The first day of the Ballycastle excavations aspect of the project kicked off today with an assessment of site access. Clearance work was needed to make the 2km trek to the Ballyreagh site each day safe. Strimmers, bill hooks, shears, machetes and anything else we could get our hands on were employed to cut back ferns, while geotextile and planking was laid to get over the muddy parts.
Excavation at Ballyreagh will take place at the rear of the bucket pot (the rock-cut seawater reservoir) in order to locate and reveal the salt house where the evaporation pans would have been located. The site is marked on the Down Survey maps of the mid-17th century, and again in Foley’s map of 1694. Salt works in Ballycastle Bay are first mentioned on a will dated 1629 and these likely include Ballyreagh. The site was likely in use through the entire 17th century and disappears from maps and documentation in the 18th century. Our aim is to locate and explore the technology, conditions and material culture of this early modern industry.