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Excavation gives a glimpse of 17th century Lisburn

Chairman of the Council's Economic Development Committee, Alderman Edwin Poets and Mayor Councillor Trevor Lunn receive a tour of the latest 'archaeological finds' at Castle Gardens with Stephanie McMullen of Archaeology Development Services.

Chairman of the Council's Economic Development Committee, Alderman Edwin Poets and Mayor Councillor Trevor Lunn receive a tour of the latest 'archaeological finds' at Castle Gardens with Stephanie McMullen of Archaeology Development Services.

A TANTALISING glimpse of life in 17th century Lisburn has been thrown up by the Castle Gardens Restoration Project.

Excavation work on the site, part of a 4 million Lisburn City Council and Heritage Lottery Fund restoration scheme, has unearthed some remarkable finds including building structures, metalwork and coinage.

One of the most exciting discoveries is the perfectly intact clay tiled basement floor of the 17th Century Gazebo (summer house). There are four steps leading from what was the bowling green into the main entrance of the Gazebo.

One of the perfectly preserved trader's tokens (coins) and a clay pipe which were uncovered.

Several theories have been put forward as to the function of this building.

Following the discovery of what seems to be a fireplace with two smaller ovens, experts suggested that the Gazebo may have been a gardener's residence, housing for a small garrison of soldiers, or the remains of a bakery servicing the castle.

However, recent finds of pottery, glass, a decorative pin brooch/dress pin and a carved bone gaming piece, suggest this building was more likely to have been used for recreations. It may have been a type of summer house, used primarily for socialising by the Conway family.

Preparing

The ovens uncovered below are thought to have provided a means of preparing and cooking food within the bowling green. This excavation work is all the more remarkable as before the 2003 archaeological assessment, the Gazebo was not even visible above the ground. This find will be part of the restored gardens.

Several perfectly preserved traders' tokens (coins) have also been unearthed and further investigation by local historian, Shaun Cheyne, has revealed that one of the tokens has a local connection with the name Edward Moore, Lisburn and is dated 1666.

A copy of Moore's will has also been found, containing interesting historical facts about Lisburn and its people.

The will discloses that shop owner Moore owed considerable sums of money to various local people, all of whom are named in the will, along with the amounts owed.

Other documents state that Edward Moore married Mary Jackson from Lisburn on the 2nd February 1667 in Christ Church Cathedral, Lisburn.

Their three sons Roger, Edward and John were all baptised in the Cathedral.

* The second and final stage of the scheme will make the gardens more accessible from the City centre with a new entrance way in Bridge Street allowing access directly into the park. The entrance via the Cathedral grounds to the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum will also be improved.

* The cast iron railings and monuments in the Victorian, or upper, part of the Gardens off Castle Street are being fully restored, along with the many beautiful scheduled monuments in the Gardens.

*A new park warden's office is being constructed which will include public toilets and education facilities at the location of the World War II air raid shelter at the Castle Street pedestrian entrance. The 17th Century terrace walls, terraces and stone perron are also being fully restored.

* Upon completion of the restoration of the Gardens, a dedicated Education Officer, will work with Museum staff to deliver the education programme working closely with a Park Ranger managing the restored Gardens.

*The restoration of the Gardens will be completed in July 2007.

Ulster Star
09/02/2007