Rosturra Woodland Site, County Galway; Archaeological Report
This site is located approximately 4km south of Kylemore village, Co. Galway (Figure 9). The forest site is located within both a 'Special Area of Conservation' (SAC) and a 'Natural Heritage Area' (NHA).
The forest is divided between two townlands namely Rosturra and Derrylahan, County Galway.
2.5.2 Receiving Environment
County Galway; in Irish "Chontae na Gaillimhe" or "stony river" (Flanaghan & Flanaghan 1994, 213).
Rosturra derives from old Irish word 'Ros' meaning 'wood'.
Derrylahan; the derivation of "Derry" or in Irish "doire" or "dair", an 'oak grove or wood' (Joyce 1856, 34).
Leitrim; the name of more than forty townlands and villages; in Irish "Liath-dhruim" [Lee-drum], F. M., "grey drum or ridge" (Joyce 1856, 19).
Ballynakill; 'Ballynakilla, Ballynakilly'; the 'town of the church or wood' ("cill or coill") (Joyce 1856, 34). Ballynakill or in Irish " Baile na Cille" meaning "Homestead of the church" (Flanaghan & Flanaghan 1994, 179).
The topography of the site comprises:
(i) dry flat land.
An analysis of Ordnance Survey maps from the early nineteenth century to date gives a picture of the development of the townland over time. No Down Survey map (circa 1656) was available for this county. While the forest name is Rosturra, the forest site lies between two townlands. The northern portion of the forest site lies within the townland of Rosturra itself and the southern portion of the forest site lies within the townland of Derrylahan.
On the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1836-40) the forest site appears densely forested (Figure 11). The complete townland of Rosturra shows dense forestry except for the northern portion and a large central area within the townland through which a road is marked. A small area around 'Edwards Lodge' located within the townland of Derrylahan in the south of the forest site is also devoid of woodland. The townland of Derrylahan contains 511 acres 2 roods and 39 perches while the townland of Derrylahan contains 118 acres 1 rood and 9 perches. Numerous trails criss-cross the woodland in both townlands. Only the southern portion of Derrylahan and an area in the west of the townland are not covered by forests. The north-western portion of
Rosturra townland appears laid out in sub-rectilinear field plots but no large house is identified as a possible cause for this. SMR GA126:070; a tree-ring or enclosure is clearly located on the eastern side of the main roadway which runs north-south centrally through Rosturra. This roadway leads to 'Edward's Lodge' in Derrylahan townland in the south-western margins of Rosturra townland.
The townland of Kylagowan to the west of Rosturra is densely forested along its eastern margin i.e. where it joins with Rosturra. The townland of Drumminnamuckla South to the south is devoid of forestry with a large open area of marshy ground to the south-east and a laid out area to the south-east. There is an unnamed village to the south-west with houses evident fronting onto the main street. The townland of Derryvunlam is located directly north of Rosturra which contains 1146 acres and 37 perches. It is well laid out in rectilinear plots and quadrants with tree-lined boundaries in a linear fashion throughout. In the western portion of the townland is the large demesne of Shannonhill house and its associated outbuildings. The map shows dense woodland around the house as well as some formal gardens. The whole demesne is bounded by woodland and is demarcated on this O.S. map. These portions of the demesne are laid out in large sized rectilinear plots. Other notable areas within the townland of Derryvunlam include: 'The Acres'; 'The Hill' and 'Bonerglass' all of which are denoted by woodland cover.
On the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1947-48) the entire townland of Rosturra is covered by lightly planted woodland (Figure 12). The townland of Derrylahan remains as on the 1st edition O.S. map. The area within Rosturra is called 'Rosturra Wood' and the townland contains 514 acres 1 rood and 33 perches. The townland of Derrylahan contains 117 acres 1 rood and 30 perches. Both townlands show trails transversing the woodlands as on the 1st O.S. edition map (1836-40). SMR GA132:070; a tree-ring is evident within Rosturra townland with trees planted within and around the enclosure at this stage. 'Edward's Lodge' is still marked on this edition within Derrylahan townland but the name no longer appears. The townland of Drumminnamuckla South to the south and east of the forest site is devoid of forest cover and shows rather wet, marshy ground which is now marked out in regular rectilinear field plots in a grid like fashion. The plots to the east run mainly north-south while to the south of Derrylahan they run in an east-west direction. Kylagowan townland to the west shows woodland cover along its eastern margins where it adjoins Rosturra. The townland of Derryvunlam to the north is more intensively forested at this time where it adjoins Rosturra townland to the south. It contains 118 acres 2 roods and 32 perches in 1947-8. Shannon Hill House demesne is clearly marked on the 1947-8 Ordnance Survey edition with little change shown in the forest cover around it.
An early account of the parish of Ballynakill is gained from Samuel Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland during his travels in the early nineteenth century:
"Ballynakill, a parish partly in the barony of Leitrim, county of Galway and province of Connaught, seven and a half miles west south-west from Portumna; contains with the town of Woodford, 13,103 inhabitants. This parish is situated on the road from Portumna to Gort and comprises 12,006 statute acres as applotted under the Tithe Act; about 800 acres are woodland and the remainder arable and pasture. Marble Hill from Gortenauppogue, the
seat of Sir J. Burke is finely situated in a demesne extensive woodland commanding great views and distinguished by its great variety if surfaces; in the grounds is a spring called Macduff's well, within a few yards of which are vestiges of a stone altar. The other seats are Shannon Hill, the residence of M. Connolly Esq; Ballinagar of the Hon. A. Nugent; Cloncoe of Ulick Burke Esq; Moyglass of J. Burke Esq; Eagle House of Capt. H. Piggott; Brook ville of Martin White Esq; Ballycorban of Matthew White Esq; and Carroroe Lodge of H. Clarke Esq. Fairs are held on the 1st June and 26th October. It is a rectory in the diocese of Clonfert, part appropriate to the see and Deanery and part forming a portion of the union of Lickmolassy. The tithes amount to £299.15.1 of which £50.15.4 and a half payable to the Ecclesiastical Commission; £13.18.11 and a quarter to the dean and the remainder to the incumbent. The church is at Woodford and the Ecclesiastical Commission have recently granted £213 for repairs; the glebe at Ballynakill comprises 6 acres and 3 roods. In the Roman Catholic division the greater part of the parish is divided into two entire benefices called Ballynakill and Woodford and the remainder forms part of a third. There are chapels at Cloncoe, Loughtorick, Marble Hill, Knockadrian and Woodford; the last erected in 1837 at a cost of £400. A National School has been built and there are 9 pay schools in which 178 boys and 363 girls are educated. There are ruins of an old castle which appears to have been of great strength; and numerous forts. In the demesne of Marble Hill is a subterranean passage now so choked up with reeds and other obstructions as to render it impossible to ascertain its extent; and there are numerous vestiges of antiquity in the grounds. At Ballinagar, 1.5 miles from the vill are Mullins Wells, well visited during the summer, the grounds around them being tastefully laid out" (Lewis 1837, 29).
Shannon Hill House is located to the north-west of the forest site. No material was gained on the site through research.
Folklore Archive Collection, UCD
The following references refer to excerpts from the Irish Folklore Commission held within the Department of Irish Folklore. These include two main archival sources: (i) Irish Manuscript Collection (IFC.M) and (ii) Irish Schools Collection (IFC.S). The excerpts refer to accounts by locals of popular belief, customs, local place names and incidents that occurred in the parish as follows:
The first reference describes a holy well and children's burial ground in the parish of Ballynakill, Co. Galway.
"St. Anne's Well at Ahanass in Woodford, county of Galway. Well has a " pattern" associated with it and for curing illnesses, mainly sore eyes. Cloths are tied to a nearby bush and is associated with the Blessed Virgin".
mile from Looscaun church beside stream-crooked river- small stone
mound; unbaptised children's ground".
The following excerpts attest to the presence of a prosperous forest in the parish:
"A good huntsman; long ago, a very strict game keeper minded the game in the parish and the woods and hills were abounding with game like deer, rabbits and hares. Oats along the forest often eaten by deer. Mike Mahon snared a small rabbit and sold it in Loughnua for four pence".
Reference to the "shooting of a deer one day" which was "brought home by a donkey". Another incident refers to a person being caught by the game keeper for hunting in the woods.
2.5.3 Field Inspection
188.8.131.52 This is the largest of the study areas at 104 hectares and is part of a much larger forest. At the time of inspection, the study area contained mature conifers, young conifers (Plate 10) and clearfelled areas (Plate 11). This site was surveyed in its entirety with the exception of the areas containing young conifers due to inaccessibility and low visibility. No new archaeological sites were identified during the field survey.
Recorded monument GA126:070, an enclosure, was located and investigated. It is a large circular enclosure, roughly 45m in diameter. It consists of a low circular bank of earth and stone (Plate 12). More stone was evident to the east where it was incorporated in a later field system (Plate 13). The width of the bank ranged from 0.90m to 1.15m at its base and stood between 0.40m and 0.50m high. The interior of the enclosure is relatively flat and level. The interior and the bank had been completely covered in trees, most of which had been recently removed, apparently by hand. The enclosure is surrounded by a ditch up to 1m wide and with a maximum depth of 0.60m. The external height of the bank/wall on the east side from the bottom of the ditch is 1.10m.
The enclosure is incorporated in a later field system extending to both the east and west. It is clearly marked on the Ordinance Survey maps. Most of the walls in this field system were made from large stones and were well faced. Another extensive field system evident on the maps is located to the south-east of the enclosure. This area is completely covered with coniferous and deciduous trees making it impossible to investigate the remains of this field system. The walls and associated hedges in this area were however clearly evident along the access roads.
There were no new archaeological site identified as part of the forest survey.
2.5.4 Desk Study
The Recorded Monuments (Figure 10)
The Sites and Monuments record (SMR) of Dúchas-The Heritage Service, Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands refers to the following sites within and in the environs of Rosturra Woodland, County Galway.
From the 6" Ordnance Survey maps, a list of the archaeological
sites and their proximity to the woodland site was compiled.
SMR No. Distance to Rosturra Woodland Site Type
GA126:070 Within Enclosure
GA126:028 440m NE Child's Burial Ground
GA126:011 1650m SE Well-Secular
GA126:010 1500m SE Child's Burial Ground
GA126:038 2100m NW Graveyard
There is one recorded archaeological site located within Derrygill Woodland as follows:
Site Type Enclosure
Height O.D. 150'-200'
Description Enclosure-Tree Ring. The site is not named but marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1838-1839) and the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1914-1948). On the former, the site appears as a circle on the map while on the latter the site appears to enclose trees with woodland to the north and south of the enclosure. Measurements from the 1948 O.S. map indicate a diameter of c.50m.
The site is situated in dense woodland with a very limited aspect. The site consists of a sub-circular enclosure with a bank composed of earth and stone. The bank is visible all around but the ditch is visible only from the north through to the west. The ditch appears to be shallow and is very narrow c.0.40m wide and is part of the drainage system in this forest. The bank is very low, c.0.40m internally and rising to a height of c.0.60m externally. The bank is c. 0.60m to 0.80m wide and is composed of large stones mixed with earth all of which is moss covered and planted with trees. The bank would appear to be too narrow for that of a ringfort. The interior is level and is densely planted with trees which made it impossible to take a diameter. This site is unlikely to be that of a ringfort as both bank and ditch are too narrow and no trace of a souterrain or a hut site were evident. The site may have been at one stage a tree ring enclosure but this is difficult to determine due to the forest growth.
Area of Interest 30m
the environs of Rosturra Woodland the following SMR sites are
Site Type Children's Burial ground
Height O.D. 100'-200'
Description The site is not represented or named on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1838-1839) or on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1914-1948). The site is situated at the north end of a very boggy marshy field of very poor quality pastureland. The surrounding terrain is similar with limited aspect to the north, east and south and to the west woodland is visible. The site was reputed to have been a burying place for unbaptised children by all the locals in the area. Its exact location was pointed out to us but no trace of it now survives, though the area in which it reputedly was built was on a slight platform running east-west but this appears to be natural as it is found in the adjoining fields. To the east of the platform a scatter of rather large, irregularly cut stones are visible but these appear to be due to land clearance than of any archaeological significance. To the west of these the platform area is much overgrown with furze and briars, nevertheless no trace of any archaeological features are visible. The only evidence for this site is from local traditions and beliefs. The siting of this type of monument is not conducive to this type of terrain as it is extremely marshy and boggy.
Area of Interest 100m
Distance 440m NE
Townland Cloonmoylan (ed Abbeyville)
Site Type Well-Secular
Height O.D. 100'-200'
Description The site is marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1838-1839) and is named "Toberaphuca" while it is not named on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1947-1948). The site is situated in a very undulating field of rough pasture with a large amount of rock outcrop visible. The aspect from the site is very limited due to the nature of the terrain. The site is in poor condition. The site consists of a well, "Toberphuca", roughly D-shaped in plan. The well is bounded by a wall mainly composed of natural rock outcrop mixed with large stones. There are two man-made steps leading down onto the well.
The wall which surrounds the well appears to be composed largely of the natural rock outcrop. The wall has been extended on either side of the well and is composed of small irregular shaped stones fitted loosely together. Lining the
the stones are scattered but may have belonged to the wall. The
wall is in a poor state of repair and two large trees which act
as a canopy for the well have displaced many stones. The well
may at one time have been a natural spring well, as it acts as
the source of a stream running in a northern direction out of
it. On the date inspected the water was c.0.70m deep but the floor
of the well was not visible due to the murkiness of the water.
The well was c.1m wide with an overall length of 1.75m from the
end wall to the steps which were submerged. There was no trace
of votive offerings or statues to suggest its use as a holy well.
However 20m to the west was a small style which would suggest
that the well was indeed visited at sometime. The only evidence
besides this is cartographic. In the next field 150m west towards
the road is a disused limekiln. There is no evidence that this
is a holy well. The name "Toberphuca" though printed
in gothic script on the O.S. maps does not indicate a religious
function as such.
Area of Interest 10m
Distance 1650m SE
Townland Cloonmoylan (ed. Abbeyville)
Site Type Children's Burial Ground
Height O.D. 100'-200'
Description The site is marked on the 1st and 3rd editions of the Ordnance Survey maps 1838-1839 and 1947-1948 and is named "Gortnakilla Graveyard" on the former and "Gortnakilla Children's Burial Ground" on the latter. The site is situated in a gently sloping field of poor quality pastureland which slopes to the north and with fairly good aspect in this direction. The aspect elsewhere is limited due to the rising nature of the surrounding terrain. The site consists of a children's burial ground, rectangular in shape and in poor condition, aligned north-south with the graves orientated east-west. It is surrounded for the most part by a low stony bank and measures 19.50m north-south and 18.40m east-west. The site is much overgrown with briars and bushes both internally and along its enclosing element.
The enclosing element consists of a wide low bank of very stony make-up with an entrance in the west. The bank is not extant from south to south-east (anticlockwise). The bank is on average 3m wide and is highest in the north-west and north-east corners at 0.90m and 0.25m respectively. Internally it is quite low and survives to an average height of 0.50m. No clear shape is visible of the bank or wall as much slippage has occurred all around. The stones are a mixture of large and small stones. Most of the small stones are probably a result of local field clearance. From south to south-west where the bank is not extant, the site slopes down gently to
the surrounding terrain. Most of the bank is overgrown with bushes
and briars. The entrance is situated in the west part of the site,
1.20m wide and 3.30m long. Three large stones are present in the
northern part, the stone on the extreme right (to the east) is
0.40m wide and 0.60m high and 0.24m thick. There are two large
stones in the southern part of the entrance. This could indicate
dry stone walling at the entrance.
The interior is fairly level but is much overgrown. Most of the grave slabs are fallen and are moss covered. They run in lines north-south and are orientated east-west. They are quite irregular in shape being composed of limestone. One quite large one lies to the north-west of the centre. The graves appear to be concentrated in one area, to the north-west and north of the centre. The eastern part of the site appears to be devoid of any grave markers. The local landowner revealed that he had never interfered with the site and he could not remember the last person who was buried at the site.
Area of Interest 100m
Distance 1500m SE
Site Type Graveyard
Height O.D. 100'-200'
Description The site is not named or marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1838). It does appear on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1947-1948) and named "St Feighins Graveyard". The site straddles two townlands, Lackan and Wellpark. The site is built upon and encompasses the top of a natural hummock, one of many in the area, with good aspect to the north, south and east of the surrounding poor quality grassland mostly under pasture. The aspect to the west is limited due to the rise of the land while the land to the east has undergone very recent deep ploughing. The siting of the graveyard results in its irregular plan. Wellpark (St.Feighins well) is visible 30m to the north-east of the site.
The site consists of a grave yard in poor condition, irregularly shaped (due to its siting) and is 38m north-south and 28m east-west. It is bounded on all sides by a low stone wall 1m high with an entrance in the west south-west. The interior slopes up to the centre in all directions and is quite irregular underfoot indicating the presence of grave slabs under the grass covering. No trace of any slabs are visible above the ground level although in the southern part of the site is a polished marble grave slab with a date of 1915. Apart from this there is no trace whatsoever of any other associated features. No trace of a church survives but the irregular siting of the grave yard is not conducive to the building of a church.
Area of Interest 100m
Distance 2100m NW
184.108.40.206 The desk study revealed one recorded archaeological site, an enclosure, from within Rosturra townland in which the forest is located and four known archaeological sites from the surrounding townlands.
The Topographical Files of the National Museum of Ireland were examined in which all stray finds are provenanced to townland. The following is a list of the townlands within and in the environs of Rosturra forest.
Proximity to Forest
Drumminnamuckla Adjacent to South
Derryvunlam Adjacent to North
Derrylahan Adjacent to South
Cloonmo To East
Kylagowan Adjacent to West
Cappagh Adjacent to North-West
There were no stray finds recorded from the townland of Rosturra within which the forest is located. In addition there are no stray finds recorded from adjacent and surrounding townlands in the vicinity of Rosturra forest site.
The scale of works planned for this site will involve both clearfelling and planting. Both of these processes are inherently destructive with ground disturbances associated with the use of heavy machinery (for tree removal) and preparation of the land for planting (with the excavation of drainage ditches).
the areas to be affected have been surveyed in an attempt at locating
and identifying previously unknown archaeological sites, no new
sites were revealed. However, it must be borne in mind that archaeological
remains with little above ground surface expression may survive
below the ground surface. Such features would only be revealed
during earthmoving and ground preparation works where such archaeological
sites would be directly compromised by these subsequent works.
Please see the mitigations and recommendation section in volume
1 for suggested mitigations.
*Please note that it was not possible to reproduce figures for inclusion on the website version of the reports.