Archaeology

In December 1996 excavations of the northern part of the site by Claire Walsh of Archaeological Projects Ltd found thepossible remains of the cloister wall 1.7m below present ground level along with a 10m east­west length of what wasinterpreted as the junction of the nave and chancel wall. The excavations found an in­situ tiled pavement. The archaeological remains were deemed to be of great significant and the site is now classified as a National Monument (DU018_020051). Over a five day period in January 1997 further testing was carried out to determine more fully the nature and extent of the archaeological remains.

Walsh determined the cumulative evidence through the considerable amount of demolition material suggests the presence of the abbey of St Thomas the Martyr has been located. The material evidence from her test excavations consisted of roof slates, window glass, fragments of dressed oolitic limestone (some of which appear to have been burned), mortar and wall render, and ceramic floor tiles.

Archaeological traces of the abbey precinct have been found including a substantial medieval wall and ditch found just to the southeast of the site on South Earl Street under licence number 95E41. Located to the northeast off Hanbury Lane and Swan Alley evidence of multitude inhumations and a possible boundary wall were recovered (98E199).

All the above evidence brings to light one of the most important archaeological discoveries in medieval and monastic Dublin and identifies how significant it may have been in the development of its western suburbs. Dublin Uncovered recognises the criteria for the protection of monuments laid down in 1966 Venice Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and sites and believes it should be adopted in the case of the abbey St Thomas the Martyr.

History

The Abbey of St Thomas the Martyr played a vital role in the development of the Dublin city, and its hinterland, during the medieval period. The abbey, later known as St Thomas’s Court was founded in March 1177 by William Fitz Audelin.

The abbey building itself appears to date to after 1225, when the king was invited to lay the first stone of a new church (Gwynn 1954, 20). Secondary accounts of the abbey’s history are littered with references to boundary disputes, physical destruction and rebuilding, with occasional specific references to structures such as the King’s Lodgings (Gwynn and Hadcock 1970, 172) and to the King’s alms house, which collapsed c. 1350 and was never rebuilt (Davis 1980, 54).

An accidental fire in 1289 destroyed several buildings and in 1392, the abbey was attacked by a mob, some canons, together with citizens of Dublin, attempted to oust and possible murder the abbot, John Serjeant which reveal there were tensions between the city and the abbey.

The location of the abbey just outside the city walls most likely gave rise to the western suburbs of the medieval city. These suburbs along with the monastic settlement became a thriving commercial area and evidence for this is comes from Wills dating to the middle of the fourteenth century.

The precinct of the abbey was extensive and the lands included the Liberty of Donore, which bestowed additional privileges, as it was administered independently and lay outside the jurisdiction of the city of Dublin. The abbey was endowed with extensive estates which included the adjacent parish of St. James and the priory of St. Catherine between Lucan and Leixlip. By the fourteenth century the abbey occupied a large precinct at Thomas Court, with mills constructed along the Abbey Stream (a manufactured watercourse with water taken from the Poddle), extensive orchards, woods and gardens.

By the time of the reformation and the dissolution of the abbey in 1539, the abbeys holdings comprised of 4 mills, 8 orchards and 30 acres of woods. In 1545 the lands of St Thomas’s were granted to Sir William Brabazon whose linage became the earls of Meath. The abbey was used for some period as a secular dwelling before demolition in the later seventeenth century but all remaining traces of the abbey would appear to have been removed by the middle of the eighteenth century.

Traces of the precinct boundaries are all but vanished now but the streets, narrow lanes and the plots surrounding the former Meath Market echo a reminder of the establishment which once stood proudly on the outskirts of the medieval wall of Dublin city.

Community

Through outreach projects and social programmes Dublin Uncovered will play a vital role in connecting places, people and histories to the site of St Thomas’s and the Liberties within Dublin 8. As a heritage and educational centre, Dublin Uncovered has a responsibility to focus on engaging the local community by building a positive sense of connection and belonging for people to the area and to the site of St Thomas’s. Through community involvement we believe we can create strong social cohesion and networks which are fundamental for sustainable and thriving area.

Dublin Uncovered will provide an historical hub for the local community to engage with their heritage beyond the confines of the centre. The Liberties are an extremely historically potent and culturally rich area and we will actively seek to facilitate local heritage groups, schools and other interested members of the local community in utilising the centre and its resources as base for their own explorations of the area’s history, archaeology and heritage. Our team’s expertise in public and community based archaeology and heritage means that expert advice would always be on hand to help local people plan, develop and carry out their own heritage projects within the area.

  • Public Talks/Lectures: As part of our public outreach programme Dublin Uncovered will disseminate findings from the archaeology record and through on-going research. A series of public talks and lectures discussing the history of the area and the previous results from archaeological excavations related to the Abbey will be presented within our interpretative centre.
  • Local Festivals & Events: Dublin Uncovered will provide local community events and festivals throughout the year. Watch this space for more info!
  • Placements/Work Experience/Training: Contact us for more information about opportunities for joining us on the build of the project.
  • Employment: Contact us at info@dublinuncovered.ie or by Tel: +353 87 7556808 for employment opportunities.

Learning Zone

Unique and Interactive educational zones dedicated to children who can explore life in medieval times through the eyes of archaeologists. Our Big Dig will allow children to excavate the remains of the abbey through our simulated archaeological excavation and much more. Our hands-on educational workshops and activities let children explore the daily life of a monk and their role in the community through commerce, trade and religion.

  • The Big Dig: Hands-on practical and fun activity workshop where children can uncover the treasures of the past by excavating the remains of the abbey and much more!
  • Archaeology Camps: Dublin Uncovered will provide archaeology camps during the school holidays. Our camps will provide hands-on activities, tours, excursions and much much more! Children who have a craving to learn and soak up knowledge about the world around them, then this is the place for them!
  • Pottery Making: Get your hands dirty with our pottery making workshop, learn to make your very own pot and how pottery has helped archaeologists reveal stories from the past!
  • Medieval Tile Printing: Learn about the design and manufacturing of tiles and try make you very own medieval tile from our ancient abbey and print it on site.
  • Activity Workshops: Throughout the year themed workshops and activities will be available on certain weekends. For more information please contact our education department.

Upcoming Events

Dublin Uncovered will be informing members of the community for upcoming public events about the project and what to expect over the next few years. We are looking for as much support as possible and we hope to build a strong presence in the local area in order to provide the Liberties with a new innovative, unique and exciting historical and archaeological hub for the area. If you think you can help us in any way or would like to know more please contact us at info@dublinuncovered.ie.

Welcome to our new website

Welcome to our new website and to the Dublin Uncovered project for the Liberties. We are currently in the process of creating a unique outdoor interactive centre as an incubus for research, education, community training, employment and interpretation of the Liberties’ rich heritage for the wider audience.

On every aspect we hope to break new boundaries, particularly regarding:

  • how archaeology is processed
  • community access and ownership
  • how heritage is interpreted
  • sustainable social enterprise approaches for heritage using inventive methodologies.

We are here to offer diverse, non­intrusive and digital means of interpretation so that for the first time in Ireland, medieval archaeology will be understood ‘fresh from the ground’. Excavation is just one of our objectives and we are hoping to carry this out as part of our long­term aim by working closely alongside the relevant statutory bodies and partners to fulfil our goal. We will provide a platform for the community to build a database of their stories, songs, photos and memories of the Liberties into one­stop social history store working with ground breaking methodologies.

Visitor Experience

Let us uncover monastic life within the Liberties for you by exploring the history and archaeology of the Augustinian Abbey of St Thomas’s. Through an interactive experience you will be guided through the day in the life of an Augustinian monk. Learn about commerce, trade and religion and the role of the monastic orders in Dublin. Our specialised tours will bring you on an unforgettable experience through a series of interactive audio and visual displays, exhibitions and historical reconstructions depicting the day in the life as a Augustinian Monk in medieval Dublin.

  • Archaeology Exhibitions: Informative exhibits and displays revealing discoveries from some of the most important excavations associated with the abbey of St Thomas’s and the Liberties.
  • History of the Liberties: Learn about the history & archaeology of the Liberties and the role of St Thomas’s Abbey through interactive displays & exhibitions.
  • The Liberties Digital Scrapbook: Through pictures and stories we will let the community tell their very own story of the Liberties and how they remember it with an Online Digital Scrapbook.
  • The Crux: Our groundbreaking digital simulation displayed in 3D projections and installations recreates monastic life in medieval Dublin. This unique visitor experience will take your breath away by using the most up to date audio and visual technology
  • Historical Reconstructions: Visit a reconstruction of a typical monastic building associated with the Abbey of St Thomas’s. Learn about the typical day to day life of a monk and the activities which took place within the abbey. Our historical reconstruction will be used for educational workshops, more information on this can be seen on the Learning Zone page.
  • Learning Zones: Dedicated educational area for children where they can excavate the remains of the abbey and carry out associated workshops and activities.
  • Themed Events: Step back into Medieval Dublin and meet some of our ancestors and learn about their daily lives with heritage and family day festivals. You can experience medieval life through craftspeople such as Blacksmiths, Archers, Carpenters, Leather workers and Potters within our outdoor attraction. Learn and sample goods and wears including traditional clothing, crafts and culinary food from medieval times.