THE astonishing story of a Norman town lost for centuries is being brought back to life.
Cutting edge LIDAR technology, deployed by armed forces to detect underground bunkers, has uncovered the streets, towns and dwellings of an early Norman settlement known as Newtown just outside Thomastown.
Within 15 miles of Kilkenny, the medieval settlement has been the focus of a recent archaeological dig backed up by the latest technology to tell the story of what has been described as ’Kilkenny’s Pompeii.’
Newtown, which contains the site of St Nicholas Church, has long been known as a site of historical importance. Apart from local legend, the site next to Belmore House has been earmarked as one of historical importance dating back over 100 years when it first appeared on an ordnance survey map.
Recent discoveries with the help of technology, and also the unearthing of a tombstone for a 13th century monk called Thomas Poer, has shined a spotlight on medieval life at the settlement.
A conservation plan commissioned by The Heritage Council has described the site as one of exceptional significance - highlighting the fact that the site is a rare surviving example of an abandoned medieval town, complete with standing remains and with quality documentation.
Landowner Joe O’Connell, the proprietor of Jerpoint Park which is the home of Belmore House, believes that the site has huge tourism potential for Kilkenny. He will attend the next meeting of Kilkenny County Council outlining his aspirations for the future development of the site.
The story of Newtown dates back to the 1200’s when its size was comparable to half of the city of Kilkenny.
But within two centuries, the town simply vanished off the map apart from St Nicholas Church and graveyard, which remained as a parish church for the area.
The closure of nearby Jerpoint Abbey in the mid 14th Century by King Henry VIII sealed the fate of Newtown.
But now, thanks to the work of the Heritage Council and Cóilín ÓDrisceoil of Kilkenny Archaeology plus the support of Kilkenny Leader, Joe and his wife Maeve are determined that the story of Newtown be told and experienced for future generations.
See full report on pages 4 & 5.