Since 1995 there has been an annual excavation at Dungarvan Castle led by archaeologist Dave Pollock. The first area to be excavated was the Shell Keep. A section through this revealed the roof of the chamber beneath and also that the keep was constructed around a low hill. A number of well preserved garderobes and several window openings were uncovered. Of particular interest was the discovery of the original drawbridge entrance to the keep. For photographs of the excavations see our photographic exhibition entitled Castle Excavation.
The round tower was excavated on the first floor and the remains of at least four human skulls were found. These may date from the 17th century Civil Wars or from the period of the 1798 Rebellion. The foundations of a number of early walls were uncovered in the north east corner of the yard and the base of the original quayside curtain wall. There is a strong possibility that other foundations will be uncovered under the remaining concrete surface of the yard.
Each part of the dig reveals layer upon layer of history. It is clear that there are parts dating from nearly every century and the complex has been extensively reconstructed over the years. A number of answers have been found but many questions remain concerning the evolution of this historic building. The combination of archaeological excavation and historical documents should give us a much clearer picture of the buildings turbulent history over 800 years.
It is the intention of Duchas (Office of Public Works) that the castle will be open to the public in 2000. Its history and archaeology will be displayed in a visitor centre which will be an important resource for locals, students and visitors.
Editors Note 4-7-01: The castle is scheduled to open in early July 2001. Initially only guided tours will be offered. Over a period of time the Heriatge centre will become operational. It seems it is intended to continue restoration work on the castle for the next 4 - 5 years. Latest reports indicate that the castle will open on a seasonal basis (over the summer).