Friday, 27 March 2015

Medieval Moated Site

An illustration of a Moated site based on Irish archaeological evidence. Moated sites were essentially Medieval fortified farms on the frontier between what was to become known in Irish as Galltacht & Gaeltacht, the area of Ireland that was culturally Anglo-Norman English/French/Flemish (Gallltacht) and the area that was culturally Gaelic (Gaeltacht). Originally moated sites were an introduction of the Anglo-Norman colony in Ireland during the 13th-14th centuries, with two possible reasons for their origin that I know of- 1: A second wave of colonisation from Britain and Europe, 2: since Anglo Norman colony in South & South East Ireland at the time was being used to supply food for English Armies in their wars in Scotland and France, the need for surplus grain could have pushed the existing Anglo Normans in Ireland into new lands to meet this demand. Moated sites can mostly be found in a line stretching from Wexford in the east across Kilkenny and South Tipperary to Kinsale/Bandon in Cork in the west. By the early 14th it looks like they were adopted by the Native Irish, as far afield as Roscommon, showing that the border wasn't just a place of hostility but also an area of interplaying and exchanging ideas. Because of this, the image could be either, an Anglo Norman or a Gaelic Moated site.

Another Anglo Norman introduction, later adopted by the native Irish were cruck buildings (like the reddish pink building in the image), brought to Ireland in the early 13th and adapted by the Gaelic Irish by the late 13th, early 14th centuries. These were buildings which had as their main structural component 2 halves of one tree used as a sort of A Frame, there were often 3 or 4 of these the length of the building. These were the main structural component with the rest of the building, like the walls, used just for weatherproofing. Of the other two buildings, one is a Timber Framed post & Truss barn and the other is a stave built outhouse. Normally Moated sites have been found to have one or two buildings, the layout of the 2 main buildings is based on Ballinvinny, but occasionally there is evidence of 3 like in Rigsdale. The 2 timber box framed buildings also show some of the range of the colours that medieval buildings had, besides the more Victorian fashion of Black & White. The red being a mix of blood and lime and the other raw sienna and lime. All the houses also show roofing that could have been used at the time, with the red house having wooden shingles (mentioned as being part of Ballyconnor moated site for instance), the barn thatch and the stave built or cleft timber house has a sod roof.

The plan of the moated site is a general one, loosely based on Mylerspark as well as others. Some Moated Sites have been found to be split in two,  like Coolamurray and Attflin, with one half believed to have been for habitation and the other to perhaps guard cattle from cattle raids, probably at night. Some are said to have had gate houses with drawbridges, the one shown is mostly based on evidence from Coolamurray in Wexford, but both Cloonfree and Stalleen probably had the same. Notice the leat that runs from the river? It was used to feed the moat, a common feature in moated sites, which besides defence the moats also probably had domestic uses like cleaning clothes or providing water to the household. Another defence besides the moat was the wooden palisade and bank as shown and some may have had towers in the corners or a defended area like the area in the top corner of the moated site in the image. As you could guess they wouldn't hold off a sustained attack from an army but they would have been a good defence against minor raids, which would probably have been the more normal low key warfare of the borders.

Finally shown here outside of the moated site are three circular houses called Creats. These were houses that essentially were built of wattle all the way from floor to apex of the roof, creating an inverted basket shape (think Clochán/Beehive hut but of wattle instead of stone). These are thought to have been the possible housing of the invisible people of the middle ages, the very lowest class of Irish society, the Betagh (similar to Cottiers in England), essentially the serf class, which the medieval world was built on the back of. While the Anglo Norman colony saw the introduction of a new upper class and alot of the peasants or free landowners (though some areas retained some Native Irish of this class) of Welsh, English, Flemish and French extraction, the serfs would have been Native Irish. As they were in the Gaelic society too, these people just changed masters, but some of the dispossessed Irish from other classes, like peasants, become Betagh in the new Anglo Norman colony too after they lost their land to the newcomers.


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13. Socio-economic aspects of Irish Medieval Settlements
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16. Peasant houses in Midland England-
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18. The Medieval Peasant House- J.G. Hurst
19. The Medieval peasant Building in Scotland: the beginning and end of crucks- Piers Dixon
20. Newtown Hall- The Cruck Buildings of North West England

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