Week 1 – 17th Century salt works excavation, Ballycastle

Documentary and cartographic sources led to the discovery of an early ‘bucket pot’ (rock-cut seawater reservoir for salt-making) at Ballyreagh. Equally, the efforts of the late Danny McGill, whose passion for local history and knowledge of his home town first put us on the trail of three centuries of salt production in Ballycastle Bay. The culmination of that interest is the current excavation project – an attempt to locate the salt works building associated with the 17th century phase of the industry.

The site prepared for excavation - cleared of vegetation and with the large boulders removed.

The site prepared for excavation – cleared of vegetation and with the large boulders removed.

So after our first week we are delighted to announce that the walls of the salt works are currently emerging form the sticky wet soil of Ballyreagh. So far we have the wall toward the steep scarp to the rear of the site,the eastern wall turning toward the sea and the turn of the wall at the west end. These have revealed a modestly proportioned structure filled with rubble which includes coal, burnt earth and some bone. The interior has not yet been excavated as we concentrate on revealing the limits of the site and planning the rest of the dig. We have also opened a box trench to test the upslope exterior of the building, and this is also revealing substantial deposits of coal; however working in this direction is hampered by topography and the nature of the slippage from the old coal workings above.

The southern corner of the building with rubble to the interior.

The southern corner of the building with rubble to the interior.

DSC_0402

The eastern corner of the salt works building

In terms of material culture there is the mystery of the quern stone re-used in the wall (what was its function originally? – there was no need to introduce building stone to this site); we have also collected red-glazed blackware from the surface of the rubble as well as some glass fragments. These can be assigned a general post-medieval date.  The early 17th century awaits…

SAMSUNG

The handstone (upper stone) of a quern, which was discovered reused in the salt house walls

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s