COMMENT: Navan’s future on collision course with the past
COMMENT - CLARE RYAN
A single development like the one proposed across from Abbey Road cannot be looked at in isolation. The National Monument service have clear guidelines and processes in place to deal with all proposed works in or near recorded monuments.
In the case of St. Mary’s Abbey and the medieval town walls and defences the Conservation Plan could provide a basis for the improved identity and public presentation of these monument including their long-term management. While much of the historic remains are below ground, modern development will have a role to play in supporting the identity of the historic core of the town.
It also needs to set out guiding principles for the protection and presentation of the remains. The standing portions of the medieval walls of the town in the Urban Council Yard on Abbey Road have been neglected, largely as a consequence of a lack of an objective in relation to presentation, and perhaps also a failure on the part of the civic authorities to understand the significance and value of the wall alignment as a defining influence on the overall development of the town and a symbol of its rich and varied history.
Dr Clare Ryan - UCD Archaeologist.
Early medieval occupation within the lands of St Mary’s Abbey was identified in 2012 during the development of Navan Town Park at Abbeylands just north of the Blackwater.
The monitoring of topsoil stripping identified evidence for occupation in two areas. The original Abbey of St Fechin was pre-Norman and may have been influential in the establishment of the Norman town in the 12th Century. By the year 1147 the new Augustinian abbey was being constructed. In the 18th century the site was transformed into a cavalry barracks. In 1916, Dr. Gaughran, the Bishop of Meath, purchased the old barracks for £600 and later opened a De La Salle Brothers School, all of which just gives a better overall history of the site.
Archaeology is an important means of learning about Navan’s past and of understanding the character and detailed form of the town today. Through examination of our past we can see the traditions, styles and influences that have been carried forward into our daily lives.
The protection of buried archaeological deposits is paramount to establishing the exact nature and form of medieval Navan. It is extremely important that a deliberate concerted effort be made to secure Navan’s heritage so much of which has been obliterated without record.