Audleystown : Court Tomb

CountyDown
Grid RefJ 562 504
GPSJ 56191 50350 (5m)
Longitude5° 35' 45.19" W
Latitude54° 22' 39.82" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownStrangford (2.8 Km)
OS Sheet21
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Saturday, 2nd March 2002

This is the first double court tomb I have been to and it is fantastic. It would appear that no one has visited the site for a while as there were still F&M notices up at the little car park.

The two tombs lie back to back with the chambers running out from the center of the rectangular cairn along its length to the shallow, but wide courts at either end.

The chamber each measure around 8m in length and are split by jambs into four or five smaller chambers. The better of the two courtyards is sadly the one that you can not get a good view of as for some reason the heritage people decided not to buy the extra 20ft of land that would have enabled a fairly good view of this wonder.

To really appreciate this tomb I think an aerial view would be necessary.

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:
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.

A cairn is a large pile of stones, quite often (but not always) containing a burial. Sometimes they have a kerb around the base.

Most cairns are hemi-spherical (like half a football), but the piles of stones used to cover wedge tombs, court tombs and portal tombs are also called cairns. When associated with these types of monument they are not always round, but sometimes rectangular or trapezoidal.

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Sunday, 12th February 2006

It's hard to believe that it's been nearby 3 years since I visited this site. I wasn't actually planning on visiting today, but when I passed the sign as I headed for Strangford to get the ferry across to Portaferry I decided to come back and take another look.

This is a wonderful monument, but it's so hard to appreciate. The fence is so annoyingly close to the cairn that you cannot see the whole thing. This is one of those sites that can only rtuly be appreciated from above and a viewing tower in one corner or ever a high bridge over it would be brilliant.

A cairn is a large pile of stones, quite often (but not always) containing a burial. Sometimes they have a kerb around the base.

Most cairns are hemi-spherical (like half a football), but the piles of stones used to cover wedge tombs, court tombs and portal tombs are also called cairns. When associated with these types of monument they are not always round, but sometimes rectangular or trapezoidal.

Click Thumbnail to View Full Size Image

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Directions

From Downpatrick take the A25 north east for about 8km and turn off to the left I think there are sign posts here. After a further 2.5km you will come to a smal car park on the left. Park here, walk throught the gate and across the fields to reach this great tomb.

Random Gazetteer

A Selection of Other Court Tombs

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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