleeves and collar ruffs, suggestive of how the Rathfarnham lace was used.

Alva Mac Gowan    The little things
Amongst the artefacts discovered during the excavations at Rathfarnham Castle were small finds that could not be grouped with the other artefacts. These were left to Alva Mac Gowan the finds supervisor on site, to create a catalogue for these random objects. During her research, she discovered many interesting insights into the lives of the castle’s occupants, from lace making to the 17th century delicacy of eating bone marrow.

Alva Mac Gowan has worked as an archaeologist since her graduation from UCD in 2001. Alva was part of the core team involved with the excavations at Rathfarnham Castle. Her role as Finds Supervisor, meant that she had the privilege of witnessing the finds on their journey from their initial discovery to their final phase of conservation. Her illustrations and photographs of the artefacts were used in the final report. She is currently working as a field archaeologist for the Museum of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Alan R. Hayden     Clay pipes
The clay tobacco pipes from the recent excavation will be briefly described and discussed. All but one of the pipes (a late bowl found outside the castle) were found in the washhouse in the basement of the southwest tower of the castle. The pipes come from two main contexts. The first evidences the use and occupation of the washhouse and produced a small number of pipes dating from 1630-40 to 1680. All were of English origin and none had makers’ marks. The second and larger group of pipes came from the material deliberately dumped into the washhouse to help raise its floor level. The pipes from this context ranged in date from the 1680s-90s to 1710-30 and suggest they were deposited sometime between 1700 and 1730. In this group there were several Dutch pipes, which can be identified by makers’ marks to individuals active in Gouda c.1700. None of the larger number of English pipes had makers’ marks and they were produced in London, Bristol and Chester. The most interesting pipes were those produced in Dublin. One bowl and several stem fragments retained the ‘old Allen’ stamp of James Allen, the earliest known pipe maker in Ireland. Several of the other types found were also likely made by Allen. James Allen was active from at least 1695 until at least 1717 and his son Luke continued the business afterwards and is mentioned in 1732.

Alan is Director of Archaeological Projects Ltd, Ireland’s longest established archaeological consulting and contracting company. He has excavated a large number of sites covering all dates in Ireland over the last 30 years.

Rosanne Meenan European ceramics
A total of 2,730 pottery sherds was recovered from excavations at Rathfarnham Castle. The majority was found during excavations in the wash house in the base of the south-west tower of the Castle. The wares present were representative of those that were in common use in the decades either side of 1700 but not much later than 1720. On the whole they were brought into Ireland from Britain, the Netherlands and from the Rhineland. It is clear that there was awareness of and access to all the fashionable wares of the period. Local coarsewares were also present. Sanitary wares were the most numerous, followed by table wares while there was relatively less evidence for food-processing and storage vessels.

Rosanne Meenan is a contract archaeologist and ceramics specialist. She has written reports on pottery from excavations all around Ireland, urban and rural, concentrating mainly on pottery from the post-medieval period.

John Nicholl Well-heeled in Rathfarnham in the 17th century
A look at the footwear of the fashion conscious Lady or Gentleman in 17th century Rathfarnham as revealed by the finds from the flanker tower wash-pit. Examples will include shoes for men, women and children as well as the largest assemblage of wooden heels recovered in Ireland.

John Nicholl is a free-lance Archaeological Leather Finds Specialist based in Leixlip, Co. Kildare. Recent work includes assemblages from Caherduggan Castle, Co. Cork (Rubicon Heritage), Rathfarnham Castle (Archaeology Plan), Drumclay Crannog (NIEA) and Mill Street, Dublin (Claire Walsh).

Steven McGlade & Nessa Roche Windows and mirrors from Rathfarnham Castle
The castle at Rathfarnham was glazed with leaded lights until the eighteenth century, in the small, original windows, the masonry surrounds of some of which can still be seen. The glass of these lights was of the broad cylinder production and was likely imported, although quantities of window glass were made in Ireland at times. Looking glasses were increasingly purchased for high class interiors as the seventeenth century progressed, using imported flat glass, ground, polished and silvered.

Steven graduated from NUI Galway in 2002. He is a director with Archaeology Plan. He was part of the team that excavated the castle and was involved in the post-excavation works on the assemblage.

Nessa Roche holds a PhD in architectural conservation from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and works as an architectural conservation advisor in the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. She has published articles and books on windows and glass.

George R. Haggarty Chinese porcelain
This paper examines a large, collection of Kangxi period (1662-1722), Chinese export ceramics. These were recovered from a closed c. 1720 context excavated at Rathfarnham Castle Dublin; the porcelain assemblage is made up of two hundred and thirty seven shards, from somewhere in excess of fifty vessels and provides evidence for the use of Oriental porcelain by a member of Dublin’s fiscal and social elite, Adam Loftus, Lord Lisburne, 1635-1691.

George is recognized amongst other things as an expert on the production and trade of Scottish ceramics between the 11th and 19th centuries, and who since his retirement from the antique trade and appointment as a research associate in the department of Archaeology and Scottish history at the National Museums Scotland, has written or co-authored in excess of 140 monographs, papers, etc.. Often asked to speak at conferences in Britain, Europe and the USA, amongst his current projects are the publication of two important medieval ceramic assemblages from central Edinburgh and the study of Japanese porcelain.

Damian Shiels The Loftus armoury and military objects
Significant military assemblages from known armouries are extremely rare in Irish archaeology. The military material from Rathfarnham undoubtedly represents one of the most important military assemblages from the period uncovered in the country. This talk will discuss some of the material uncovered during the excavations, and what it can tell us about military life and military tactics in early post-medieval Rathfarnham Castle.

Damian Shiels is a conflict archaeologist and historian, and is a company director with Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd.

Peter Francis The development of lead glass: the Irish connection
The drinking glass fragments from Rathfarnham have significance that extends far beyond Ireland, principally because they represent one of the earliest assemblages of lead-crystal glass yet discovered. This lecture will focus on the historical circumstances in which these pieces were made in Dublin during the late 17th-century and place them within the broader, European context.

Peter Francis initially pursued research on early Irish ceramics and glass as an Honorary Fellow at Queen’s University, Belfast. His numerous discoveries have since led to a number of publications on both subjects.

Dr James Lyttleton Fortified Houses in Ireland – an architecture of change and continuity
During the Tudor period in Ireland, a new building form appeared on country estates – the fortified house. Its novel form and layout represented a shift in how the landed gentry perceived themselves and the world around them. Rathfarnham Castle is one of the earliest, and indeed one of the finer examples of these fortified houses. While associated with the New English (and indeed Scottish) arrivals, the new architectural form was also adopted by well-established Old English and Gaelic-Irish families as well, testifying to the profound changes experienced by a society that was undergoing the Reformation, the Renaissance and the demise of the medieval lordship. At the same time there were elements in the design of these buildings which harkened back to a later medieval world, which highlights the nuances and contradictions evident in past societal change, which this talk will seek to illustrate.

Dr James Lyttleton is an archaeologist with research interests in medieval and post-medieval settlement in Ireland and Britain, and early English colonial settlement in North America.

RLab demonstration of holographic pyramid and 3D printing of artefacts during afternoon break
The Integrative Biology Laboratory or “R” Lab is a pluri-disciplinary laboratory focusing on the functions of epithelia founded by Dr. Emmanuel Reynaud. RLab uses physics, chemistry, engineering, molecular and cellular techniques to study secretory pathways. They combine an evolutionary approach from Planctomycetes to Human to new biophysical and optical methods ranging from cell “morphing” to Light Sheet Microscopy for 3D imaging.

RLab also provide advices and optical set-ups to research groups and collaborate extensively with the private sectors. They have used their expertise to consider innovative ways for recording, replicating and exhibiting the Rathfarnham glass artefacts.

Antoine Giacometti & Emmanuel Reynaud Objects in the past; objects in the future
Antoine will describe how archaeologists try to understand the meaning of artefacts in the past. Using an opaque blue glass mug as an example, he will show how the process of interrogating an artefact is reflected in the archaeological interpretation. This sort of interpretation allows us to get ‘under the skin’ of objects by drawing on personal experiences, and to discuss artefacts in abstract terms such as ‘morality’ and ‘responsibility’.

The different ways in which the glass mug has been curated and displayed in the past, present and future are contrasted. The blue glass mug object is the perfect example of the transformation in consumption and consumerism that happened in northwest Europe in the late 17th century. Emmanuel will reflect on the way modern biologists are rethinking display in the light of cutting-edge technology and emerging awareness of the impact of consumerism.

Antoine Giacometti has been directing archaeological excavations at Rathfarnham Castle from 2014 to 2016 and plans more work in 2017.

Dr Emmanuel G. Reynaud, founder of the RLab, is a biologist and a polymath developing new technologies to image the world as it is in 3D and replicating it using virtual reality as well as colour 3D printing for education and research purposes. He is the Principal Investigator in Integrative Biology at the Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, UCD Centre for Biomedical Engineering.

Judith Carroll      Adam’s glass theatre
Among the finds from Rathfarnham Castle excavated by Archaeology Plan, a substantial quantity of small colourful, decorative, glass finds came to light. There were 29 pieces. Apart from five glass beads, these comprised unidentified fragmentary glass objects which did not seem to relate to each other and could not be compared in the Irish archaeological record.

Much of the material was taken to be broken glass jewellery or scientific equipment at first, but on investigation, all the glass pieces were found to have been manufactured in the glass lampworking tradition which developed and became popular outside Venice from the 16th century. They were closely comparable to material produced in France in the late 17th and 18th centuries when the manufacture of glass miniatures, typically single figures or groups of figures representing mythological figures or theatrical dramas, became particularly popular.

Judith Carroll is a consultant archaeologist with a particular interest in medieval and early modern glass.

Susannah Kelly Conservation of artefacts from Rathfarnham Castle
The burial conditions at Rathfarnham Castle were perfect for the survival of a large variety of material. A small selection of examples that have been conserved or are undergoing conservation at present will be presented and their treatments discussed.

Susannah Kelly is a freelance archaeological conservator associated with the School of Archaeology, University College Dublin. She has worked for the past 20 years on material from Irish excavations and museum collections.

John Fitzgerald OPW reflections on the discoveries
John Fitzgerald is the Manager of Rathfarnham Castle on behalf of the Office of Public Works.

The Office of Public Works has responsibility for the day-to-day running of all National Monuments in State care and National Historic Properties. The OPW took over Rathfarnham Castle in 1985 and is carrying out a long term plan of restoration and renovation. John Fitzgerald will say a few words on their behalf.

Simon Loftus & Fiona Dunne
Adam Loftus – the scandalous life and sudden death of a Restoration courtier

Coming of age under the dour regime of the Cromwellian Protectorate, Adam Loftus sowed his wild oats as an adult – and did so with a vengeance. Despite killing a man in a duel, consorting with rogues and twice being married to beauties of easy virtue, ‘Addy’ survived, was ennobled and revelled in a life of luxury. Flitting between his ancestral home at Rathfarnham and the dissolute court of Charles II, protected by wealth and family connections, he seemed invulnerable. But his luck ran out at the siege of Limerick, in 1691, when a cannonball blew his head off.

During the course of Fiona’s research into the lead drinking glasses found in Rathfarnham Castle she found six letters written by Adam Loftus to his nephew Thomas Conigsby. Fiona will be making a very short presentation of these letters outlining their date range and subject matter and highlighting how they enhance our knowledge of the Loftus family’s engagement with material culture.

Having retired from AIB in 2012, Fiona Dunne has spent the past four years pursuing further studies. She completed a diploma in Fine and Decorative Arts from I.P.A.V. and then went on to do an M.A. in Design History and Material Culture at N.C.A.D. Her thesis centred on the lead drinking glasses uncovered in Rathfarnham Castle.

Simon Loftus has written extensively on wine, food, travel and social history. His most recent book, highly acclaimed, was a history of Ireland as seen through the eyes of his forebears: The Invention of Memory – an Irish family scrapbook.

Conference was held in the 2nd Floor ballroom at Rathfarnham Castle and was organised by Archaeology Plan and the Office of Public Works