Legland : Court Tomb

Grid RefH 361 796
GPSH 36138 79628 (8m)
Longitude7° 26' 23.68" W
Latitude54° 39' 48.29" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownCastlederg (11 Km)
OS Sheet12
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 14th November 2004

Due to the deteriorating weather I nearly didn't stop at this site, but I am so glad I did. At first sight from the road it looked very ruined, but when I reached it I was impressed.

The gallery is 8m long, aligned E-W and divided unevenly into two chambers by large jambs . The north wall of the rear chamber and one of the slabs from the north wall of the front chamber have been removed. The whole of the south wall is in place. Leaning against the outside of the south wall are many slabs, which are presumably the roofslabs from the gallery. This wall is built into a modern field wall. There is also some cairn spread on the southern side of the tomb.

The entrance, at the east end, is rather peculiar. A large stone blocks the south half of it with a low sillstone in the gap between it and the opposing jamb. The back stone is massive! About 1.6m square. Two low stones are set just inside the backstone, parallel to the walls - a feature I've not seen in a court tomb before.

The court, at the east end, is also a little odd. It is also quite tricky to decipher at first glance, because it is full of large irregular boulders. There are three court stones on the south side of the entrance, one of which has a layer of quartz on its inner face. There are also three stones in the northern arm of the court. Between two of these there appears to be some dry-stone walling intact. Stretching between the ends of the court arms is a row of low sill-like stones forming a low wall across the front of the court. The enclosed space is full of boulders.

About 20m SE of the entrance is an exposed area of bedrock covered in large boulders. The whole of te monument is semi-hidden by gnarly old thorn trees making it a little awkward to move around. Given the relatively excellent condition of this tomb I am amazed that it's not mentioned a lot more often.

Two stones place either side of a gallery, opposite each other, but not touching so as to leave a gap, that are used to segment it into smaller chambers.

Court tombs have several distinctive characteristics that allow easy identification when in fair condition. One key feature that is a great help, no matter what the condition, is that court tombs are nearly always aligned north to south. They were all originally covered by a cairn, but in most instances this is now missing, or at best only remain to a height of one or two metres. The easiest feature to identify (when intact) is obviously the court. The rest of the tomb is occupied by a long, divided, passage-like gallery.

Galleries of court tombs can usually be identified by their characteristic boat-shaped plan, i.e. the gallery, when viewed from above, is flat at the entrance and tapers to a point or narrow width at the rear. The gallery may be segmented into up to five chambers by jambs, the walls normally being made of large slabs. The roofs were created by laying large slabs across the gallery, either directly on to the tops of the wall slabs or resting on corbel stones. Two large stones, with smooth forward-facing faces, usually create the entrance and it is possible to identify a court tomb when only these stones remain. The gallery would have been covered by a cairn of stones, sometimes with a kerb.

Single Gallery Variations:
Most often called a 'Single Court Tombs, usually this style has a half-court, a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of stones in front of the gallery (see Ballymacdermot (County Armagh)). This is usually, but not always, symmetrical about the centre line of the gallery, although occasionally the centre line of the court forms a slight angle with the centre line of the gallery. The other option is a full-court formed a complete circle of stones (see Creevykeel (County Sligo)). These full-courts mainly have one entrance allowing access, which is usually opposite the entrance to the gallery.

Double Gallery Variations:
Double-gallery court tombs come in three styles, the last of which is very unusual. The first is where the chambers are built facing away from each other. These are usually referred to as ŽDouble Court TombsŪ (see Cohaw (County Cavan)). The galleries sometimes share the same rear stone, but more often there is some distance between them Ů ranging from one to ten metres. This style has a half-court at each end of the monument, one facing north and the other facing south. In this style both galleries would have been covered by the same cairn.

Tuning round the two tombs and placing the two galleries so that the entrances face each other, across a full court, creates another style, known as a Centre-Court Tomb. Access to this court is gained through entrances placed (usually) in the east and west sides of the court. Here there would have been two cairns, one at each end, but they would have been joined down the sides of the court by a low cairn.

The third and very uncommon form is where the two galleries are located side-by-side facing into a full court with an entrance opposite (e.g. Malin More).

Subsidiary Chambers:
Quite often you will find other chambers built into the cairn. In single-gallery tombs and double court tombs these are invariably located to the rear of the gallery. Centre court tombs often have them placed near to the entrances.

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About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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