hill of skryne
The tower of the 15th century Abbey of St.Nicholas commanding the Hill of Skryne.
Photo: © Navan & District Historical Society


Henry II
Henry II King of England, (left) came to Ireland in October 1171 in order to arrange affairs in the new kingdom of Ireland which the Normans were bent on conquering.
Before he left in April 1172, he made extensive grants of land to three powerful men. he granted Ulster to John de Courcey, Leinster to Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, better known as Strongbow,
and Meath to Hugh de Lacy .

Dublin and the few coastal towns that existed, the king kept in his own hands.


Hugh de Lacy proceeded in feudal fashion to build castles to fortify his territory.
The Barony of Skryne was granted to the knight, Adam de Feipo, who in turn subdivided it and presented twenty of his followers with grants of land.

The 12th century poem, "The Song of Dermot and the Earl" tells us

"And Skryne he then gave by charter,
to Adam de Phepoe he gave it".

Today, nearly eight centuries later, one of these twenty estates is still held by a direct descendant of the original grantee - that of Dunsany.
skryne castle
At Skryne, a castle was built some time between 1172 and 1175. The de Feipos held the Barony until the close if the 1300s when an heiress carried the title to the Marwards, who were Barons of Skryne until the 1600s, when the title died out.

After this the castle seems to have fallen into disrepair. It was restored early in the 1800s when the present house was built around the old keep. the thickness of the walls proclaiming the age of the ancient tower.
skryne motte
The Motte at Skryne Photo: © Navan & District Historical Society

skryne  map


When the Normans first took possession of their new lands they erected temporary "castles" on the top of earthworks. Such an earthwork or "mote" as it is called, can be seen at Skryne south of the castle, and is pictured above. It is now planted with trees, but in the 1100s it was probably the site of Adam de Feipo's earliest castle. Surmounted with wooden towers and dwelling houses and fortified with a strong pallisade it would have dominated a wide stretch of countryside and been used as a defensive habitation whilst the Baron of Skryne was consolidating his position and organising labour to build the stronger stone castle.

This map (from Elizabeth Hickey's "Early Norman Skryne" ) shows the townland of Skryne as laid out by Adam de Feipo and his son Richard. The total area of the townland is 1266 statute acres.
The royal road to Tara ran north of the church, passing the mill and mill pond. The church of St. Colmcille standing on the summit of the hill was enlarged by Richard de Feipo. The borough town was laid out between the church and the castle, the street continuing past the motte, the site of Adam's first castle, and the church of St. Nicholas, and on to the Dublin road built up by a stone causeway.
The commons provided pasture for the animals of the burgesses, the coney burrow belonged to the lord.
The monastery was built in the 15th century. (right)
st nicholas skryne
skryne castle
Elizabeth Hickey evokes this landscape from the vantage  point of the tower of the Castle, (pictured above left.)

"On a winter's evening, when the grass is short, and the sun is low, the foundations of the medieval town emerge from the pasture, showing up in brown rectangular and
linear patterns."
~~~
Some Recent Excavations

County: Meath   Site name: Skreen 1
Excavations.ie number: 2006:1637        License number: A008/018, E3071
Author: Tara O’Neill, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, 21 Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda.
Site type: Settlement activity
ITM: E 694198m, N 759772m

This site was located within Contract 2 (Dunshaughlin to Navan) of the proposed M3 Clonee to north of Kells motorway and was identified during advance testing by Linda Clarke in April 2004 (Excavations 2004, No. 1339, 04E0424). Full resolution of the site in October 2006 revealed the heavily truncated remains of a curvilinear slot-trench (3.4m by 0.42m by 0.14m), two post-holes and a pit. A fragment of struck flint was recovered from the curvilinear feature. The function of the site is unknown but is likely to relate to settlement activity.
http://www.excavations.ie/report/2006/Meath/0016390/
County: Meath   Site name: Skreen 2
Excavations.ie number: 2006:1638        License number: A008/019, E3072
Author: Tara O’Neill, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, 21 Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda.
Site type: Prehistoric structure and settlement activity
ITM: E 694035m, N 760236m

This site was located within Contract 2 (Dunshaughlin to Navan) of the proposed M3 Clonee to north of Kells motorway and was identified during advance testing by Linda Clarke in April 2004 (Excavations 2004, No. 1339, 04E0424). Full resolution between October and November 2006 revealed an oval-shaped prehistoric structure (6m by 4m) comprising five post-holes and a south-east entrance. A deposit of cremated bone (0.2m by 0.3m by 0.03m), a pit (0.15m by 0.13m by 0.1m) and an associated post-hole were also recorded. A flint scraper and a quantity of flint debitage were located within these post-holes, suggesting that the structure may have been used for flint knapping. A heavily truncated oblong pit with in situ burning was observed.
http://www.excavations.ie/report/2004/Meath/0012461/
County: Meath   Site name: TESTING AREA 7, SKREEN
xcavations.ie number: 2004:1339         License number: 04E0424
Author: Linda Clarke, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, Unit 21, Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda, Co. Louth.
Site type: Pit features, hearths and linear features
ITM: E 694218m, N 759493m
Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.576850, -6.577310

An assessment was carried out in advance of the planned M3 Clonee-North of Kells PPP scheme, Co. Meath, on the Dunshaughlin-Navan section (Contract 2) between February and June 2004. This section of the scheme is c. 15.5km long from the townland of Roestown, north-west of Dunshaughlin, to the townland of Ardsallagh, south-west of Navan town. The EIS recommended testing any known or possible sites identified and Meath County Council further proposed to test the whole of the remainder of the route. For the purposes of testing, this section was divided into 26 testing areas. The assessment methodology generally consisted of mechanically excavating 2m-wide test-trenches along the centre-line and perpendicular to the centre-line to the edge of the land-take every 20m. The work was carried out on behalf of Meath County Council, the National Roads Design Office and the National Roads Authority.

Testing Area 7 is located in the townland of Skreen between Chainages 27050 and 28150. Within this area, 11,418m2 out of a total of 89,106m2 was test-trenched, providing an assessment coverage of 13%.

A potential archaeological site had previously been identified as a result of the geophysical survey in Testing Area 7, Field 3 (Area 18). A large ditch, the function of which is unknown, and a shallow linear feature were contained within this area. The presence of these features was confirmed in the assessment phase of works. Three pit features were also identified and these features were designated Skreen 2. No finds were recovered from any of the features that were sectioned.

Six features of archaeological interest were identified in Testing Area 7, Field 1. This site was designated Skreen 1 and consisted of four pit features, a hearth and a small linear feature. These isolated features were at various locations throughout the field. No finds were recovered and the date of these features is uncertain.


http://www.excavations.ie/report/2004/Meath/0012462/
County: Meath   Site name: TESTING AREA 8, SKREEN
Excavations.ie number: 2004:1340        License number: 04E0425
Author: Linda Clarke, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, Unit 21, Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda, Co. Louth.
Site type: Pit features and linear feature
ITM: E 693878m, N 760447m
Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.585480, -6.582154

An assessment was carried out in advance of the planned M3 Clonee-North of Kells PPP scheme, Co. Meath, on the Dunshaughlin-Navan section (Contract 2) between February and June 2004. This section of the scheme is c. 15.5km long from the townland of Roestown, north-west of Dunshaughlin, to the townland of Ardsallagh, south-west of Navan town. The EIS recommended testing any known or possible sites identified and Meath County Council further proposed to test the whole of the remainder of the route. For the purposes of testing, this section was divided into 26 testing areas. The assessment methodology generally consisted of mechanically excavating 2m-wide test-trenches along the centre-line and perpendicular to the centre-line to the edge of the land-take every 20m. The work was carried out on behalf of Meath County Council, the National Roads Design Office and the National Roads Authority.

Testing Area 8 was located within the townland of Skreen between Chainages 28150 and 28600. Within this area, 4094m2 of test-trenches were excavated out of a total of 30,394m2, providing an assessment coverage of 13.5%. Two possible archaeological sites, identified as a result of the geophysical survey, were contained within Testing Area 8. Area 16, Field 2, was visible on the geophysical data as several linear features that appeared to represent the remains of a field system or former field boundaries and several possible pits. Other linear features appeared to be related to modern ploughing. All of the linear features identified within this area during assessment were associated with drainage or agricultural activity and were not archaeological in nature. Area 17, Field 1, appeared on the geophysical data as three small pit features that were interpreted as possible archaeological features. No traces of these features were identified during the assessment phase of works.

Sources:
Skryne and the Early Normans by Elizabeth Hickey
Meath Archaeological & Hisorical Society  1994

Photos © Navan & District Historical Society