Magheraghanrush : Court Tomb

CountySligo
Grid RefG 752 368
GPSG 75212 36787 (3m)
Longitude8° 22' 50.14" W
Latitude54° 16' 45.14" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownSligo (6 Km)
OS Sheets16, 25
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 4th May 2003

If you're going to try and have a big day then what better than to start with a big site! And this is one big site!

I knew it was a fine court tomb , so I talked Julian into letting me drag him here (I told him we'd have a fine view of Knocknarea (County Sligo) from nearby) and, like me, he wasn't disappointed. I knew that the layout was unusual, but I was not prepared for its size.

The tomb has a massive (25m x 15m) oval court with a clear entrance on the one side. At one end is what must be the biggest court tomb gallery there is. It is 2m wide and over 6m long and divided into two chambers by two enormous jamb stones. The entrance lintel lies just inside the court in front of the tomb.

At the other end is something equally amazing - two huge galleries side by side. These don't actually share any stones, being separated by about 1m. They each are very nearly as big as the single one at the far end. Beyond these is a secondary chamber in total ruins.

Some of the kerb remains, but it is very, very scant.

The only problem with the site is the modern pine forest that engulfs the site. The distance from the car park is a plus, because it makes this site fairly remote and so it has not become like Creevykeel (County Sligo) where people stop by because the guide book told them to do so.

To get your view of Knocknarea carry on through the woods to the far side from the trail from the car park.

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.

Sunday, 7th September 2003

My wife has read about and seen plans of court tombs for a while now, but has never seen a really good one. I really can't think of a more impressive one than this - others equal it, but none beat it.

There were a lot of fires around the site and a lot of damage has been done to the stones of one of the galleries .

In wedge tombs and court tombs the burial compartment is known as a gallery and collectively wedge and court tombs are called classified as 'gallery graves'. This is because the inner area is long and narrow, i.e. bascially rectangular, in plan.

In court tombs the gallery is usually divided into two or more chambers by jambs. Wedge tombs are segmented by sill stones, as are a few court tombs.

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.

Tuesday, 30th December 2008

Earlier this year the trees on the hillside around this amazing monument were cleared and now the location can truly be appreciated. The mountains to the north now loom over the site, to the south Sleive Dargan and its neighbours look amazing, to the southwest you can see the Ox Mountains and, best of all, you can now see Knocknarea to the west.

It is now possible to see that the site is on the largest high spot on the hill and that it is perched on the edge of a sharp drop off. I can't see that there was much cairn on the north side of the monument, because there isn't much room there.

The alternative name for this site is Deerpark and the hill is now being transformed into a walking attraction with new paths being laid down. These are faily easy to walk, but they are a bit sterile.

I'd love to see the two fallen lintels replaced on the entrance jambs and the broken lintel fixed. The latter for safety reasons if not asthetic reasons: one day a child will stand on it and it will collapse.

One of the pleasures of visiting this site now is walking around to the south and looking across to the monument. Unfortunately, at the moment you are looking across a holocaustic landscape that looks as if it's been hit by a meteor! I hope they clear this up and and I certainly hope that they do not replant the hillside. Just in case they do, get up to this site on a clear day and enjoy the views.

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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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