DAR - Section 2 Understanding the site History and Chronology

DAR - Section 2 Understanding the site History and Chronology (Download Section 2: Understanding the Site History and Chronology)



The Masterplan area consists of a large area on the western banks of the River Nore containing many different monuments from various ages however the most visually dominant of all of these is St Francis’ Abbey (a National Monument in State care) and its associated medieval monuments of the city wall and Evan’s Tower. The monastery has been studied by several distinguished scholars and it fortunes were well chronicled by Friar John Clyn in his annals; a Franciscan monk belonging to the abbey, however despite this knowledge, the site as it appears today within a modern brewing complex is still reluctant to yield its secrets.

Detailed documentary information on the early history of the St Francis’ Abbey is scant and while there is a general consensus of when and how the monastery developed, there is little definitive information on the extent of the precinct and the location of key features within the complex such as the cemetery, precinct/ boundary walls and mill. In addition, the excavations that took place in the late 1960’ and early 1970’s served to inform us of a significant below ground presence and a much more substantial structure then is evidenced by the upstanding building encompassing a transept, north aisle, nave, western range and cloister. The size and scale of the structures revealed by the excavations substantiate the historical accounts that this was indeed a monastery of considerable importance and it is only through targeted excavation that a full appreciation of this intriguing complex will emerge.

2.1.1 Designations

Table 2.1: The classification of monuments within the Masterplan Site

Legal Status

Site Class


NIAH 12000008
Nat. Mon. Ref. 72

Religious House – Franciscan Friars, St
Francis’ Abbey – National Monument in State
care (National Monument Ref:72)

St Mary’s Parish



St Mary’s Parish


Inscribed slab

St Mary’s Parish


Wall monument

St Mary’s Parish

UAS 4a:101

St Francis’ Well

St March’s Parish

Part of the Kilkenny City Wall Defences, National
Monument in private
ownership soon to be
Kilkenny County Council
UAS 4a:7

Evan’s Tower and wall walk

St Mary’s Parish

Part of the Kilkenny City
Wall Defences, National
Monument, in private
ownership soon to be
Kilkenny County Council UAS 4a-4d: 6

City Wall

St Mary’s Parish

UAS 4a:102

Bridge site

Gardens (Kilkenny City By., St Canice Par.)

UAS 4a:122

16th/17th century house

Gardens (Kilkenny City By., St Canice Par.)

UAS 4a:107

Bull Inn

Townparks (Nethercross By.)

UAS 4a:124

Water mill - unclassified

Gardens (Kilkenny City By., St Canice Par.)

Figure 4 Zone of Archaeological Potential for Kilkenny

The site lies within the reclaimed flood-plains of the Nore and Breagagh Rivers and the extent of these flood waters have been reconstructed and mapped by Ó Drisceoil* (and reproduced in the KKAP**). This process was achieved by plotting the occurrences of alluvial material in archaeological and geotechnical investigations throughout the city and relating them to its contours. It was concluded from these investigations that over half of the medieval town of Kilkenny was constructed on ground that was reclaimed in the thirteenth century from the floodplains of the rivers Nore and Breagagh***. Indeed the name for the River Breagagh is derived from the Irish bréagach meaning deceitful****, and there have been many occasions through history when the raging torrents of this otherwise innocuous stream has engulfed adjacent land holdings.

In terms of archaeological evidence (discussed in Section III of the report) within the Masterplan area, investigations along Bateman Quay have revealed a riverside wall, 3.5m in height associated with the development in the 17th century of a new quay to connect the river Nore to the Fishmarket or ‘Shambles’ area*****. Other features such as riverside post and wattle fencing, wooden revetments and medieval masonry walls have been found along the river Breagagh****** and demonstrate the potential to reveal similar structures within the Masterplan area along the river Nore. A number of flood events have been chronicled historically by Friar John Clyn, one of which occurred on the 7th of November 1337 and covered everything except the high alter at St Francis’ Abbey.

The findings from the excavation that took place to the rear of the court house and Gaol also demonstrate a rich repository of waterlogged soils and almost 500 pieces of well-preserved wood was recovered from the site*******.

*C. Ó Drisceoil (2003) ‘Kilkenny reclaimed: the archaeological evidence for medieval reclamation in Kilkenny City’, in Old Kilkenny Review 55, 58-69

**C. Ó Drisceoil et al (2008) The Kilkenny Archaeological Project (KKAP) Report for the Irish National Strategic Archaeological Research (INSTAR), Heritage Council.


****J. Bradley (2000) Irish Historic Towns Atlas, No. 10, Kilkenny. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy

*****Dr N. Brady (2001) ‘Excavation of Bateman Quay, Kilkenny’ in www.excavation.ie

******I Doyle (2003) ‘Medieval Settlement’ in the River Nore Flood Alleviation Scheme unpublished report Margaret Gowen & Co Ltd

*******M. Saunderson (2008) ‘Kilkenny Courthouse, Parliament Street, Kilkenny’, License Ref 08E0462 in www.excavations.ie

Figure 5 RMP, RPS and NIAH site locations

2.1.2 Archaeological Background
While there is no evidence of archaeological activity or material on the site prior to the medieval period, archaeological monitoring works of the River Nore has produced finds from the Mesolithic and Neolithic in the form of flints and a polished stone axe as well as a post and wattle structure beneath John’s Bridge that was radiocarbon dated to the late Bronze Age. It is possible that prehistoric deposits or stray finds do survive buried deeply within the Masterplan area however archaeological investigations have demonstrated that this area was not reclaimed until the late 12th-early 13th century*.

The expansion of Kilkenny from the early medieval monastic enclosure of St Canice’s as evidenced by the curving street pattern of Vicar Street, St Canice’s Place, Dean Street and Thomas Street** was driven by the Anglo-Normans who established a fortification on a hill overlooking the river Nore at the south end of Kilkenny. By 1173 a castle had been established and as an Anglo-Norman borough, Kilkenny, flourished during the 13th and mid-14th centuries.

The initial Anglo-Norman settlement appears to have extended from the castle to the modern day James Street. A deed dating to c. 1207 indicates a land swap between William Marshal and the bishop of Ossory, whereby the bishop received land at Aghaboe in return for providing Marshal an expanse of land lying between James Street and the Breagagh River. The deed states that the purpose of the exchange was to enable Marshal to enlarge the town. The new area was probably occupied between, c. 1207 and c. 1231, and it is at this stage that the foundation of the Franciscan friary developed in the north-east corner***. The economic success of Kilkenny led to a rapid growth of the town, initially this urban expansion led to the development of the flood-plains of the rivers Nore and Breagagh, the area of the Masterplan. Further developments included the suburb of Irishtown which was already a pre-existing early medieval centre and was given a separate borough status and developments to the south and east.

The Masterplan area encompasses two adjacent towns, Irishtown and Hightown (Englishtown), each of which had an enclosing town wall built during the medieval period. The Hightown town wall was constructed in the mid-13th century and encloses a roughly rectangular area of approximately 29 hectares, though there is no known wall on the eastern side of Hightown, as it was thought that the River Nore acted as a natural line of defence, as Bradley states ‘no wall was built along the river’ **** and in (2000, 2) he reiterates ‘there is no evidence for the existence of a river wall beside the Nore’*****. Thomas****** however postulates that Evan’s Tower may have been associated with the remains of the town wall or of a defended friary wall. While the river front in Hightown appears to be open in the middle of the seventeenth century, with properties aligned east-west from the Main Street to the River Nore (Civil Survey 1654-56) this may not have always been the case. It is possible that with the threat of attack lessened in later years and the increase in trade necessitated access to the river and that the wall along this section would have been removed in a piecemeal fashion. Equally a riverside defensive wall may have been built at a later stage then the rest of the circuit as there was already a natural enclosing feature in the form of the river. As stated in the introduction archaeological evidence has produced findings of a riverside wall associated with 17th century development along Bateman Quay and it is likely that only archaeological test excavation will resolve this matter within the former brewery complex and establish if there was an earlier defensive wall or medieval revetments associated with reclamation works.

The wall around the Irish Town is thought to have been completed in the fourteenth-century******* and ran directly north from the Breagagh River and across Dean Street, around St Canice’s Cathedral up to Troy’s Gate and finally met the River Nore, north of Green’s Bridge. There is no evidence for a wall protecting Irishtown on the eastern side parallel to the River Nore and unlike Hightown there is no evidence for a wall alongside the Breagagh. An early description by Bishop Rothe (c. 1625) describes Irishtown as ‘washed by the river’ on the east and ‘defended by walls and turrets’ on the west. In all an area of some 380m x 260m (about 10 hectares) was enclosed and it appears that no mural towers were present on the circumference. Some four gates provided access to Irishtown, these were the Irishtown Gate (Watergate), Dean’s Gate, Troy’s Gate and Green’s Gate. Irishtown was dominated by St Canice’s Cathedral and within the Masterplan area, St Canice’s influence is seen in the form of the Chancellors mills and just outside the area on Vicar Street, the area formerly occupied by the Choral building associated with the abbey was excavated in 2004 (detailed in Section III).

*Cotter, C., 1992, ‘Archaeological Excavations at Dean Street, Kilkenny, 1990’ Old Kilkenny Review, 44, 1056-1076

Ó Drisceoil, C. (2003) ‘Kilkenny reclaimed: the archaeological evidence for medieval reclamation in Kilkenny City’, in Old Kilkenny Review 55, 58-69

**Bradley, J. (1990) ‘Early development of the medieval town in Kilkenny,’ Nolan, W. & Whelan, K. (eds) Kilkenny: History and Society. Dublin, 63-74.

***Bradley, J. (2000) Historic Towns Atlas: Kilkenny, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, pg. 2

****Bradley, J. (1975-6) ‘The town wall of Kilkenny’, in Old Kilkenny Review, I no. 2 (1975), 85-103; no. 3 (1976), 209-19

*****Ibid. Bradley, J. (2000)

******Thomas, A., (1992), The walled towns of Ireland. Dublin, Irish Academic Press, pg., 40

*******Ibid. Thomas, 1992 pg. 127

Irishtown Gate
The main access from Irishtown to Hightown was through the Irishtown Gate (also known as Watergate and Hightown Gate) and across Irishtown bridge (Plate 15). The Irishtown gate is mentioned in 1383-84 when ‘John Corvisor is keeper of the hate of Irestoun and of that murage, taking yearly 8s’ *. The Watergate was ordered for demolition in 1759**. Irishtown bridge appears to have existed from the early thirteenth century. In 1207 the transactions between the Earl Marshall and the Bishop of Ossory mentioned ‘the water called Bregath’ running under Coterel Bridge’***. A reference from 1352 to the ‘stream running under Coterelesbrigge’**** also suggests that Cotterels Bridge may be equated with Irishtown bridge (another alternative is put forward on pg. 29 of the report). The Irishtown bridge was repaired in 1558 and was ordered to be widened in 1759*****. Structures were present on the downstream side of this bridge until the middle of the twentieth century.

*McNeill, C., (1931) Kilkenny City Records Liber Primus Kilkenniensis, Irish Manuscript Commission (IMC) Dublin pg., 44

**Ibid. Bradley, 2000, pg 14

***Berry, H.F. (1907 –9) ‘Ancient Charter in the Liber Albus Ossoriensis’ in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 27C 115-25, pg. 124

****Ibid. McNeill, C., (1931), pg. 30

*****Ibid. Bradley 2000 pg 21

Plate 15 The Irishtown Seal reads ‘The common seal of the citizens of Kilkenny of the See of Ossory’.

City Wall
The course of the town wall runs along the south side River Breagagh in Hightown. The riverside wall may have been built as a precinct wall for the newly-founded Franciscan (Grey Friars) Friary of St Francis’. It apparently included a postern known as Grey Freren Gate, leading from the friary to a bridge over the Breagagh*. As the gate would have provided access to Irishtown for the friars, it is unlikely that this was used by the public and probably had no associated defended gate. The gate is mentioned in a lease of 1628**.
Rocque’s 1758 map shows a straight length of wall from the north-east corner bounding a garden/orchard and Horse Barracks, and then nothing along the remainder of the river bank, although the full extent of the wall is depicted on the OS 1841 manuscript plan as City Wall***.
Apart from the wall walk associated with Evan’s Turret (discussed below), the wall has been extensively rebuilt above ground level, reputedly around 30 years ago when the brewery site was extended northwards across the River Breagagh. The lower masonry on the southern side of the river is likely to contain stones belonging to the older wall.
Test-pits prior to the riverbed decontamination works were dug against the foundations of the wall and other test-pits were monitored along the river****. The wall is considered to be in good condition having been repointed with lime mortar in 2001.
The medieval Hightown of Kilkenny initially covered an area from the Kilkenny Castle to James’s Street. Bradley***** charts this phase of town’s development as commencing from 1192 to 1206. A second phase of urban expansion, dated by a foundation charter of 1207 (CDI. 1. No. 861), enclosed a roughly rectangular area measuring hectares****** and extended the limits of the town from ‘Keverocke's well’ (or Kieran’s well,) to the River Breagagh (CDI. 1. No. 861). It is also suggested that this phase contained a riverside defensive wall linking the corner bastion ‘Evan’s Turret’ at the eastern end of the River Breagagh to St. John’s Bridge gate-tower*******. No other historical, cartographic or archaeological evidence for a defensive wall along Bateman Quay exists however, and it is probable that the river was regarded as a strong enough deterrent.
The City Wall is part of the defences of Kilkenny City and is a National Monument. The section or line of the wall within the Masterplan Area is therefore a National Monument.

*Ibid. Bradley 1975-6, pg. 215

**Hogan, J. (1860-1) ‘Map of the city of Kilkenny constructed from Rocque’s survey 1757 and the Ordnance Survey 1841 and personal inspection of the localities’, Journal of the Kilkenny and Southeast of Ireland Archaeological Society, 3, 350-55, pg. 351

***Ibid. Bradley 2000 Map 2

****Excavations Ireland 1999 (1999:455, 456), Excavations Ireland 2000 (2000:535)

*****Ibid. Bradley 1975-6

******Ibid. Thomas 1992

*******Ibid. Thomas 1992
Evan’s Turret
The mural tower ‘Evan’s Turret’ is located at the junction of the River Breagagh and the River Nore, at the north-eastern end of the Hightown wall. It became known as ‘Evan’s Turret’ when the land around it was leased by the Corporation to Alderman Evans in 1724 and remained in his family for over a century*. The structure appears as a two storey rectangular tower, which was accessed by a wall walk along the town wall. While the form of the tower is suggestive of a late date (c. 1400), it is possible that its location reflects that of an earlier tower.

The friary passed to the Corporation in 1543; in 1598, the payment for carriage of 79 cartloads of stone ‘for making up the tower at Francis Well’ is likely to refer to this tower (Corporation Archives, CR/J/28). In 1650, the Civil Survey describes it as ‘a little castle in the garden’ of the friary (CS 6, 519). The tower and the stretch of adjoining city wall are marked on the OS 1841 manuscript map and the tower was illustrated in 1851 when still roofed.

The tower is described in detail in Section IV of the report. It is recorded that a member of the Evan’s family lived at the tower as a recluse in order to evade payment of a debt. When this person died, the body was carried in a boat across the river and buried in St John’s Abbey**.

*Lanigan, K. & Tyler, G. (1987) Kilkenny Its Architecture and History. Dublin, pg. 36

**P.M. Egan 1884,The Illustrated Guide to the City and County of Kilkenny, High Street, Kilkenny, pg 244

The tower and section of City Wall are both National Monuments and are considered to be an important surviving section of city wall and mural tower on a prominent site.
The Franciscans
The Franciscans arrived in Kilkenny in 1234 having crossed from England probably to Dublin in the late 1220s* and rapidly advanced into the surrounding counties in the subsequent years. Kilkenny would have been an attractive destination, as an Anglo-Norman stronghold and a prosperous town with extensive trade and economic links, the city was well connected with many generous wealthy patrons.

Such wealth was evident at St Francis’ Abbey allowing a marble high alter to be built and consecrated in 1323 and Caen stone to be used for the window jambs** as well as an elegant belfry tower to be constructed. The friars also enjoyed a guaranteed income in the form of land grants*** that they would then lease out as well as alms that they received when they visited various communities in Kilkenny’s hinterland.

Another significant source of income and an indicator of patronage were the burial rights enjoyed by important patrons and funeral offerings flowing from these****. Among the patrons whose names have been recorded are Robert Shortals in 1323, Raymond le Ercedeakne and members of his family slain by the O’Moores in 1335, and Isabella Palmer, who had paid for the front part of the new choir, who was interred in 1347*****. Such was the demand for burial close to the friars that a new cemetery was consecrated in Kilkenny in 1331******.

The 1479 land grant mentioned above numbered among its purposes ‘the maintenance of the study of sacred theology therein’, a clear signal that theology was being taught in Kilkenny friary by then*******. Promising young men from here would have been sent for further studies at the custodial houses of Cashel or Dublin and possibly some may have studied at the studium generale at Paris or elsewhere********.
The friary assumed a greater importance with the establishment of a philosophical stadium in 1627 and at the provincial chapter of 1647 St Francis’ Abbey was designated as a stadium for both philosophy and theology, the only house to be given this double status.

*Francis Cotter, The Friars Minor in Ireland. From their arrival to 1400 (St Bonaventure, 1994), 11-13

**Canice Mooney, ‘Franciscan architecture in pre-Reformation Ireland’, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 86 (1956), 125-169:128

***The first recorded land grant is dated to 1479 when Sir James Butler made a grant of land at Donore and Troystown – White, Irish monastic and episcopal deeds, 236-7.

****Joseph MacMahon (2012), The Franciscans in Kilkenny, OKR 64, 27-40.

*****Williams, Clyn, 178, 216, 242.

******Williams, Clyn, 206.

*******White, Irish monastic and episcopal deeds, 236-7

********See Williams, Clyn, 55 for John Clyn’s education.

St Francis’ Abbey
St Francis’ Abbey is a National Monument in state care. The abbey lay in an area known as the North Quarter and lay south of and next to the River Breagagh, this area was originally owned by the bishop of Ossary and ceded to the Marshalls in 1207. Its location here marked the limits of the town in its early development.

Now located within a former brewery site, St Francis’ Abbey was founded by Richard Marshall between 1231 and 1234 and given a royal grant in 1245. This was followed on November 6, 1246 by another royal grant for building purposes. The abbey started as a small rectangular chapel but then expanded as funds allowed. It grew to reach from Kilkenny city walls to the river Nore and became important enough to hold the Provincial Chapters of the friars in 1267 and 1308*.

Friar Clyn, a member of the community, chronicles the various new additions to the abbey during his lifetime (d. 1349): the choir was finished in 1321; a new high altar was consecrated on January 11, 1323; and the cemetery was completed in 1331. On November 7, 1337 an enormous flood covered everything except the high altar and caused much damage**. In 1347 a confraternity was established to raise funds to build a new bell tower but the following years witnessed the scourge of the Black Death and so this tower was probably not completed until much later in the century.

Friar Clyn also communicated the horrors of the plague in his writings and is presumed to have died in and around 1348 from the outbreak, leaving behind his final entry:
‘Lest the writing should perish with the writer, and the work fail with the workman, I leave behind me parchment for continuing it, if any man should have the good fortune to survive this calamity, or any one of the race of Adam should escape this pestilence, to continue what I have begun.’

In 1351 the Liber Primus Kilkenniensis, one of the most important sources for Kilkenny city in the later Middle Ages, records a perpetual endowment by Kilkenny Corporation for the celebration of masses***.

The archaeological evidence indicates that late in the fourteenth century the sacristy and living quarters were built to the south of the church and an aisle was added on the northern side of the nave. The sacristy has been restored as an oratory by Smithwicks****. When the huge transept chapel was constructed is unknown but has been ascribed to the second half of the fifteenth century when such extensions were typical of Franciscan friaries then undergoing a period of artistic and devotional renewal***** (Figure 6). Part of the north aisle was demolished and some of the north wall of the nave was replaced by a pair of arches which were also placed along the rear of the transept chapel******. The results of the onsite excavations are detailed in the Section III of the report.

*Williams, B. ed 2007 The Annals of Ireland by Friar Clyn and Thady Dowling (1845). Dublin: Four Courts Press pgs. 10, 13

**Ibid Williams 2007 pg 34

***Peter Smithwick 1988 ‘Saint Francis Abbey’ in The Old Kilkenny Review (OKR) 2nd series, Vol. 3 No. 5, 521-526, pg 523

****Ibid. Lanigan, K. M and Tyler, G., 1987, 26

*****Patrick Conlon, 1975 ‘Notes on St Francis’ Abbey’ in OKR Vol. 1, No. 2 Kilkenny Archaeological Society, 80-84, pg. 83

******George Henry Basset 1884 Kilkenny City and County Guide and Directory

Figure 6 St Francis’ Abbey OPW 1966

The Abbey Precinct
It is recorded in the ‘White Book of Ossory’* that Hugh Rufus, the first English bishop, granted by charter to the Earl Mareschal, the land extending from ‘Cotteral’s bridge, over the Bregach river, to St Kenerock’s (ie St Ciaran’s) well’ and on the land thus obtained the Earl erected the Franciscan Abbey. The grounds of the abbey continued to expand throughout the fifteenth century and on into the sixteenth century. In 1479, 1525 and 1538 various interests in the lands of Troyswood and Donore were granted to the abbey**. This expansion was, however, rapidly halted with the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. After the Dissolution, the friary fell into disrepair, although in the early seventeenth century mass was being celebrated there.

There is an account of Cromwell attacking the abbey on the 27th March 1650, a breach of the wall of the Franciscan Abbey was exploited by using pick-axes to make way for his horses and men to enter, he was beaten back but retuned the next day with 1,500 fresh men and an agreement was entered into by Sir Walter Butler and Cromwell***. Egan also refers to this encroachment and mentions that Cromwell crossed the stream (the River Breagagh) and breached the wall of the ‘Franciscan Monastery about 20 yards west of Evan’s Turret’****.

*Quoted by Rev. James Graves in History, Antiquities and Architecture, Cathedral Church of St Canice p. 31

**W. Carrigan (1905) The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, Vol. III Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Walker, pg. 107

***Ledwich E. (1781) History and antiquities of the Irishtown and Kilkenny from original records and authentic documents’, in Charles Vallency (ed.) Collectanea de rebus Hibernicis, ii, 349-562, pg. 475

****Ibid. P.M Egan (1884), pg 39

A rates list of 1628 refers to the following features within St Francis’ Abbey:

The lands were returned to Kilkenny Corporation during the suppression of religious houses and in a corporate rental dating to 1688, it was noted that the boundary of the property which reverted to the authority from the Francisan Abbey, was formed by a stream of water that ran to the river from St Kieran’s well*. It may be concluded that the original Abbey precinct extended from the Breagagh to this point as shown on the historic maps as ‘King Street Market’ (1872, 25 inch revised OS edition) and on the 1946 revised OS 6 edition as ‘St Kiernan’s Well’ however it is not clear how Grace’s Castle would have fitted into this arrangement and if there was a boundary between the Castle and the Abbey.

As the religious community of St Francis’ Abbey suffered their demise so the secular interests continued to grow throughout the seventeenth century. According to the 'Clasped Book' of the Corporation of Kilkenny, the Franciscan Abbey was assigned for the building of a military barracks on September 19, 1698. On April 5, 1700 'the waste of Francis's Abbey' was added to the former grant for building a barracks**. This cavalry barracks was the first of three military barracks constructed in Kilkenny. This barracks is often referred to as ‘Horse Barracks’.

Ledwich in his account of the abbey also states that the ‘monastery and its offices were of great extent, reaching from the street and city walls to the river. The windows are towers are inferior to none. Part is made a horse barrack’***.

The 'Clasped Book' claims that St Francis' Abbey belonged to John Desborough in August 31 it was given to his son John Jr. for 41 years except for 'the horse-barrack, hay-yard and a set of pillars and uncovered walls within the said abbey'. This exception to the grant must have been what remained of the outbuildings surrounding the surviving buildings after the construction of the barracks. It appears from the City Books that the Franciscan abbey was 'canted' to Alderman Evans on December 19, 1724 for a fee-farm lease and continued to be held by his descendants until 1849 (Rev. James Graves in Annals of Ireland, Intro, xxxi).

Writing in 1849 Reverend James Graves describes the ruins of St. Francis' Abbey as 'the chancel and belfry tower, with a small fragment of the conventual buildings adjoining the south side of the latter'****. Bassett records the remains as consisting of ‘the tower and chancel and a small portion of the conventual buildings’*****. During this period the remains of the church were also used as a tennis-court****** or ball alley and the elaborate east window was bricked in. It was around 1870 when the owner of the Abbey finally allowed to have the bricks removed. The outlook from the window was then into the ‘yard of Messrs. E. Smithwick and Sons,… and in this yard many tablets, originally belonging to the Abbey are set into the wall’*******. During the 1880s the abbey and a well-established fruit garden and cottage was sold to Mr William Morrissey, a hardware merchant for £600 and in 1884 it was in the possession of Mrs Morrissey. As proprietor of the abbey Mrs Morrissey took great care of her domain and had the floor of the chancel covered with a living carpet of green.

The Abbey came into State ownership via the Irish Church Act 1869 and the order made by the Church Temporalities Commission dated 30 October 1880. Repair work was carried out on the tower and chancel c.1870 by the Board of Works and again in 1889, at which time it was a National Monument. In the 1960’s, excavations were carried out (Ó hEochaidhe, unpublished), which revealed the presence of a large transept and an aisle in the nave, on the north side of the church in which some graves were found******** which is detailed in Section III.

A number of recorded monuments such as a font and inscribed slab lie within the friary. The thirteenth-century limestone font, decorated with flutes in Romanesque pairs and fleur-de-lys, was found in St. Kieran’s Well********* and is now kept in St Francis’ Friary, in a niche at the base of the tower. A number of fragments of inscribed slabs were uncovered by M. Ó hEochaidhe (unpublished), during his excavation of the friary. Other fragments are incorporated in the east wall of the chancel. Only one medieval slab has been recorded from the abbey, that of Richard Purcell********** ***********.

In the National Museum of Ireland there is a fragment of an effigial monument consisting of a portion of a lion upon which the armoured legs of a knight rest. It was discovered in 1862 as a building stone in a house adjacent to the friary************. It is significant in that it shows that there was at least one effigial monument in the building. Bradley************ thought that it probably was sixteenth century in date.

*Ledwich 1781 History of Irishtown and Kilkenny, pg. 439

**Ibid. Carrigan 1905, pg. 109

***Ibid. Ledwich 1781, pg. 494

****Ibid. Carrigan 1905, 109

*****Ibid. Bassett (1884) pg. 35

******S. Lewis (1837) A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Vol. II. London, pg. 115

*******Ibid Bassett 1884 pg 37

********Ibid. Lanigan and Tyler 1987, pg. 26

*********St Ciaran’s Well has been noted as St Kenerock’s, Keveroke’s and Kieran’s throughout different historic texts.

**********Carrigan, 105; Jrl. Assoc. Mem. Dead Irl. Vii (1907-09), 121

***********Bradley 1980 ‘Some New and Neglected Medieval Tomb Slabs and Fragments from Kilkenny’ in OKR, N.S. Vol. III, No. 2, 5-21

************JRSAI vii (1862-3), 95

*************John Bradley OKR Vol. II, no.2 (1980) pg 15

Cemetery, Burial Ground

While there are no above ground remains of a burial ground or cemetery, there are numerous references in historical documents that describe an extensive graveyard around the abbey building. These references are supported by the findings of the archaeological monitoring carried out by Sweetman in the 1970’s which are documented in the next section of the report.

Ledwich* records that in ‘1331 Nicholas Welifed, bishop of Waterford, consecrated the new cemetery without the church on a Friday, being the feast of St Cecilia’.

According to Egan** ‘the cemetery must have been extensive, for bones have been dug up in most of the grounds occupied by Smithwick’s Brewery, and in the gardens along the bank of the river for a considerable distance. Though the monuments erected here are said to have been costly and elaborate, yet strange to say, none remain, as if the bed of the river was doomed to be their last resting place. One mural slab may alone be seen. It is built into one of the walls of the brewery buildings, and is neatly lettered.’

The remains of the abbey as chronicled by Bassett in 1884 included the much admired east window which occupied nearly the whole of the gable and consists of a cluster of seven lancet lights divided by slender mullions. Bassett*** while writing at the same time as the aforementioned Egan notes that ‘the outlook from it (east window) is into the yard of Messrs E Smithwick & Sons, St Francis Abbey Brewery. In this yard many tablets, original belong to the Abbey are set into the walls’. This quote is significant as it appears to refer to grave slabs being visible from the east window and located to the east of the abbey.

While Williams**** records that there were numerous records of burials which took place in the monastery graveyard.

Further excavation on the site of St Francis' Abbey would present the possibility of revealing burials.

*Ibid Ledwich 1781, pg. 493-494

**Ibid Egan 1884, pg 241

***Ibid. Henry Bassett 1884 Kilkenny City and County Guide and Directory, pg.37

****Ibid Williams 2007

St Francis’ Well
St Francis’ Well was a large spring or pool apparently surrounded by a wall located c. 45m north-east of the friary. The water from the well was piped and channelled into the workshops of the friary and then by a different channel, carried off all the sewage to the river*. Ledwich**, wrote that this enclosed well was famous for its miraculous cures and this is supported by Jennings*** who wrote that ‘the miraculous water from the well of St Francis’ was known to return people to good health. Hogan, writing c. 1860 states that it ‘is now frequently used for bathing’****. The site of the well is located under a concrete slab of the former kegging store in the brewery and has presumably been blocked up. A modern well chamber sourced by a natural spring is located in roughly the same area as this historic well and may occupy a similar area.

A dispute is recorded between Hogan and Ledwich as to the significance of the well, where by Hogan observes that the fine spring or pond of water was generally used for bathing purposes and was never regarded as a holy well except by Ledwich whom ‘knew almost nothing of either the topography or ecclesiology of Kilkenny’*****. He refers to St Ciaran’s well as being located in the same ground (as St Francis’ Abbey) ‘which was to form its southern boundary’ and carried with it the association of the early saints name as the most likely candidate for a holy well. However he fails to mention that the well located to the east of the abbey is attributed to St Francis (as shown on the OS mapping). While this difference of opinion may never be resolved it does serve to reinforce the concept that the extent of the abbey grounds may have included this well site to the south. A connection with St Ciaran is still preserved to day within St Francis’ Abbey as St Ciaran’s font was moved and now sits in the southern niche of the belfry tower (Plate 17). Ledwich noted that Ciaran’s well was ‘famous heretofore for its miraculous cures, and still preserves some degree of credit’.

*Mooney, Rev. C., (JRSAI), 1957, 37, 121-22

**Ibid Ledwich 1781 , 349-562

***Brendan Jennings (ed.), ‘Brussels MS. 3947: Donatus Moneyus, De Provincia Hiberniae S. Francisci’, Analecta Hibernica, vi (1934), 12-138:83

****Hogan, J., (JRSAI), 1860-61, 351

Plate 17 St Ciaran’s Font, St Francis’ Abbey

Cotterals Bridge (KK019-026102)

Cotterals Bridge/ Road (site) is mentioned in an inquisition of 1269 as a stretch of land which ran ‘from Keveroke’s Well (St. Kieran’s Well*) to the water called Bregathe, running under Coteral bridge’**. Hogan locates this bridge at the point where Vicar Street once forded the River Breagagh (east of the bridge at the Watergate) and joined Horse Barrack Lane. He speculates that this bridge was removed when the town wall was being built and that the road passing over it became obsolete at the same time. However Bradley equates the bridge with the bridge at Irishtown***. A bridge is shown on the 1872 and 1914 Ordnance Survey mapping linking Horse Barrack Lane to the north of the River Breagagh. The remnants of the stone arch can still be seen on the southern boundary wall of the River Breagagh.

*St Ciaran’s Well has been noted as St Kenerock’s, Keveroke’s and Kieran’s throughout different historic texts.

**Carrigan 1905, Vol. III, 6, 11

***Irish Town Atlas (2000). Bradley identified Cotterel's Bridge with Irishtown Bridge in the Historic Towns Atlas. He lists a separate bridge on the Breagagh, unnamed, and states that it led from King Street to St Francis' Abbey. He cites Hogan, 1884, as evidence that this bridge was built prior to 1540.

The ‘Bull Inn’ (KK019-026107)
Prim* suggests that the ‘Bull Inn’ may have been the first inn or ‘place of call’ established in Irishtown, Kilkenny, although there probably were older inns in Englishtown, Kilkenny. The ‘Bull Inn’ is located on the south side of St Canice’s Place (formerly known as Bull Alley). This was a three-storey gable-fronted stone building, the apex of which was surmounted by a stone chimney. An illustration by Reverend James Graves in 1841, published in JRSAI (1862-63) and said to be an accurate sketch (Plate 18)**, indicates a window and off-centre door on the ground floor, two windows on the second storey and two small windows on the third storey. The windows on the ground floor and the second story are divided by mullions and all the opes have hood-mouldings. There is a discrepancy between this drawing and Prim’s description of the opes on the ground floor, with Prim describing a central door at ground level and a window on each side. It is possible that Prim’s description describes the building as it was originally built, and that the 1841 drawing represents later changes to the door and window, as Prim does make reference to modern alterations to the door. Prim also tells us that the stone framed windows in the rear of the building were all extremely small in the ground floor, but the stories above had high, narrow slit-like windows, similar to, but not quite as large as the two uppermost windows in the gable fronting the street. The 1841 drawing depicts the building as unroofed.

Plate 18 Bull Inn, Kilkenny by Reverend James Graves, 1841 (reproduced from JRSAI, 1862-63)

Between the two windows on the second floor there were two plaques, one of which bore the name of Robert Jose with a date of 1602 and the arms of the builder (an eagle) (Plate 19). The other, with the inscription ‘Bull Inn – the name of the house is called’, depicted a bull and a dog pursuing a deer below it***(Plate 20). According to O’Carroll****, the sign on the inn, rather than referring to an animal, derives from the Latin word for seal or bulla, indicating that the inn was licensed under the seal of St. Canice’s Cathedral, the ecclesiastics being obliged to act as host for travellers. The Plaques were still present in 1926 but their present location is unclear*****.

Robert Jose, Joyse or Joice, as the records variously refer to him is thought to have been a clergy man, and a member of the Chapter of St. Canice’s Cathedral. He is said to have been an ‘improver’ of Irishtown and his name is also associated with the gate and flight of steps leading from Velvet Lane to the Cathedral cemetery, which he built in 1614, and an inscription on a stone arch over the gateway attests to this******.

By the end of the 17th Century the Bull Inn had fallen into a ruinous state. When Bull Alley was being widened in 1862 the inn was taken down to second-storey level, as it was considered to be in a dangerous condition. At present only the east wall survives, partially up to first floor level, with a cut-stone chamfered window at ground floor level.

*John G. A. Prim, (1862) ‘Notes on Kilkenny Inns and Taverns’ in the Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, New Series, Vol. 4, No. 1 pgs 152-180, published by RSAI.

**Ibid. Prim (1862)

***Ibid Prim,.1862, 152, 177-8

****O’Carroll, J.C. 1983, 50

*****Phelan, W.J. and Gibb, J.S., OKR 1956-7, 3

******Ibid Prim 1862.

Plates 19 and 20 Bull Inn plaque, Kilkenny (reproduced from JRSAI, 1862-63)

Kyteler’s Inn
This inn, restored in 1966 now operates as a restaurant and entertainment venue, it is located adjacent to the Masterplan area. This is reputed to be the oldest inn in Kilkenny built in the fourteenth-century and where Dame Alice Kyteler, a renowned Kilkenny witch, lived. The vaulted cellar is possibly of fourteenth-century date, but the upper portion of the building is late sixteenth-/seventeenth-century in date. The building retains many architectural details typical of this latter period. In the north gable, for example, there are a number of single- and double-light chamfered windows, two with hood-mouldings. In the wall which continues the gable eastwards there is a round-headed double-light window.

The front elevation has been much altered. Only the upper part of a round-headed doorway with hood-moulding is visible, indicating that the original street level was considerably lower. There are two domestic wells in the yard behind which were revealed during restoration work in 1966*.

St. Kieran’s Well is located in the yard behind Kyteler’s Inn. A thirteenth-century font, which was found in this well, is now kept in St. Francis’ Abbey.

Excavations at the rear of Kyteler’s Inn revealed ‘a sequence of re-deposited clays dated by pottery to the 14th-15th century which overlay a build-up of well preserved organic deposits. These may have a very early date’** (Gowen 1995). This shows the presence of probable reclamation deposits at the rear of St Kieran Street property prior to the fifteenth century. With the lower organic deposits possibly representing the naturally formed marsh of the flood plain.

*Archaeological Survey of Ireland 1993 The Urban Archaeological Survey of County Kilkenny compiled by Jean Farrelly, Barry O’Reilly and Amanda Loughran, St Kieran’s Street, Kyteler’s Inn pg 48.

**Margaret Gowen 1995 Kytlers Inn, 24-26 St Kierans Street, Kilkenny’ In Bennet I (ed) Excavations.

The Brewery
The brewery at St Francis’ Abbey is over 300 years old and, until its recent closure, was thought to be the oldest active brewery in Ireland. There has been a concentration of activity on the brewery site since the founding of the Franciscan Friary there in AD 1245. Although some of the early built fabric survives on the site, notably the 13th century abbey church (National Monument No.74), the intensive development of the site dates to its industrial use in the 19th century and 20th centuries.

Historically, Ireland produced ale without the use of hops as the plant is not native to the country, and there was generally a greater emphasis on the distillation of whiskey or poitín than on the brewing of beer. Hops added both flavour and preserving properties to beer, thus allowing it to be exported. Large quantities of hops were imported from England in the 18th century and during this period, the Irish parliament used taxation to encourage brewing at the expense of distilling, reasoning that beer was less harmful than whiskey*. This coincided with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, with the efficiency of the steam engine and innovations in the brewing process (such as the introduction of the thermometer in 1760 and hydrometer in 1770) allowing beer to be produced on a greater scale.

The first documented brewery in operation within the grounds of St Francis' Abbey has its origins at this time. In 1706 a fee-farm grant for what is now a part of the modern brewery property was leased to Richard Cole by the Duke of Ormond. Cole established a partnership with John Smithwick, who came to Kilkenny in 1710. There is little documentary evidence for this first brewery, though it appears to have been a small retail operation. Although apparently successful, the business did not remain in the Smithwick family after the death of John; the first directory entry relates to a Patrick Brennan, who was listed in Pigot's directory for 1824 as a distiller on the site of the abbey.

Brewing prospered in the early decades of the 19th century and by 1814 Ireland was, for the first time, exporting more beer to England than it imported**. In 1831, Ireland had 215 breweries, a figure which had shrunk considerably by the end of the nineteenth century, by which time Guinness’s Brewery was the largest in the world.

The St Francis’ Abbey brewery was bought back by the Smithwick family during the boom brewing period; in 1827, John’s grandson Edmund purchased a piece of freehold property, including ‘a distillery and a brewery’ through the Court of Chancery from the Ormond estate***. A large brewery was constructed on the site and by the mid-19th century, Smithwick’s was one of only two breweries in Kilkenny (Plates 21 and 22); Slater's directory of 1856 lists Edmund Smithwick at St Francis' Abbey Brewery and Richard Sullivan in James Street. Breweries and distilleries were often fairly extensive, incorporating a malt-house where the barley was germinated, a kiln to arrest the germinations process, a mill to process the malted grain, and the brew/still house where the alcohol was prepared. Such operations required considerable amounts of water, and with few exceptions breweries were to be found along rivers, which also supplied the motive power.

Plates 21 and 22 Showing St Francis’ Abbey Brewery late 19th century

It was during this time that investment took place at the site and a small, single beam engine, reputedly bought by William Smithwick in 1847 at the Manchester Exhibition was installed in the St Francis’ Abbey Brewery, where it was worked up until about 1930. The engine is now maintained as a working exhibit at the Steam Museum at Straffan, Co Kildare (Plate 23).

Plate 23 Single-column beam engine

The private company of E. Smithwick and Sons was established in 1898 and prospered in the early 20th century after winning military contracts for the sale of beer to garrisoned troops. When Sullivan's of James's Street closed around 1914, the property was bought by the E. Smithwick’s Brewing Company, which provided much needed brewing machinery to support the market expansion. The brewery buildings of the St. James's Street Brewery on James's Street were demolished to make way for the Market Cross Shopping Centre and multistorey car park.

St Francis’ Brewery continued to grow throughout the 20th century and from 1944 onwards the brewery distributed its beer on a national scale (Plates 24 and 25).

The brewery maintained a traditional 19th century plant throughout the 1950s, with no modernisation of the brewing machinery or processes. In 1965 Smithwick's became public as part of Irish Ale Breweries and was taken over by Arthur Guinness, Son & Company (Dublin) Ltd. A modernisation plan was launched in 1964 with the construction of a new brew-house. A large fermentation block, a storage vessel block and packaging plant were also installed. This 20th-century construction was subsequently updated and replaced by a 21st-century computer operated brewery.

The Kilkenny Industrial Archaeological Survey**** notes that most of the original buildings were demolished and machinery removed during the modernization process. It considers the brewery to be of contemporary interest.

Plates 24 and 25 St Francis’ Abbey Brewery c. 1900’s

By the time of its closure in 2013, the brewery comprised a bottling and kegging store, a brew-house, maturation building, the Mayfair building (staff offices and facilities), sample rooms, a laboratory, offices, a cellar and visitor centre, all located on the south side of the river. North of the River Breagagh was a cluster of modern buildings, including a truck-wash, hop store / squash court, car-parking shed and fuelling tank facility.

*William P. Coyne 1902 Ireland Industrial and Agricultural Brown and Nolan Ltd

**Ibid Coyne 1902

***Halpin T. B (1989) A history of Brewing in Kilkenny OKR 2nd Series Vol 4, No. 1 pgs 583-591

****Fred Hamond An Industrial Archaeological Survey of County Kilkenny for Kilkenny County Council Planning and Environment Section January 1990 pg 42

Kilkenny Courthouse, County and City Gaol, Grace’s Castle

While outside the Masterplan area, this building has already been subject to a complete architectural transformation and archaeological excavation and no study of the general area would be complete without reference to the site. There are three significant phases of historic occupation:
 Graces Castle
 County Gaol and Courthouse
 City Gaol, County and City Courthouse

The building while set back from the Parliament Street is a prominent landmark and contains an interesting history which spans from 1210 to modern day. Grace’s Castle built c.1210 remained as a family residence in the ownership of the Grace’s until 1566 when it was transferred into the ownership of the crown to be used as a gaol by the Kilkenny authorities and by 1691 it had become the County Gaol. A County Courthouse also occupied the site by the mid-eighteenth century when the Black Abbey ceased to have a role as a house of justice for County Kilkenny. Since 1790 the County Courthouse, County Gaol and City Gaol were located at the same site. Occasionally the building also functioned as a theatre and public meetings were held there for elections. Appendix C contains a number of references from 1807-1832 where the conditions at the prison were reported to the Inspector General and on a number of occasions; the security of the goal was mentioned with the necessity of having to raise the wall that lay between the yards to the rear and the surrounding brewery.

In 1824-5 the courthouse street front elevation was substantially remodelled when William Robertson* carried out alterations to the building. The building served as a Bridewell from 1871-1946. The results of an excavation that took place in advance of the conservation and large scale alterations to the building are detailed in the next section of the report**.

Brewer (1825)*** noted that

‘The court house stands on part of the site of Grace’s Castle, extensive structure, supposed to have been erected by William le Gras, before the eleventh of John (1210). It is certain that the antient (sic) and distinguished family of Grace possessed much power and property at Kilkenny, in the early part of the thirteenth century. William le Gras, the supposed founder of the former embattled pile on this site, was appointed for life constable and seneschal of Leinster and governor of Kilkenny. The same dignified officer is thought to have erected ‘the antient (sic) tower and gateway, commonly called Grace’s Gate or Grace’s Pass, or Way, which formerly flanked the city walls on the west’. The castellated residence of this family in Kilkenny is thus noticed in a recent work: ‘Grace’s Castle was situated between the Marshal’s Castle and the Abbey of St Francis. It presented a front of 130 feet, and its massive out-works extended to the river Nore, where some well-cemented fragments of them are still visible’.

*Fenlon Associates (2004) Kilkenny Courthouse Parliament Street Kilkenny, unpublished report for the OPW

**Arch-tech (2007) Archaeological Testing Report, Kilkenny Courthouse, Parliament Street, Kilkenny, unpublished report for the OPW

***James Norris Brewer (1825) The Beauties of Ireland, 2 Vols, London, pg. 444

Gardens, Orchards, Mills and Industry

Gardens are shown on Rocques’ map (1758) stretching from ‘Cole Market’ to the River Nore at the south end of the Masterplan area. These elongated garden plots emerged from the earlier burgage plots and enabled the burgesses to grow vegetables and herbs, as well as to plant fruit orchards. In 1500 it was forbidden for any man or woman to go into ‘any orchard or garden of madder or herbs within the said town or franchise to steal apples, pears or any other kind of fruit, plants of madder or herbs’*. At the end of the fifteenth century, gardens within and without the town were extensively planted with madder, which was a lucrative crop**. There are numerous references to madder in the Liber Primus Kilkenniensis from the opening years of the sixteenth century and this may give some indication of the importance of cultivation during this period. The root of madder was a source of red dye for clothing and textiles. From the late sixteenth century onwards, gardens and orchards are consistently highlighted by antiquarians and in visitor accounts as striking features in the street scape of Kilkenny***.

The origin of the name of the River Nore is unclear. Like the names of many physical features of the Irish landscape, the name belongs to one of the oldest strands of place-names, and the meaning is not properly known. Evidence of the name can be traced back to the twelfth century (c.1180 “Eoyrus”, c. 1250 “Heur”, c.1351 “Neor” and Noyer”). O’Brien**** (1956) wrote that in Irish the Nore is “Feoir”, the initial “N” owing to the preceding definitive article being attached to it, i.e. “An Fheoir”. This directly translates as ‘Grass’ or ‘Grassy-banked’. The prominence of low lying meadowland adjacent to the river seems therefore to be the most probable reason as to why the River was given that name.

To the north of the River Breagagh, there are a number of historic properties which align Vicar Street, while outside the Masterplan area they are referred to in the report as some lands/gardens plots associated with these houses extend into the study area. The corner property between Vicar Street and Green Street was the site of a house owned by Alderman Connell, the town clerk, this area now presents as landscaped seating area. Further south along the street at Nos. 15 -16 is the site of the Vicar’s Choral, this is discussed in Section III as the site has been subject to archaeological testing and excavation. At the corner of Vicar Street and St Canice’s Place is a dwelling reputed to be the ‘Prebendary of Tascoffin’. There has been much debate over this structure as it was scheduled to be demolished as a result on the Kilkenny Central Access Scheme (KCAS), which crosses the Masterplan area in an east-west direction and links in with Dean Street. As in-situ medieval masonry was revealed within the structure, a decision was made to retain the southern gable, this lies adjacent to the Masterplan area. The KCAS is currently being built and archaeological investigation is ongoing, the results of which should be able to inform the Masterplan area to the north and south on either side of the route. The existing testing results are detailed in the next section of the report.

It is likely that the land to the south of the scheme and immediately north of the River Breagagh (shown as an open area on Rocques map (1758)) was probably a low lying meadow subject to flooding in the winter months but traditionally used for summer grazing*****.

There were many mills located along the River Nore including the cluster of mill buildings at Green’s Bridge at the V-weirs. Mills were located on the larger rivers and were mainly driven by large undershot ‘paddle’ waterwheels, these being suitable to high and low fall water regimes. The Chancellor’s Mills were later replaced by a corn mill and a woollen factory. In 1880 there was a revival of the woollen industry in Kilkenny and by 1885 three companies were trading near Green’s Bridge. Nealy’s Woollen Mills operated in Irishtown. These mills now form a picturesque ruin along the banks of the River Nore and are considered to be of special interest at a local interest, as a consequence of a particular architectural, technical features or landscape feature******. Works on the River Nore to widen and deepen the river channel afforded the opportunity to archaeologically examine a medieval milling complex at Green’s Bridge and this is detailed in Section III of this report.

Cattle were important not only for their meat and dairy products but also for leather. Tanneries converted the raw animal hide into cured leather for use as clothing and shoes, and this process involved the steeping of skins in a series of tannin-enriched basins of water (tanning pits) thus softening and conditioning the skin, the tannin itself was extracted from oak and birch trees, by soaking crushed bark in luke-warm water. Hogan’s map (1860) refers to the ‘Chancellor’s orchard and tan house’ while the first edition 6-inch OS (1839-40) shows a ‘Tan yard and ‘Tannery’ within the Masterplan area, north of the river Breagagh.

*Liber Primus Kilkenniensis 1961 Otway-Ruthven, J. A. pgs 77, 80, 82 and 98

**Ibid. Liber Primus Kilkenniensis

***Watters (1872 pg 59)

****O’Brian MA 1956 ‘Placenames’ in Meehan and Webb (eds) A View of Ireland: Twelve Essays on Different Aspects of Irish Life and the Irish Countryside. Dublin

*****Ledwich, Edward (1781) History and antiquities of Irishtown and Kilkenny from original records and authentic documents, pg 401

******Fred Hamond 1990 Kilkenny Industrial Archaeological Survey, pgs 90 and 108

Archaeological Investigation and Secondary Sources

Gardens from medieval times onwards were used for multiple purposes. In many ways, gardening was the chief method of providing food for households, but also encompassed orchards, cemeteries and pleasure gardens, as well as medicinal and cultural uses. The cultivation of herbs, vegetables, flowers, trees and fruit are all fundamental to the development of a garden.

Furthermore, gardening was especially important in monasteries, as they were used extensively by the monks and created a way of life, supplying their overall livelihood. Typically, many of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that were grown were utilized in multiple ways and over multiple parts of the garden.

Rothe House in Kilkenny is a unique 17th century merchant’s townhouse of national importance. The garden to the rear of the house reflects a typical garden of this time. The design of the garden is based on archaeological evidence and secondary sources and have determined the use of the long vegetable beds, the position of the ornamental trees and the extent of the orchard. The objective of the project was the reconstruction of the original garden site using all the available knowledge and information. It reflects the long linear east-west burgage plot.

At Bremore Castle in Co Dublin the subsequent analysis of plant remains taken from excavated pits, gullies and furrows contained large quantities of cereals comprising wheat; some oats and a very small sample of barley a smaller component of legumes were also found in the sample. The wheat recovered was rivet wheat (Triticum turgidum) – a common type used in English medieval sites but unusual in Irish medieval context*.

This excavation has added a new facet to the interpretation of Bremore and shows that it was a residence and a farm which was predominately concerned with arable agriculture. This is in line with recent research undertaken by Murphy and Potterton (2010) which indicates that arable production was the most important farming enterprise across the Dublin region in the late medieval period. A model of mixed farming, with cereal-growing predominant is likely to have been the most prevalent farming system in the more productive land-holdings during the period.

Drimnagh Castle Gardens was developed with plants and herbs that would have been popular from medieval times onwards. The development of a parterre is a formal garden construction and the castle parterre is a simple symmetrical design of four squares, divided into for triangular herb beds. The gardens are now managed by a charity, Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services.

Marley Park Dublin walled garden takes its planting form from a Regency-style ornamental garden with displays of colourful period plants, ranging from herbaceous borders to shrub beds and a kitchen garden is set out in a traditional early19th century manner.

*Margaret Murphy and Michael Potterton 2010 The Dublin Region in the middle ages Four Courts Press Dublin

Rothe House, all the plants and trees in the garden and orchard were based on the plant remain revealed during the archaeological excavation on site and from secondary sources.

Barrycourt Castle, Co Cork with orchard and terracing to the forefront, the orchard has been restored to an original 16th century design. A herb garden has been reinstated in the bawn

Boundaries and Garden Structure

The structure of the gardens, were often enclosed with fences, walls or hedges in order to protect them and sometimes divided by ditches. Stone and brick walls were typically used by the wealthy, such as manors and monasteries. However, wattle fences were used by all classes and were the most common type of fence. They were made using local saplings and woven together. They were easily accessible and durable, and could even be used to make beds. Bushes were also used as fencing, as they provided both food and protection to the garden.

An irrigation and water source was imperative to keeping the garden alive and this is why we probably have so many garden leading down to the River Nore. Kitchen garden ponds also were used come the 14th and 15th centuries, and were meant to offer ornamental value as well. The well at St Francis Abbey is unusually large in size and it is possible that it could have acted as a fish pond or a source for watering the gardens that surrounded the Abbey.

Orchards and the madder plant were both important elements to medieval gardens in Kilkenny

Market Area
The earlier reclamation phases at the south end of the Masterplan area are documented through archaeological excavation in Section III of the report while the later development of the ’Market Area’ is detailed below in the cartographic sources. The markets were a source of great economic wealth and gathering places within the town. Writing in 1802, Tighe reported that:

‘The market of Kilkenny is well supplied with every article, with sea fish in plenty from Dungarvan, and with all kinds of garden stuff and fruit in the season; even peaches, melons, grapes and pineapples; as the produce of several gardens are sold besides that of Mr Robertson’s hot houses and nursery; the cultivation of vegetables by market gardeners has increased three or four fold, within these twenty years. No regular meat market is held at any other town (in Co Kilkenny), though meat is occasionally sold’*.

The proximity of the present day Bateman Quay to the old market ground gave access from the river directly to the consumers of Kilkenny and this location would have been an attractive feature encouraging trade and the easy movement of goods. The area occupied by the Corporation Market (OS 25 inch 1872) is known as various names in the historic sources such as the ‘Shambles’ which opened in 1837 and closed in c.1868 and traded fish, wool, butter, milk and potatoes.

Around the beginning of the nineteenth century a series of five Tea-Houses (called ‘Pleasure Houses on the 1839-1842 Ordnance survey) were constructed along Bateman Quay between what is now the southern end of SFAB and Johns Bridge.

Two tea-houses remain, both protected structures, one of which has been consolidated.

The most northern teahouse is an upstanding, if derelict, rectangular building, an associated semi-circular riverside revetment wall was removed under archaeological supervision as part of the River Nore flood alleviation scheme. Both structures are further discussed in Section IV of the report.

*William Tighe 1802, Statistical observations relative to the county of Kilkenny made in the years 1800 and 1801. Dublin, p.498. The location of Robertson’s nurseries is unknown.


Down Survey, City of Kilkenny, c. 1656
The earliest consulted historical map for Kilkenny City is William Petty’s Down Survey map, which dates from c. 1656 and shows the ‘Liberties of Kilkenny’. This map indicates the old town walls on both the east and west side of the River Nore, with two bridges crossing the river possibly in the environs of what are now known as John’s Bridge and Green’s Bridge. The course of the River Breagagh is not depicted on the map and while St Francis’ Abbey is not named there is a structure that could correspond to the medieval building located on the west bank of the River Nore. It is possible that the abbey is represented by the structure shown to the southeast of Irishtown Gate and an expanse of wall extending westwards which is indicated but not named on the map. A structure located on the western banks of the River Nore to the north of Irishtown Gate could relate to mill structures on the south side of the northernmost bridge, though again they are not named as such.

Figure 7 Down Survey c. 1656

Rocque’s map of Kilkenny, 1758
Rocque’s map shows the remains of St Francis’ Abbey standing within a large, predominantly open area extending east to the River Nore. A range of structures extend north-south at the western end of the abbey. The associated well associated is shown as a circular structure on the banks and issuing in to the River Nore. The cloister to the south of the friary was taken down c. 1700 to make way for a barracks; the ‘Horse Barracks’ named on the map. The open area around the abbey, which is subdivided into four large plots of land, is in contrast to the built-up, compact nature of the surrounding city blocks. The outer perimeter of these plots appear to have been walled and extend northwards to the River Breagagh (shown but not named), to the River Nore to the east, a short distance to the south and to the west the abbey opens onto a laneway that leads to ‘Cole Market’.

More subdivision of land occurs to the south, as well as a long building plot with dog-leg return that backs onto the ‘County Gaol’ and runs east from ‘Cole Market’, before terminating at a possible laneway that accesses the river bank. Narrow defined garden plots extending in an east-west direction are located to the rear of buildings that face onto the ’Shambles’. An access way of lane way leading from the stree frontage to the River Nore is annotated as ‘The New Quay’.

Immediately north of the River Breagagh, the land is open and defined by a laneway to the north that extends from Vicar Street to the unnamed mill buildings on the River Nore. At the corner of the Vicar Street and Bull Lane, structures are shown, one of which is probably the Bull Inn, although it is not named as such on the map. To the rear of these properties garden plots extend north-south towards the River Breagagh.

North again, the land to the rear of the structures that face out onto ‘Vicar Street’ is divided into narrow plots which extend in an east-west fashion. Some appear as regulary planted garden plots, perhaps planted with orchards extending towards the River Nore.

Figure 8 Rocque 1758

Loughman’s Estate map c. 1750(date in question)
This map though largly scematic, does show St. Francis Abbey and Evan’s Tower annotated as ‘Mt Evans’ on the map. To the south of these features are extensive and elaborate gardens extending to the River Nore. To the south the ‘Joal Yard’ is annotated and the two tea houses are illustrated, it is possible to make out the sentry like style of the northern most one. A number of structures arranged around three central courtyards are shown immediately south of the abbey while the town wall appears to be shown to the north. Further north the area is shown as open ground without adornment and the only structures are a series of mill buildings to the south a bridge. An access track extends in an east-west direction to these structures from the street. The date of 1750 for this map is in question as it shows the two ‘tea houses’ which were not built until the end of the 18th or early 19th century. It also shows the brewery complex as well defined consisting of many structures and is more likely to represent a time of expansion probably early to middle 19th century.

Figure 9 Loughman’s Estate map c. 1750(date in question)*

*Sourced by Coilin O Drisceoil

A Plan of the City of Kilkenny, perfected from the latest survey of observations by Sam Byron, c. 1781
This map appears to be very similar to Rocque, key features such as St Francis’ Abbey and the Horse Barracks and the County Gaol are all named and annotated on the map.

Figure 10 A Plan of the City of Kilkenny, by Sam Byron, c. 1781

Hogan’s Map of 1860
While later in date this map is derived from Rocque* but there are a number of subtle differences in how some buildings are presented and the extent of properties. The area surrounding St Francis’ Abbey is named as ‘Gray Freren Park’ and appears to be delineated to the north by the town wall and to the south by a mill stream that emanates west of Water Gate from the south side of the River Breagagh and traverses the street to a structure before crossing south of the abbey and issuing into the River Nore. While unnamed there does appear to be a structure represented by a circular marking indicating the site of Evans Tower. A list of named structures that accompanies reference numbers on the map is very helpful in identifying key features. Within the study area these are named as:
1. “Gray Freren Gate.” This was not a public passway, it led from the Abbey grounds into the “Chancellor’s orchard;” there was no castle over it: for a “stone house” that stood near it, Patt Murphy, who occupied it in 1628, paid the Corporation 17s 4d. yearly rent.

8. “St. Francis’ Well.” This is a very beautiful and copious spring of pure limpid water, in the garden behind the Abbey. Ledwich says it was famous for miraculous cures. In the summer season it is now frequently used for bathing.
9. “The Grey, or St. Francis’, Abbey.’’ The choir and tower of the Church of the Monastery still stand; the former is now used as a ball-court.
10. “Horse Barrack.” The cloisters of St. Francis’ Abbey were taken down to erect this barrack, which was built on their site in the last century.
57. “The Chancellor’s orchard and tan-house,” now in the possession of Mrs. Sullivan, and well known as “Chancellor’s Mill.”
59. “The Treasurer’s Manse, garden, and mill.” This was the next garden to that of the Vicars’ Choral. The house stood in Vicar’s street, and was “next Alderman Connell’s,” now Mr. Phelan’s, at the corner of Green-street. The Treasurer’s mill is next that of the Chancellor.
60. “Prebendary of Tascoffin;” the small premises behind, and including Mr. Connery’s house in the south angle of Vicar-street.
62. “The Bull Inn.” The large ruined house in Bull-lane.

Figure 11 Hogan’s map of 1860

Located outside but adjacent to the study area the following features are named:
12. “Grace’s old Castle.” First converted into a prison in 1566.
13. “Emlyn’s Hall.” One of Sir Richard Shee’s town mansions: it was, as is asserted by tradition, the Parliament House of the Confederate Catholics in 1645.
14. St. Keneroc’s Well, i.e. St. Kyran’s Well, also called the “Ark Well.” It now supplies water through the pump in the old shambles’ yard.
30. “Ancient Market Cross.” For an account of which see “Transactions,” Vol. II, p. 219.
2. “The Hightown Gate,” sometimes called the Water Gate, stood on Watergate bridge, afforded communication between the Hightown and Irishtown; for the castle over it, Richard Lawless paid the Corporation 3s. annual rent.
45. “Green’s-gate” stood at the town side of Green’s bridge.
46. “Troy’s-gate” fell down in the time of Queen Elizabeth; it stood where Drysdale’s-lane (now closed), intersected Vicar-street.

*Hogan 1861

Ordnance Survey First Edition 6-inch map, 1839-40, sheet 19

The formerly open site has been considerably developed since earlier maps, with the extensive Brewery buildings and a starch manufacturing plant joining the Horse Barracks (‘Old Caval. Bar.’), the remaining abbey buildings (indicated as ‘in ruins’) and a ‘tower’ (also ‘in ruins’) is marked to the east/northeast of the abbey.

All of the development has taken place within the western half of the site, with gardens or orchards occupying the fields in the eastern half, along the banks of the River Nore. The brewery buildings and yards extend as far south as the long building plot with dog-leg return that was shown on Rocque’s map and which, apart from an extension on its north side, appears unchanged. The brewery presents as a series of yards, a small structure and orchard / garden areas. To the south, the County Court House and City Goal are indicated and south of this again the ‘New Bank of Ireland’ is annotated with gardens located to the rear extending to the River Nore.

To the north of the River Breagagh, the ‘Woollen Factories’ are shown on the banks of the River Nore and a ‘Tan Yard’ is located to the north of these. Garden/orchards stretch from Vicar Street to the River Nore while garden plots from the properties that face onto Green Street are oriented north-south.

Figure 12a OS First Edition 6-inch map, 1839-40

Figure 12b OS First Edition 6-inch map, 1839-40

Ordnance Survey Second Edition 25” scale (1872 published), Sheet 19

The brewery buildings expanded between 1840 and 1871. The brewery is shown as a series of buildings while much of the area along the river bank remained as semi-formal garden / orchard areas with trees and a series of paths. St Francis’ Abbey Brewery appears to form part of an enclosed space possible defined by walls and distinctive from the barracks which appear to be concentrated to the south of the River Breagagh and to the northwest of St Francis’ Abbey, the barracks also appear to be enclosed by a series of walls. The garden area extends along the bank of the River Nore and two mill streams flow into the river.

St Francis’ Abbey and St Francis’ Well are both named and clearly shown. The well appears as a circular walled structure with access steps located on the west. The well is connected to the River Nore by a channel on the eastern side. A structure appears to have been placed in the area between St Francis’ Abbey and St Francis’ Well. A feature not marked on the earlier maps is a small square building situated at the confluence of the River Breagagh and the River Nore. This is likely to be the remains of Evans’s Turret, a bastion on the old city wall. The wall walk associated with this tower and the city wall is clearly shown to the west of the tower. The city wall is marked along the course of the River Breagagh. The River Breagagh is bridged further to the west allowing access to Horse Barrack Lane.

To the north of the Breagagh, ‘Mill Lane’ is named as well as the ‘Woollen Factory’, ‘Corn Mill’ and a well is identified and named immediately north of mill lane. Further north the lands are shown as orchards located within irregular plots.

To the south, to the rear of the ‘Court House and Bridewell’ gardens are shown and to the south of this the ‘Market (Corporation)’ is named and shown as a large area along the banks of the River Nore to the rear of the ‘National Bank’ and ‘King Street Market’. The southern-most teahouse is named as a ‘turret’ while the other one is unnamed on the map.

Figure 13 OS Second Edition 25” scale (1872 published)

Ordnance Survey Revised Edition 25-inch Map, 1900

The brewery buildings expanded again between 1871 and 1900 and it has now taken on the nomenclature ‘St Francis’ Abbey Brewery’. The two large, separate buildings marked on the previous map have been conjoined and in the brewery grounds, two buildings have been added against the boundary wall, just south of St Francis’ Well. There is a notable expansion of the brewery eastwards, with structures now occupying three sides of the large yard on the south side of ‘St Francis’ Abbey’. Mill streams are located in the gardens along the banks of the river. To the north of ‘St Francis’ Abbey (in ruins)’ and ‘St Francis’ Well’, which are both shown, the site of a tower is marked. An open area at the north east end of Horse Barrack Lane is named for the first time as ‘The Ring’. The bridge over the River Breagagh is still in place. Evans Tower although not named is shown with the wall walk of the city wall located to the west.

The ‘Court House & Bridewell’ are named and to the southeast along the banks of the River Nore are two structures that possibly equate to what has become known as the ‘tea houses’. The area around these structures has been opened up and is now shown as a ‘Market’.

North of the River Breagagh the milling development along the banks of the River Nore has expanded to include several new structures and the laneway to this group of buildings has now been formalised and is named as ‘Mill Lane’. Properties front onto and align Vicar Street and Green Street and the plots of land to the rear of these structures appear open with some trees.

Figure 14 OS Revised Edition 25-inch Map, 1900

Ordnance Survey Revised Edition 25-inch Map, 1946

There is very little change between the 1900 and 1946 O.S. maps in the area of St Francis’ Abbey Brewery. The abbey, the well and the tower (site of) are again marked and no change to the brewery buildings can be noted. The garden area along the banks of the River Nore has been split in two with the northern half retaining its original character while the southern half has reverted to waste land. A bridge is shown across the small northern mill stream within the Brewery. A second bridge across the river Breagagh which was first noted on the 1839 O.S. map and which opened out on to the area called, ‘The Ring’, is no longer shown and, a new building blocks the site of the road leading to the bridge. The ‘Mayfair Ballroom’ is named and shown on the map. Two structures are shown in the areas where the ‘tea houses’ are now located. The most northern structure is associated with a semi-circular feature, possibly a quay, which projects out over the River Nore. The ‘Market’ is still shown as is the ‘Court House & Bridewell’.

North of the River Breagagh, ‘Mill Lane’ is named, providing access to the ’Corn Mill’, ‘weir’ and ‘Woollen Mill’ from Vicar Street. The land to the north of the river is otherwise unoccupied and shown as open plots with orchards.

Figure 15 OS Revised Edition 25-inch Map, 1946





Arrival of William Marshal (1146-1219), Earl of Pembroke in Ireland.


Hugo Rufus Bishop of Ossory (1202-1218) grants William Marshal land between St Kieran’s well and the River Breagagh (Liber Albus Oddoriensis, H.F. Berry, Proceedings Royal Irish Academy XXVII (1907-9), 124.


Franciscan friary founded by Richard Marshall.


Grace’s Castle built.


The Abbey was given a royal grant in 1245. It began as a small, rectangular chapel which expanded as funds allowed. Only the choir dates to this period.


Royal grant awarded for building purposes.


Cotterals Bridge is mentioned in an inquisition as ‘… to the water called Bregathe, running under Coteral bridge’ (Carrigan 1905).

Mid 13thC

Hightown wall constructed in the mid-13th century enclosing approx.. 29 hectares (Bradley 1975).


Choir was extended in 1321. Extension included the seven light east window (Butler 1849, Harbison 1992, Leask, Churches II 1958).


High alter consecrated (Butler 1849).


Cemetery completed (Butler 1849, Ledwich 1781).


Huge flood covered everything except the high alter (Butler 1849, Williams 2007 and Clyn 1845, 24).


Funds raised to build the bell tower (probably not built until later in the century due to black death 1348-9 (Conlon 1975). The tall and slender tower is reputed to be one of the earliest of the Franciscan towers in Ireland (Harbison 1992).


The Black Death claimed many lives in Kilkenny including it is thought Friar Clyn.


Irish town gate is mentioned ‘John Corvisor is keeper of the gate of Irestoun and of that murage, taking yearly 8s’ (McNeill 191).


Irish town wall is thought to have been completed in the 14th century (Thomas 1992).

14th C

Kyteler’s Inn built

Late 14thC

Sacristy & living quarter built to the south (Conlon 1975).

Late 14thC

Aisle added on northern side of nave (Conlon 1975).

Late 15thC ?

Transept chapel (Conlon 1975).
Part of the north aisle was demolished and some of the north wall of the nave was replaced by a pair of arches, which were also placed along the rear of the transept chapel (Bassett 1884).


The Abbey was supressed and the following was seized (Carrigan 1905) ‘a church & belfry, two chambers (named), a granary over three cellars, a barn, kitchen, cemetery and an orchard with two small closes’, cont. 2 acres, a weir on the River Nore, a watermill, a tiled chapel, 18 messuages, over 100 acres of land, etc…’(Gwynn and Hadcock 1970).


Including the buildings already named, a dormitory hall, third chamber and cloister are mentioned when the friary was granted to the sovereign and commonalty of Kilkenny (Gwynn and Hadcock 1970).


Grace’s Castle transferred into the ownership of the Crown to be used as a gaol.


Payment for a carriage of 79 cartloads of stone for making up the tower at Francis Well (Corporation Archives, CR/J/28).


Abbey in a state of disrepair (Carrigan 1905).


Irishtown described as being washed by the river by Bishop Rothe.


St Francis’ Abbey designated a house dedicated to the study of theology and philosophy.


Civil Survey describes Evan’s Turret as a ‘little castle in the garden’ (CS 6, 519).


Cromwell uses a breach in the City Wall to attack the Abbey (Ledwich 1804, 475 and Egan 1884, 39).


Community of 11 friars attended the Abbey.


Gaol now is the County Gaol.


The Abbey was assigned for the building of a military barracks and in 1700 'the waste of Francis's Abbey' was added to the former grant for building a barracks (Carrigan 1905, 109) (often referred to as ‘Horse Barracks’).


A fee-farm grant was leased to Richard Cole by the Duke of Ormond.


Richard Cole and John Smithwick started a brewery on the St Francis Abbey site.


Alderman Evans leases the land around ‘Evans tower’ from the Corporation.


Two friars, Fr. Philip Forristal the final friar died in 1829.


County Courthouse, County Gaol and City Gaol located at the same site.


The ruins of the Abbey were described by Reverend James Graves as ‘the chancel and belfry tower, with a small fragment of the conventual buildings adjoining the south side of the latter’ (Carrigan 1905).


Slater’s directory lists Edmund Smithwick at St Francis’ Abbey Brewery.


The east window is described by Bassett (1884) as nearly occupying the whole of the gable and consists of a cluster of seven lancet lights divided by slender mullions. The sacristy was restored as the oratory for Smithwicks Brewery.


Repair work was carried out on the tower and chancel by the Board of Works.


St Francis’ Abbey becomes a national monument. Further repair works were carried out by the Board of Works.


The private company of E. Smithwick and Sons was established.


Excavations revealed a large transept and an aisle in the nave on the north side of the church in which some graves were found (Lanigan and Tyler 1987).


Saint Francis Abbey Brewery was taken over by Arthur Guinness, Son & Company (Dublin) Ltd.


Sweetman reveals the cloister and burials to the south of the Abbey during monitoring works.


Diageo owned St Francis’ Abbey Brewery closes.