My Experience as a Volunteer with the Medieval Bray Project

Therese Hicks and David Mc Ilreavy at the Battle of Bloodybank talk at the Bray Library Eglinton Road.
The Medieval Bray Project

My name is Therese Hicks and I am a committee member of the Medieval Bray Project. I remember when seeing an advertisement looking for members in this group, how excited I was. I was working on local 17th century history relating to Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wickow since my retirement, and had been wishing that I could get involved in some local archaeology.

Meetings

There were fifteen people at our first meeting which was in the Ballywaltrim Community Centre, Bray. Over the coming weeks that number pared down quickly, but a good core of interested participants continued to attend. David McIlreavy started educating us on Bray’s recorded medieval history, or the lack thereof. He had some interesting ideas on who, what, and where the medieval scene could have been happening back in the day.

Raheen a Cluig

From there we started to look at the Raheen a Cluig church site, on Bray Head which was once a pitch and putt golf course. Our group conducted geophysical investigations under the guidance of Susan Curran from UCD to see what lay beneath. This made for good volunteer activity – all you needed to do was turn up and be able to walk up and down the surrounding fields. It was an interesting exercise, but nothing much was uncovered until we looked around the church ruins.

The Excavations

The next year, we were ready to do a little digging, which was actually quite hard work. Even though at this stage we only uncovered about twelve square meters and dug to a depth of about fifteen centimetres, the site slowly began to yield some of its secrets.   The medieval material had obviously been scoured away by activities old and new, but we could deduce that the building had probably been used as a domestic house in the late 17th century. The following season, evidence for the surrounding enclosure was uncovered, and the group was in a position to secure a drawing of what the building possibly looked like when the Augustinian Hermits had used it as a grange.

Research

Many of us in the group have contributed information to provide context for this site including some OPW records sourced in the National Archives. This included letters from Mr. Harold G. Leask who was the Inspector of National Monuments with the Office of Public works at the time.  These letters were addressed to Bray Urban District Council and date from1925/6. They dealt with the repairs advised on the church at the time.  Mr. Leask is recorded as having kept an interest in the church at least until 1935.  Records were also sourced by the group from the National Library of Ireland and the National Monument Services.

My involvement with the Medieval Bray Project group has been constant and interesting since its inception in 2015.

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