Bere Island Project Archaeological Lecture

We are pleased to announce that we will be presenting the results of our first year’s work on Bere Island at a public lecture on the island on Saturday 22nd June. Rubicon’s Damian Shiels will be giving the talk, which will take place in the Community Centre at 7pm. Last year our work concentrated on examining the Napoleonic-era defences on the island, which represent the beginning of a sustained military presence than spans over 200 years. We combined detailed surveys of these sites with historical research in an effort to understand the circumstances behind the construction of the defences. We will be presenting these results and also outlining our plans for future work at Saturday’s talk.

In July 1806 Arthur Wellesley (the later Duke of Wellington and victor of Waterloo) visited Bere Island and was singularly unimpressed with the fortifications there. He cast serious doubt on their capacity to defend the anchorage. Come along on the 22nd to find out if we think the Iron Duke’s assessment was a fair one!

Ardagh Battery, Bere Island overlooking Berehaven.

Ardagh Battery, Bere Island overlooking Berehaven.

 

Report Completed on Bere Island’s Napoleonic-Era Defences

Last year’s work on Bere Island off the coast of West Cork concentrated on a historical and physical survey of the island’s Napoleonic-era defences in order to learn as much as we could about the origins of the protracted military presence there. The results of this work have now been synthesized in a report entitled ‘Safe Haven: the effectiveness of the defensive network of Bere Island in the early nineteenth century’.

The Overview Survey of Martello Tower 3 and Battery 3 at Cloonaghlin West, with the military road connecting them (Louise Baker, Rubicon Heritage Services)

The Overview Survey of Martello Tower 3 and Battery 3 at Cloonaghlin West, with the military road connecting them (Louise Baker, Rubicon Heritage Services)

Invaluable grant funding from The Heritage Council was received for this work, with Rubicon Heritage Services supplying the additional monies and resources required. The report (running to over 17,000 words, with 31 figures and 118 photographs!) was finalised in November. This report has been shared with Bere Island Projects and Bere Island Heritage Centre, and a public presentation will also be arranged on it in the coming weeks to inform islanders of the results. We are also currently exploring further avenues for making the results as widely accessible as possible, including publication.

Survey and Photographic Elevations of Battery No. 4 at Ardagh (Louise Baker & Jonathan Millar, Rubicon Heritage Services)

Survey and Photographic Elevations of Battery No. 4 at Ardagh (Louise Baker & Jonathan Millar, Rubicon Heritage Services)

The report is made up of a number of different sections, including the background to the project, its aims and the way it was carried out. The main sections explore the political and military context of the Bere Island defences, the coastal defence of Ireland during this period, the coming of military defence to Bere Island, the island’s armament and each of the individual sites themselves. Finally the effectiveness of the defences and their main purpose are assessed in light of the historical and physical survey. Some of the illustrations from the report are included here to highlight the type of product the report produced.

The remains of one of the two gun batteries at Battery No. 4, Ardagh. It is our hope to excavate this site as part of the project. (Louise Baker & Jonathan Millar, Rubicon Heritage Services)

The remains of one of the two gun batteries at Battery No. 4, Ardagh. It is our hope to excavate this site as part of the project. (Louise Baker & Jonathan Millar, Rubicon Heritage Services)

It is our intention to continue our annual explorations of different aspects of Bere Island’s military heritage, so stay tuned for more on further plans both to communicate last year’s results to as wide an audience as possible, and also our plans for the future!

Map of Bere Island with arcs of fire and ranges of the Napoleonic-era defences. Note the concentration on defending Laurence Cove on the island's northern shore. (Louise Baker, Rubicon Heritage Services)

Map of Bere Island with arcs of fire and ranges of the Napoleonic-era defences. Note the concentration on defending Laurence Cove on the island’s northern shore. (Louise Baker, Rubicon Heritage Services)

Panoramas of Bere Island’s Military Archaeology

As part of the project we needed to get good images of all of the early nineteenth century sites, but it was also very important to place the sites and the island in general in it’s wider context. We were very fortunate that we had experienced photographer Brian MacDomhnaill on the survey team, who was responsible for our project images.

Panorama of Bere Island looking west from Knockanallig- click to enlarge (Brian MacDomhnaill)

Panorama of Bere Island looking west from Knockanallig. This looks towards the mainland and the open sea- click to enlarge (Brian MacDomhnaill)

While on Bere we set out for Knockanallig in the centre of the island to try to get some landscape photos. Among the surprises that awaited us on the hill where a network of field systems which may well be of some antiquity, but more of that anon! While on the hill Brian took a series of photographs which he later ‘stitched’ together using photographic software. The results were two  panoramas of the island and it’s setting in Bantry Bay, one facing east and one facing west. Although they still require some processing and modification, these images help to set all of the nineteenth century military defences in their wider context, and are a valuable tool for the project. Click on the images below to get a detailed look at the panoramas, which you can then zoom in on.

Panorama of Bere Island looking east from Knockanallig- click to enlarge (Brian MacDomhnaill)

Panorama of Bere Island looking east from Knockanallig. This is looking up Bantry Bay- click to enlarge (Brian MacDomhnaill)

 

 

 

Mapping History: A depiction of the Royal Navy at Bere Island in the early 1800s

During our research as part of the Bere Island Project one of the maps we examined was this extraordinary depiction of a Royal Naval fleet in Berehaven in the early 1800s, just before the renewal of war with France. It is filled with fascinating detail from the time immediately before the construction of the island’s network of defensive structures such as the martello towers and signal tower. It shows the beginnings of a relationship that would lead to Berehaven becoming one of the key anchorages of the British fleet.

The early nineteenth century map of Bere Island and Berehaven with the British fleet

The early nineteenth century map of Bere Island and Berehaven with the British fleet

The map is annotated with information that was perceived as being useful in the future. It reveals similarities and differences between the Bere Island and Berehaven of 2012 and that of 200 years ago. Interestingly, the Lawrence Cove of today was then referred to as ‘Hookerbay’. The navy took the opportunity of their anchorage to mark out a number of sites that they thought would be of use on the island. This includes a small stream running into the bay from Ardagh townland, which they record as a ‘Convenient watering place’, the areas of Loughaunnagower and Lough Alimin which are called ‘Fresh Water Ponds’ and a ‘Mass House and Burying Grounds’ near Ballynakilla. As well as this they noted the rich resources to be found around the island and the haven, such as the areas of ‘good trawling’, ‘very fine oysters and scallops’  and the somewhat rueful recognition of ‘oyster beds but private property’.

The map also provides advice for Royal Naval ships that may seek sanctuary in the haven. It points out landmarks on the mainland that should be noted in order to avoid hazards, such as ‘McSwiney’s House’ ‘Dunbui [Dunboy] House’ and ‘Drury’s Rock’. But what of the fleet themselves? There are nineteen ships depicted, and the cartographer has taken the time to name each of them. This gives us an opportunity to explore their remarkable history. Many sailed the World and were involved in some of the most famous sea battles of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including engagements of the American War of Independence, Seven Years War and Napoleonic Wars. Many had already seen action before their time in Berehaven- indeed a number had formerly been French Naval vessels that had fallen in battle in previous years. For a few greater deeds were still to come; a number would later serve at the most famous naval battle of them all, when Nelson defeated the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805.

A close up of the Royal Navy fleet off Bere Island, with many past and future veterans of Battles such as the Glorious First of June, the Nile and Trafalgar.

A close up of the Royal Navy fleet off Bere Island, with many past and future veterans of Battles such as the Glorious First of June, the Nile and Trafalgar

The ships that are depicted off Bere Island are as follows:

1. Windsor Castle

A Second Rate 98 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of Genoa (1795) and Battle of Cape Finisterre (1805)

2. Princess Royal

A Barfleur Class 98 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of Genoa (1795) and Battle of Hyeres Islands (1795)

3. Barfleur

A Second Rate 98 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of the Chesapeake (1781), Battle of St. Kitts (1782), Battle of the Saintes (1782), Battle of the Mona Passage (1782), Glorious First of June (1794), Battle of Groix (1795), Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797),  Battle of Cape Finisterre (1805)

4. Temeraire

A Second Rate 98 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of Trafalgar (1805)

5. Malta

A Third Rate 80 Gun former French vessel- Fought at Battle of the Nile (1798- as the Guillaume Tell on the French side), Battle of Cape Finisterre (1805)

6. Glory

A Second Rate 98 Gun vessel- Battle of Cape Finisterre (1805)

7. Atlas

Duke Class 98 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of San Domingo (1806)

8. Namur

Second Rate 90 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of Lagos (1759), Affair of Fielding and Bylandt (1779)

9. Formidable

Second Rate 90 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of Ushant (1778), Battle of the Saintes (1782)

10. Vengeance

Third Rate 74 Gun vessel (later served as a prison ship)

11. Achille

Third Rate 74 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of Trafalgar (1805)

12. Resolution

Third Rate 74 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797), Battle of the Chesapeake (1781), Battle of the Saintes (1782)

13. Juste

A Third Rate 80 Gun former French Vessel- originally the Deux Frère- Fought at  Glorious First of June (1794- as the Juste on the French side)

14. Centaur

Third Rate 74 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of Copenhagen (1807), Destruction of Vsevolod (1808)

15. Orion

Third Rate 74 Gun vessel- Fought at  Glorious First of June (1794), Battle of Groix (1795), Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797), Battle of the Nile (1798), Battle of Trafalgar (1805)

16. Majestic

Third Rate 74 Gun vessel- Fought at Battle of the Nile (1798)

17. Amethyst

Fifth Rate 36 Gun vessel- Fought at Action of 10 November 1808 (1808)

18. Immortalite

Fifth Rate 42 Gun former French vessel- Fought at the Battle of Tory Island (1798)

19. A Victualler

This remarkable map offers us the origins of Bere Island’s position as a major naval centre, and captures a moment in time when some of the greatest naval ships in the World were anchored in Berehaven. The island would become a key focus of naval activity from this point onwards, a position it still enjoys to this day.

(A copy of the map can be seen at the Bere Island Heritage Centre)

2012 Fieldwork Dates Announced

We are delighted to announce that we have finalised the schedule for the 2012 fieldwork, which will take place between 27 July and 11 August. We have set up a dedicated page on this site to illustrate the programme, which you can find here. Rubicon will be setting up an operations tent at Ardagh Martello Tower at the commencement of the survey, where training will be available for those volunteers who are joining us. From there we will be working our way through the surveys of the different Napoleonic-era sites. If you are from the island and interested in volunteering for any of the days of the project please contact us at info@rubiconheritage.com. Hope to see you there!

Martello Tower No. 3, Bere Island

Martello Tower No. 3, Bere Island

Using GIS to Locate Bere Island’s Napoleonic Defences

As the date of our survey on the Napoleonic-era defences of Bere Island nears, we are busy in the Rubicon offices preparing mapping for each of the sites. One of our key tools in this is the use of GIS, which is short for Geographical Information Systems.

Martello Tower No.4 and Battery No. 4, Ardagh, Bere Island. This screenshot shows the 1st edition map of the positions with the GIS 'trace' overlaid, which will then be fed into the GPS for use in the field.

Martello Tower No.4 and Battery No. 4, Ardagh, Bere Island. This screenshot shows the 1st edition map of the positions with the GIS ‘trace’ of key features overlaid, which will then be fed into the GPS for use in the field.

GIS is a key part of our survey, as it will allow us to quickly and accurately identify where the early 19th century defences stood. Using this computer software, we overlay the 19th century mapping on 21st century maps for each of the sites. This allows us to geographically locate each of the original elements of the site with pinpoint accuracy. We then upload outlines drawn from the old maps into our GPS (Global Positioning System) survey equipment which in the field can virtually ‘show us’ where everything was, according to the 1830s mapping. When we travel to a position such as the Ardagh Gun Battery, our GPS Rover allows us to mark out where the original limits of the building were 170 years ago, and even where field boundaries and ordnance stones were placed.

Rerrin Village as it appeared at the time of the first Ordnance Survey. Military and domestic buildings have been 'traced' in GIS, which will allow us to discover on the ground how the village has changed in the last 170 years.

Rerrin Village as it appeared at the time of the first Ordnance Survey. Military and domestic buildings have been ‘traced’ in GIS, which will allow us to discover on the ground how the village has changed in the last 170 years.

Using GIS combined with GPS in this way allows us to understand how a site has changed since the 1830s ( is the field boundary still there? have the ordnance stones moved? does the military road still exist?), if a site has been destroyed we can see where on the ground it once stood and if there are any traces remaining (such as at Martello Tower No. 1, which was later replaced by the Lonehort Battery), examine how accurate the original mapping was (are there additional features not shown on the old mapping that are visible, such as the Ardagh Battery gun positions?) and locate areas of the site that may now be obscured (e.g. overgrown with bushes or gorse). This is a major component of our survey methodology, and something volunteers will become familiar with over the course of the two weeks in the field. Excitement is building as the survey dates approach!

Martello Tower No. 1 and Battery No. 1, Bere Island. These sites were destroyed by the later Lonehort Battery, but by using our GIS 'trace' of the original locations we can go to the site of their original locations and see if any traces of either structure survive.

Martello Tower No. 1 and Battery No. 1, Bere Island. These sites were destroyed by the later Lonehort Battery, but by using our GIS ‘trace’ of the original locations we can go to the site of their original locations and see if any traces of either structure survive.

Bere Island Survey Dates Confirmed!

We are delighted to announce that we have confirmed the dates for the archaeological survey work on Bere Island. Rubicon archaeologists will be on the island between July 27th and August 10th to carry out the fieldwork phase of the project. As outlined previously on the blog and during the public and school meetings on the island, we are very keen for there to be strong local involvement in the survey element, which will be organised in conjunction with Bere Island Projects Ltd. Over the coming days we will be scheduling the dates on which we intend to visit each of the separate locations, and we will be posting the information on the site. We hope to see you all in late July and August!

The Battery building at Ardagh, overlooking Berehaven. One of the sites that will be surveyed during the project.

The Battery building at Ardagh, overlooking Berehaven. One of the sites that will be surveyed during the project.

An Archaeological Visit to Scoil Mhichíl Naofa, Bere Island

The project team had a great day yesterday talking to the children of Bere Island’s Scoil Mhichíl Naofa. We would like to thank Principal Deirdre Ní Dhonndhacha for allowing us a few minutes to discuss the archaeology of the island and our plans for the survey of the Napoleonic-era defences. Colm began the chat by telling the classes about what we do as archaeologists, and showing the kids some of the archaeological objects that would have been used by past peoples on the island. Among the artefacts were some stone tools and axes used by Ireland’s first hunter-gatherers and farmers, and a replica bronze spear reconstructed following our discovery of the original on an excavation in Co. Kildare. Damian followed up by chatting specifically about this year’s project, and why we were carrying out the work on the early 19th century military buildings.

Scoil Mhichíl Naofa, Bere Island. (Photo: www.bereislandschool.scoilnet.ie/blog/bere-island/)

Scoil Mhichíl Naofa, Bere Island. (Photo: http://www.bereislandschool.scoilnet.ie/blog/bere-island/)

We were impressed with how well the kids understood the history of their island- we were kept on our toes with some excellent questions, like: What were the first (and second!) guns ever invented? How were cannons fired and how much powder was needed? What was the oldest thing we have ever found on an excavation? How long had we been archaeologists and when did we know we wanted to do it for a living? Damian even got an opportunity to recall some of his dinosaur facts from days gone by, answering questions about the names of underwater dinosaurs and if any dinosaurs had been made up (Brontosaurus was, for anyone out there interested!).

We really enjoyed our time talking about archaeology and the project with the next generation of Bere Islanders, and we are very keen for them to visit us during the survey so that we can chat to them about the buildings we are looking at and how we are carrying out the work. To find out about the history of the school you can check out its website here. Many thanks are also due to John Walsh and Helen Riddell of Bere Island Projects for arranging the visit and introducing us to Principal Ní Dhonndhacha.

Meetings, Megaliths and Maritime Mammals on Bere Island

The Information meeting held in the Bere Island Heritage Centre on Saturday June 2 last was a great success, and we would like to thank everyone in the Centre for making the event possible, as well as all those who were able to attend! The meeting began with Rubicon MD describing who we were and why we were interested in Bere Island, and was followed by Damian Shiels discussing the meat and bones of the project and what we hope to achieve. Handouts were provided outlining the aims of the endeavor and also highlighting the sites we intend to target. Rubicon Survey Manager Brian MacDomhnaill then explained the survey methods we will be using and how we hope to include the local community in this element of the work.

John Walsh of Bere Island Projects kicks off the information meeting at Bere Island Heritage Centre

John Walsh of Bere Island Projects kicks off the information meeting at Bere Island Heritage Centre

We had a very enjoyable discussion with many of the locals following the meeting, and we are now looking forward to getting stuck in! We will be finalising details in the coming days which will allow us to announce the dates of the physical survey on the island, so stay tuned for more on that. We took the opportunity over the bank holiday weekend to explore some more of the Napoleonic sites on the island and we have included some of the photos from the trip below, so be sure to check them out. One records the amazing close encounter one of our team had with a representative of the island’s maritime natives!

Rubicon Survey Manager Brian MacDomhnaill explains the survey equipment we will use during the information meeting

Rubicon Survey Manager Brian MacDomhnaill explains the survey equipment we will use during the information meeting

The Rubicon team take some time out at Ardaragh Wedge Tomb on Bere Island

The Rubicon team take some time out at Ardaragh Wedge Tomb on Bere Island

The Cloughland Battery at Bere Island during our June visit. Note the impressive roads constructed to service Cloughland Martello Tower and Battery.

The Cloughland Battery at Bere Island during our June visit. Note the impressive roads constructed to service Cloughland Martello Tower and Battery

Some of the Rubicon team braving the weather at Cloughland Martello Tower

Some of the Rubicon team braving the weather at Cloughland Martello Tower

A stunning view of Rerrin and the eastern end of the island looking over Bantry Bay, with Ardagh Martello Tower (left) and Cloughland Martello Tower (right) visible on the hills in the middle distance

A stunning view of Rerrin and the eastern end of the island looking over Bantry Bay, with Ardagh Martello Tower (left) and Cloughland Martello Tower (right) visible on the hills in the middle distance

Close Encounter: Louise from Rubicon (right) has a close encounter with one of Bere Island's seals (left) while snorkeling off Scart Beach

Close Encounter: Louise from Rubicon (right) has a close encounter with one of Bere Island’s seals (left) while snorkeling off Scart Beach

Bere Island Archaeology Project Information Meeting

We are delighted to announce that the meeting to formally launch the Bere Island Archaeology Project will take place this coming June Bank Holiday weekend. We are extremely grateful to Bere Island Heritage Centre for providing their premises as a venue for the event. The meeting will take place at 3pm on Saturday, 2 June and will continue for approximately 30 minutes. It is designed to inform the local community and any other interested individuals of our plans for this year and hopes for the future. We intend to keep the meeting very informal and hope to have a good dialogue with everyone who can make it. There will be three main topics discussed:

1) Colm Moloney, MD of Rubicon Heritage will give an overview of who we are, why we are interested in the archaeology of Bere Island, and what we hope to achieve for both the island’s archaeology and the local community.

2) Damian Shiels, Director of Rubicon and Conflict Archaeologist will follow with an overview of the aims for this year, consisting of a survey and analysis of Bere Island’s Napoleonic-era military defences. This project has received the support of Bere Island Projects Ltd and grant funding from the Heritage Council. We hope to look at sites and locations which include the martello towers and batteries, the signal tower, redoubt and commissary store among others. He will also outline our plans for outreach and how the information resulting from the project may be utilised.

3) Brian MacDomhnaill, Technical Services Manager at Rubicon will discuss the survey methods we will be using on these sites, and will describe our intentions to include local community participation during the fieldwork stage.

I hope that anyone in the locality who is interested in the project will have an opportunity to pop along and meet us. As stated above it will be a very informal affair, so we hope to see you at 3pm on 2 June for a chat about Bere’s fabulous archaeology and some light refreshments!

Martello Tower No. 3, Bere Island

Martello Tower No. 3, Bere Island

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