Main Street discovery could be toll gate from 1700s

Theory that prisoners may have been brought from courthouse to jail underground

An archaeologist working with Roscommon County Council has said the exact date or purpose of a stone wall-like structure, discovered in Roscommon town during Urban Realm Improvement works earlier this week, remains ‘unknown’ but that it could be the remains of a medieval town wall or gate.

Consultant Archaeologist Ed Danaher said the works on Main Street were being carried out under the supervision of Archaeological Management Solutions (AMS).

“Masonry walls known to exist near the junction of Main Street and Chapel Lane have been uncovered, recorded, and preserved in-situ under archaeological supervision.

“The National Monuments Service has been informed about these discoveries. The exact date or purpose of these walls is, as yet, unknown, but they are possibly related to the medieval or early-modern town, conceivably being the remains of a town wall or gate,” he said.

A strategy is being prepared for the long-term preservation of archaeology discovered during ongoing works.

While investigations continue into the discovery of the structure, local historian John Kerrigan believes the find is part of the remains of an old toll gate, featured on a 1736 drawing by Francis Plunkett which was based on a map from the early 1700s.

Speaking to the Roscommon People this week, Mr. Kerrigan said: “In my opinion, the walls discovered on Main Street were probably part of a gate lodge which was attached to the old toll gate.

“I know that Roscommon County Council engineers suspect it is an old water culvert but there’s no reason why the culvert couldn’t be under this gate,” he said.

“While Roscommon was never a ‘walled town’ as such, there was a toll gate situated at the bottom of where Church Street is now in the 1700s. Anyone bringing produce into the town had to go through that gate and pay a toll.

“Plunkett’s survey of 1736 was based on a map from 1700, which shows the toll gate jutting out from what is known as ‘Grealy’s corner’ towards where the AIB is now”.

The historian said that while the toll gate featured on the 1700 map, there was no mention of it in Isaac Weld’s statistical survey of the county in 1832.

While a strategy is being put in place to preserve any archaeological findings during the ongoing Public Realm works, Mr. Kerrigan suspects other ruins may be found closer to the Square, where the Bank of Ireland building stands today.

“Was there a tunnel of about 50 metres between the old courthouse to the old jail? That would be a logical assumption because both were built around the same time and it could have been used to move prisoners from one to the other,” he concluded.