The claim that houses to be demolished on Vicar Street, Kilkenny are of immense archaeological merit have received a serious blow with the latest information from Kilkenny County Council. The current red brick buildings dating from 1881-190 are to be knocked for the controversial bridge, part of the equally opinion dividing, Central Access Scheme (CAS).
Extremely reputable experts claimed that the houses stood on a house of important archaeological and historical value which was part of the St Canice’s Cathedral Close. That now seems to have been based on rather weak foundations
Historic Building Consultant Rob Goodbody has said that there is no evidence to back up the claim of the cathedral “Manse House” dating from medieval times and that claim made back four centuries ago became gospel without any evidence to back it up.
Rob Goodbody conducted a Building Investigation of Nos. 20-22 Vicar St. His research has shown that the manse house of the prebendary of Tascoffin, which has been the subject of much recent media attention, has not existed for more than 300 years.
The County Council has stated that: “The evidence for the existence of this manse house is found in only one original document, which is a survey carried out in 1679. The survey refers to “a piece of waste ground in Irishtown where formerly the manse stood” and so the one reference to the house states that it was already gone by that time.
“The historian, Edward Ledwich, writing almost a century later, cited that survey, but did not make it clear that the house was already gone by 1679. All writers since have based their texts on Ledwich’s paper, with many adding their own views as to where the house was. The conclusion became, without evidence to back it up, that the present number 22 Vicar Street incorporated the manse house.
In August 2013, under the supervision of the National Monuments Service, VJK Ltd and Rob Goodbody commenced the monitoring brief of the removal of render from Nos. 21-22 Vicar St. The removal of render was conducted to obtain further information as to whether any masonry from early buildings was intact in the construction of Nos 21-22 Vicar St. To date this work has confirmed the historical record, showing that the houses were rebuilt in 1881 and 1908 respectively, and that any earlier masonry surviving in the walls is clearly of 18th or 19th century date.
The investigations at Nos. 21-22 Vicar St. are ongoing, with particular reference to the southern gable end of number 22 Vicar Street, as this predates the house itself. While archaeological investigations are required to seek clarity on the origins and dating of this wall, it is clear that this wall cannot be part of the manse house of the prebendary of Tascoffin, as no remnants of that manse house remained by 1679. Also, the building to which the southern gable wall of No 22 Vicar St. originally belonged, was on land which was not part of the property defined as the prebendary of Tascoffin.
VJK Ltd and Rob Goodbody have provided information on this phase of work to Kilkenny County Council and to National Monuments Service , who will advise on the nature and extent of any further archaeological and architectural requirements for this site, as is the statutory requirement. It is expected that further investigations on site will begin in the coming weeks,” the statement ends.