Well, well, well – recently discovered medieval find in Swords already covered up!

by Rose Barrett
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Two weeks ago saw great excitement in Swords as excavations uncovered a well believed to be from the medieval era. Cllr Ann Graves (SF) was among the many who welcomed the find and noted the excellent condition of the well, which was discovered on the site behind the Courthouse. But this weekend, her joy has turned to fury and utter disbelief that an historical find was simply covered over so as to continue works on the new Cultural Quarter in Swords.

“I’m utterly flabbergasted and furious – as are many of the local groups in the area, especially those that give a lot of time to our heritage, historical locations of note, the Tidy Towns, etc.

“I wrote to Fingal County Council when I learnt the well discovered a few weeks ago was just filled in and covered over! This well was discovered during works in preparation for the development of the SCQ -it’s part of our Swords historical past and our culture, and should have been protected, not covered up to facilitate a modern build on a historic site. So much for learning from mistakes in the past.

“Why the haste in hiding a medieval find – and not displaying the well in the new SCQ as a point of interest?”

The well further above is believed to date back to medieval times but last week, the site was completely filled in and surfaced over, as above.

“There is no reason why this couldn’t have been included as a feature of the SCQ but there was absolutely no consultation with local Swords councillors, nor with history groups or the general public. I had hoped that we had gone past the stage of ignoring historical finds, our heritage in Swords needs to be protected and this decision needs to be revisited before the development progresses further. I feel already the SCQ is tainted by covering up an historical structure!

Last week, Fingal County Council advised the Gazette that archaeological investigations were ongoing in advance of the SCQ construction works. FCC confirmed that the well is, in fact, medieval in date, and therefore dates from the fifth to eighth centuries.

A spokesperson for the council stated; “We’ve asked the Consultant team to overlay the foundations of the cultural quarter buildings to see whether there is a possibility to preserve the well as it is. The archaeologists will provide us with a full report.

“If it will be impacted by the proposed foundations, we can follow a similar methodology to that used previously (i.e. when a similar well was uncovered) on the site whereby the stonework was numbered, removed and retained off-site,” said a spokesperson for the council. But Cllr Graves stated, as we can see, the well is already covered in, without any engagement with local elected reps or organisations.

“I’m told the well continues to fill up and has steps down to the source,” she said. “It would be great if this was retained and perhaps could be a feature display within the finished cultural quarter – maybe a glass roof over it for protection.” She said the hasty covering up of the well was disappointing, to say the least.

“We have another well, a holy well, named after St Colmcille which is located on Well Road, behind the Lord Mayor’s pub. The folklore is that St Colmcille took a giant step from the Round Tower and landed on the spot where the well was built.

Cllr Graves (above) added: “I really hope the issue of this recently uncovered well will be protected and retained. It’s part of local history, and Swords is rich in heritage – hence the location of the new cultural quarter here. I’ve been told by FCC that it will “arrange a briefing for Swords Members with the County Architect around the council meeting on Monday next. But this should have been done two weeks ago!”

The remains of six people were found during excavations in 1999 in Swords, and confirmed as dating back to medieval times, with a further skeleton exposed in 2020 during riverbank erosion. At the time, Christine Baker, Heritage Officer with FCC stated “These remains and the site have the potential to provide valuable insights for archaeologists and historians when a full study is done.”

Swords which is the county town of Fingal also contains Swords Castle, a round tower and Norman Tower and of course, St Colmcille’s Well which possibly gave the town its name, sord meaning ‘pure’ (water).  Founded in AD 560, the town is believed to have hosted the body of Brian Boru overnight after he was killed in Clontarf whilst praying in his tent, having defeated the Vikings in battle. First approved in 2015, the completed Cultural Quarter in Swords is likely to be delivered in 2026.

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