Urban Dolmen

We are used to searching out archaeology in the Irish countryside. More unusual, perhaps, is finding examples in an urban setting. Here’s one – at Cromlech Fields, Hackettsland, Dublin.

This particular example of a prehistoric structure has survived the encroachment of the city suburbs and is, in fact, in good condition and apparently accepted as part of the landscaping in a dense housing community. It is well-placed in a slightly sunken setting within a substantial green area. It is known variously as the Shanganagh Portal Tomb, Hackettsland Cromlech, or Ballybrack Dolmen. And it’s ancient: portal tombs can date back four or five thousand years – some even more. This arrangement of stones has seen civilisations evolve significantly, but it sits there unchanged.

The historic 25″ OS map of Ireland – surveyed from the late 1890s and into the early 20th century. It is clear from this edition that the ‘dolmen’ was still sited in open country at that time.

Illustration from: A Hand-book of Irish Antiquaries by William F Wakeman, 1903.

. . . We cannot conclude our notice of this class of monuments without making some mention of the very interesting example remaining at Shanganagh, near the village of Loughlinstown, and not far from the ancient church of Killiney. Though inferior in size to several which we have already described, its dimensions are considerable; and as it remains, to all appearance, in its original state, the student will find it an object well worthy of his attention. The covering stone measures in length nine, in breadth seven, and in thickness three and a half feet, and is supported upon four stones. The highest part of the pile is nine feet above the level of the adjoining field . . .

William F Wakeman

You may want to be aware of the full range of portal tombs in terms of relative scale. Have a look at my post here from a few years ago: it features the largest of the Dolmens in Ireland (and, perhaps, in the world). That one provides challenges in terms of how it was constructed: the capstone, which has been raised on to supporting rocks, is estimated to weigh over 160 tons. Also, this post from Finola offers detailed information on these structures generally. Here is a nineteenth century view of how such monuments were erected:

4 thoughts

  1. Hello Robert and Finola,

    I’m a fan of your beautiful website and hope you might like my latest book as a gift. I’ve left it in the Schull Library with a note for you on it. Before the pandemic, I visited the area searching for my maternal ancestry. The book includes an illustrated memoir of my search in the area around Roaring Water Bay.

    After meeting with Margaret Murphy at the Skibbereen Heritage Center, I’m quite sure we’ve found my direct maternal line here going back under the names O’ Neill, O’ Donovan, O’ Driscoll, and O’ Mahoney. The beauty of the place is a strange backdrop for the sorrowful history of the mid-1800s when my fourth great grandmother left.

    I hope you enjoy the book. All my best wishes to you.

    Leslie Lee Author-illustrator

    LeeStudioTC.com http://leestudiotc.com/ Lee@LeeStudioTC.com Lee@LeeStudioTC.com



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