Situated on a slight NE-SW spur with the ground falling away slightly to the NW and SE and to the SW where a diverted channel of the River Dee runs NNW-SSE just to the E of Moynagh Lough and re-connects with the original channel c. 1km to the SE of Nobber. This channel had been established by 1698 and is depicted on a Gormanston map (21 F 145) in NLI. The NW-SE cutting for the Kingscourt railway line was excavated through the tip of the spur, isolating it from the medieval church and the present village.
If there was not already an existing settlement around the early church (ME005-071001-) a borough was probably established by Gilbert d’Angulo who also built the motte (ME005-070----), which is N of the church on its own hill. The d’Angellos fell out of favour with Prince John, who had been restored as Lord of Ireland in 1196, and the manor of Nobber returned to the younger Hugh de Lacy c. 1200. The borough is first mentioned in 1227 when the burgesses were granted four carucatees (townlands) and an annual fair of 14 days in November. Mills are mentioned in 1211-12, while burgage plots and a charter were referred to in 1290. Besides the annual fair a weekly market had also been established by 1467. The town was ruled by a Provost and had its own court and stocks. On the death of Hugh de Lacy in 1243 the manor of Nobber passed by marriage to the Fitzgerald family who held it into the fourteenth century when it passed by marriage through the le Botiller and de Londres families until in 1386 it came to Christopher Preston, the second Lord Gormanston, and it remained with the Preston family into the nineteenth century. (Bradley and King 1985, 118-22; Mount 2008)
Nobber was at the edge of the Pale and came under increased pressure in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 1400 there are references to vacant plots, and the town was burned by Irish raiders in 1425 and 1434. Eighty hostages were taken in the latter incident and two years later Christopher Preston received permission to fortify the town with ditches. A second grant to fortify was issued in the sixteenth century, but it is unlikely that either was put into effect. A Mansion House, two bridges – Nobber Bridge and Lady’s Bridge on the River Dee c. 800m to the SE, a mill and three eel-wears are recorded in the Civil Survey (1654) (Simington 1940, 333). (Bradley and King 1985, 117-122; Seever 2011, 80-5)
The town was laid out around the wide NW-SE Main Street (Dargan 1998, 35-7), although it was wider in the seventeenth century on the SW side according to a Gormanston map in NLI (21 F 145) dated 1698. The street probably accommodated the medieval market and fair which were clearly important, while the rectangular ‘Fair Green’ depicted on the 1836 edition of the OS 6-inch map is N of the town and is considered to be post-medieval (ibid. 37). A ‘Market Cross’ is indicated on the OS maps at the lane leading from Main St. to the church. Apart from some archaeological testing (02E0599; 02E1243; 02E1657; 04E0989; 05E0271) for single houses, or services in the Main Street (Meehan 2004a, b, c) and in relation to new houses close to the motte (Noonan 2006) there was little excavation or evidence of medieval deposits or features before Seaver (2010, 2011) recovered extensive evidence of occupation dating from the later twelfth century (ME005-071022-).
Compiled by: Michael Moore
Date of upload: 5 September 2018
Amended: 17 February 2021Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.