Ireland's 'earliest' timber framed dwelling unearthed
A restoration project may have unearthed Ireland's earliest surviving example of a timber-framed house.
Archaeologists have discovered an oak frame structure in the home of Irene Clune on Chapel Lane, Ennis, Co Clare.
An analysis is expected to conclude that it dates back to the late 16th century.
David Humphreys of ACP Consultant Conservation Engineers said yesterday: "The evidence suggests very strongly that this is the earliest surviving example of a timber-framed home in Ireland. If it is what we think it is, this is very exciting.
"The find is of national importance and, I suspect, international importance," he added.
Another house, previously believed to have been the earliest known timber-framed home in the country, was demolished in the 1840s, he said.
Work has been continuing on Ms Clune's house --its triple diamond stone Jacobean chimney has been an icon of medieval Ennis for centuries.
The house was occupied until last year. However, Ennis Town Council decided the structure was unstable and dangerous.
The council is spending ?170,000 to make the building safe and this includes a grant of ?85,000 from the Department of the Environment.
According to Frank Coyne, consultant archaeologist with Aegis Archaeology, the excavation "has revealed a wealth of information".
"The existence of a foundation cut in the interior of the house indicates an earlier structure on the site, which is also borne out by the presence of large oak beams in the walls," he explained.
"It is hugely significant that these beams are oak, which will enable us to use tree ring dating. If these prove to be of medieval date, which we believe is the case, then this means that this house is the only structure of its type in the country."
Ennis mayor Michael Guilfoyle, said the restoration work, due to be completed next February, would yield valuable information on the skills and construction techniques of late medieval Ennis.
Conservation officer Dick Cronin said the present discoveries further enhanced Ennis's status as the most intact medieval town in Ireland.
"Evidence appears to come to light regularly showing that the whole town centre from The Abbey, to the Old Ground, to Lower Parnell Street contains a large amount of late medieval masonry, most of which is hidden behind Georgian and Victorian facades," he added.