Evidence of agricultural activity and garden archaeology at Good Shepherd site

Evidence of agricultural activity and garden archaeology at Good Shepherd site
The Good Shepard convent was destroyed by fire in 2012. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

ARCHAEOLOGISTS are using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) techniques on the site of the Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday's Well and have found evidence for agricultural activity and garden archaeology.

The works are taking place after Cork City Council asked the company that owns the site, Moneda Developments, to provide measures to identify undocumented graves and asked for a geophysical survey to be carried out by a team of experts.

Moneda Developments - a Dundalk firm - are planning 234 apartments on the 3.14-hectare site, a former convent that has been left empty since the mid-1990s.

Concerned locals had contacted the Evening Echo in recent days about works on the old convent which is thought to contain at least two burial sites - one of the grave sites for those interned in the Mother and Baby Home is not within the boundary of Moneda's proposed development.

Consultancy firm Coakley O'Neill and Cork City Council have both moved to assure locals that the work is being carried out with respect to the nature of the site.

A spokesperson for Cork City Council said: “Over the past number of months a team of archaeologists have undertaken a phased programme of archaeological works at the site of the former Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday’s Well.

“All of this work was conducted under licences from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in conjunction with the National Museum of Ireland, and was carried out as part of a request for further information in relation to a planning application for the proposed re-development of the site.

“All excavations at the site were monitored by a number of highly experienced archaeological site directors, as well as a specialist osteoarchaeologist,” the spokesperson added.

The first phase of works included the use of GPR techniques to identify where disturbance of the sub-surface terrain had taken place in the past. The results revealed clearly identifiable signatures for agricultural activity – such as cultivation furrows, land clearance and pits - while garden archaeology was also discovered.

This second phase of works was concerned with clarifying the nature of the GPR features, as well as testing of ground which was not suitable for GPR analysis. This work was conducted under a separate licence from the Department and National Museum and was concluded on Monday of this week.

A number of carved architectural elements, such as celtic cross-shaped finials, which were originally on the roof of the convent were also recovered. These have in recent years been spread across the site with demolition rubble from some of the former convent buildings.

A final report on the archaeological works will be completed and made publically available.

Moneda Developments has until January 17 to submit further information on the project to Cork City Council.

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