Anyone familiar with Castletown Parklands might on a sunny day in the past, have sat or ‘picnicked’ on the grass front lawn between the high hedge and Castletown House (begun 1722)  and looked admiringly towards the fine ‘old building’ which seems to have been standing there forever.

But did you know that right underneath where you were sitting on the front lawn, is evidence for much older human activity at Castletown, dating to the very Early Bronze (Age 2,200 – 1800BC)   astonishingly about 4,200 years ago!

Several years ago during landscape works on the front lawn, remains of a Bronze Age burial site were discovered, lying only 30cm under the existing grass sod. As a result an 8 metre by 9 metre area of the grass lawn was archaeologically excavated in order to analyse and record the extent of these burials within this area limit.

“A total of 11 individuals were identified which consisted of three inhumation burials (i.e in-tact skeletal remains) lying on their right side and facing east. Of the three burials, two were in a crouched position, with only one inhumation placed in a stone- lined pit grave.

The remaining eight individuals were cremated and ashes placed in a series of four simple unlined pits, while all but one of the four cremation pits contained several individuals. ‘

Of the eleven individuals identified during the excavation:

Three were three adult males, six others were adults whose sex could not be identified, and two were juveniles, one aged about 5 years old who was buried with two adults, and one aged about 10 years old buried with an adult male.”  Ref: Melanie McQuade ADS Report)

In one of the inhumation burials a bowl food vessel was placed at the back of the skull, and in another a vase food vessel was placed by the hip. These pottery objects were interred with the bodies and considered to provide food in the afterlife. Apart from pottery remains there was no other objects found in the graves. The pottery vessels were highly decorated with comb-impressed line decoration.

Some butchered pig, sheep and cattle burnt- bone fragments were noted in with the cremation burials, most likely the residue of food consumed at the time and accidently included in the burial fill.

The Bronze Age burials uncovered at Castletown are only a small section of a much larger Early Bronze Age flat cemetery site that exists in this location. There was no evidence for an overlying mound or enclosing ditch generally a  feature of Bronze Age burial sites, however if they did exist, it is likely they were levelled during the later extensive building and landscaping  works on the Castletown lands.

So, in the spirit of ‘when we travel again’, next time you able to visit Castletown Parkland, see if you can find the brass plaque that marks the spot where this Bronze Age burials lie underground!

by Helen Kehoe