A vanishing medieval church site on Ireland’s Atlantic coast 185
Fig. 9—Staad Abbey, Co. Sligo: elevation drawing of the inner east gable of the chapel in 2000, with changes in stonework visible in 2012.The chapel itself is more or less unchanged since Wakeman’s visit (Fig. 8), other than ongoing mortar erosion in the standing gable and the robbing out of the window stones (original drawing by Sylvia Stevenson).
brief to monitor changes in the cliff edge and to rescue artefacts washed out of the exposed section. To date they have recovered two quern-stones, a worked limestone block and a gunflint from the beach.This last item is consistent with other finds from Staad, which included Tudor and Elizabethan coins and a postmedieval pike-head (O’Sullivan 2010). RESPONDING TO THE PROBLEMS Staad has attracted the attention of several antiquarian and modern fieldworkers, as well as local people who monitor the site on an ongoing basis. The resulting record is piecemeal. A longitudinal study of coastal erosion was not the aim when modern work began on the site in 1993. Despite this, the present study demonstrates that the cumulative record can have a value beyond what was envisaged when the data were first harvested, if they are curated and shared. And Mr Moffat’s story of a field lost to the sea is a powerful reminder of the value that reliable local information can have in such studies. We hope that our ongoing work at Staad will help to highlight the urgent need for a large-scale and long-term public response to the impacts of climate and sea-level change on the archaeological and architectural heritage.
Ireland’s Atlantic coastline is over 2,000km long. It is deeply indented and often very rugged, comprising many promontories and bays, beaches, cliffs, creeks and estuaries. There are c. 173,000 sites and monuments in the combined national databases of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (HED 2016; NMS 2020). Many of them are in coastal settings, although clearly not all coastal sites and monuments are equally vulnerable to marine erosion. A seventeenth-century harbour fort on an elevated site, for instance, will fare much better in this regard than, say, a prehistoric shell midden in mobile sand-dunes.What can be said is that there are whole classes of sites and monuments at particular risk from the sea, including promontory forts, shell middens, fish-traps, maritime tower-houses,
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