Belfast Telegraph

Secrets of the past unearthed by volunteers during dig at foundations of medieval Moira castle

Councillors John Palmer, Jim Dillon and Caleb McCready take part in the final day of the archaeological dig at Moira Demesne
Councillors John Palmer, Jim Dillon and Caleb McCready take part in the final day of the archaeological dig at Moira Demesne
Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council chief executive David Burns lends a helping hand

By Gillian Halliday

A community archaeological dig has unearthed new details about a medieval structure.

The foundations of Moira Castle, which dates back to the 1600s, emerged during last summer's drought when the ground receded to reveal part of the main building.

More than 100 volunteers, including school pupils, joined a team from Queen's University and the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum for an excavation of the remains.

David Burns, chief executive of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, said the dig - which took place over the past two weeks - has given an insight into the life of the castle's inhabitants in the 18th and 19th centuries.

"Over the course of 14 days not only were wall foundations uncovered but the team also found 17th and 18th century pottery, roof tiles, window and drinking glass, clay pipes and a wild boar tusk," he said.

"The excavation has revealed a large amount of information about the site, its inhabitants and their way of life over 200 years later."

Mr Burns revealed that one of the most impressive finds of the dig was a coin with a 1773 date.

"(This was) from around the time William Sharman, MP for Lisburn, leased the estate from John Rawdon, 1st Earl of Moira," he explained.

Mr Burns urged history buffs to visit the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum, where the findings from the excavation will be displayed in the near future.

Mr Burns - who joined in the dig - also praised the efforts of volunteers and the eight school groups for their hard work on the project.

"It was great to hear the excitement of participants as they helped uncover these historic foundations dating back to the 1600s," he said.

"Local residents also came down to Moira Demesne to watch the activity going on."

The council will be updating its records following the findings of the dig.

Director of excavation from Queen's, Ruairi O Baoill, will deliver a talk on the dig as part of the museum's autumn programme later this year.

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