On Saturday 25th 2011, the Blackfriary archaeology site was opened to the public for a dedicated day of site tours. The site is very large, particularly for an urban context (2 hectares – 4 acres), and it is surprising how little is known of the archaeology.
The site of the Black Friary has long been in the memory of the local community, and though not everyone is familiar with the specifics of the site, it is recognised by most as the site of something old and important. Many people have played on the site as children, might use it as a short-cut from one road to another, walk their dogs there and children still use the site for recreation. The site has also been used for dumping, bonfires and anti-social behaviour.
Although some local people have been visiting the site since excavations began in Season 1, for the most part local people are unaware of the progress of the archaeology excavation project and that there is now something more to see now, than some masonry peeping above the meadow grass.
In preparation for the open day, a flyer was distributed to local house-holds, posters were posted, emails and invitations were sent and the word was passed through Facebook, twitter and the like.
The town council and tidy towns committee organised a cleanup of the site, collecting bags of litter. The works department organised for some grass cutting and under archaeological direction, mowed a path across the buried ruins, giving visitors an opportunity to walk through the site and gain an appreciation of the scale of the abbey remains.
We put together posters to illustrate the site in the context of the town, to demonstrate what the finds represent and to allow people to examine finds otherwise too fragile for display, and put on display the architectural fragments that best represent the site.
Rope barriers were erected to guide visitors around the open cuttings and the archaeological crew donned tee-shirts to identify them as guides for the day.
The bouncy castle and bouncy slide arrived, the giant catapult and castle was erected, ready for a wet-sponge slinging siege, the face painter settled in, brushes at the ready. And then it rained!
We had torrential rain for two hours and we thought the day has well and truly washed out but to our surprise and delight, people still came! Families arrived kitted out, head-to-toe for the rain and despite the puddles and mud the day was a great success. The sun even made an appearance for a while.
We were delighted with the turn out for the day, the level of interest in the site, and the stories we heard from local people who remembered valuable accounts of finds on the site and elsewhere, that further our knowledge of the abbey site.
So while the excavations will be backfilled for safe keeping over the winter, we are delighted that Season 3 will draw in more visitors from the community and farther afield, and make further progress towards ensuring that this amazing site will take its rightful place among the monuments that define Trim’s position as a town archaeological significance and site preservation.
Thanks to Trim Town Council, the Trim Tidy Towns Committee, Noel French of the Meath Historical Society, to our student volunteer site guides, and to all the visitors to the site for the site for braving the weather, asking interesting questions, offering new information and for the enthusiasm for the project!
Archaeological Director Finola O’Carroll demonstrates the proximity of the site to the town wall (behind the cabin on the left)