Located on a low hill which was the centre of the monastery of St Seachnaill (Secundus) that flourished from its foundation in the fifth century into the twelfth. It was the church of the kings of south Brega, who occupied the crannog of Lagore (ME038-027----) from the seventh to the tenth century, and thereafter, using the name Mac Giollasheachnaill, they may have occupied the rath (ME044-033001-) c. 600m to the S of the church. After the Anglo-Norman settlement Dunshaughlin became a seigniorial manor of Hugh de Lacy (Graham 1974, 42), and the rath might have continued in use as a motte as no other cuput or centre can be identified. Although the church became a parish church, the surviving arcade of probable thirteenth century date indicates a church with aisles and therefore big enough to accommodate a large congregation, which suggests that Dunshaughlin had a sizeable community and was no mere rural parish. No charter is known but it was regarded as being a concentrated settlement or town. In 1423 the portreeve or mayor and the commons of Dunshaughlin were ordered to the defence of Trim, which suggests it was an organised urban area (Lewis 1837, 1, 589; Cogan, 1, 273-4), but its history cannot be elucidated (Bradley and King 1985, 60). According to the Civil Survey (1656) in 1641 the townland of Dunshaughlin was owned by Sir William Parsons, but of the settlement it merely says there were ‘many thatch houses and tenements’ (Simington 1940, 90). Dunshaughlin had 146 inhabitants c. 1659 (Pender 1939, 486), but it was never officially incorporated as there is no record of it sending representatives to the Irish Parliament, which was a privilege of incorporated towns.
It is thought that the settlement would have been in the area between the church and the rath/motte (Bradley and King 1985 64, Fig. 18), although archaeological excavations to date have failed to produce positive evidence of it along Main Street connecting the two monuments. However, evidence of settlement becomes more evident with proximity to the church site. Drains were found (01E0219 ext.; excavations.ie 2001:1965) at the S end of Main St., and evidence of burgage plots in parallel trenches has been found S (17E0502; excavations.ie 2017:615) and E (18E0057; excavations.ie 2019: 584) of the church where they are largely preserved under new developments. The east plots (Wth 15-50m) are defined by slight ditches and run parallel with the mapped field system, extending from the ecclesiastical enclosure around the church onto the low-lying ground (L c. 250m plus). A prehistoric fulacht fia (ME044-047----) was found at the same development and this was completely excavated. The fosse of the ecclesiastical enclosure (ME044-033009-) with an outer ditch has also been noted (99E0114: Excavations.ie 1999:683) NE of the graveyard. Further evidence of an outer ditch on the line of the road was recorded at ESE, SW and NW in monitoring (03E0089) a sewage trench (O’Carroll 2003). Evidence of possible burgage plots has also come from SE of the church (18E0488: Excavations.ie 2018: 472) where K. Rice identified a wide curving ditch (Wth of top 4m) that may be part of an outer ecclesiastical enclosure, although its centre appears to lie to the S. This portion of ditch will be largely preserved under the development. Any outer enclosure need not be concentric with the innermost one, and a ditch (Wth of top 2.8m; D 1.45m) was also noted (04E0670: excvations.ie 2004:1235) by P. D. Sweetman SW of the graveyard that is probably outside the established enclosure, although no dating evidence was recovered from it.
Compiled by: Michael Moore
Date of upload: 22 November 2021
O’Carroll, F. 2003 Interim Report on Trial Trenching in Dunshaughlin. Licence: 03E0089. Unpublished report, CRDSDescription Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.