Bective excavations Blog

Day 11 – Medieval Masonry… at last
July 20, 2009, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Finally, under the stony layer and beneath a mortar spread, Mark came upon masonry. It looks like the corner of a structure that could be a house, maybe even a byre dwelling? Other than steady progress and a new piece of tile, the highlight of the day was a visit to the site by Senior Archaeologist (National Monuments Service) Conleth Manning. He inspected the cuttings and viewed our many finds. He was able to solve the mystery of the ‘CRO…’ that was detected on one of the tiles. It is part of a tile which in full would read ‘Crom Abu’. The Kildare Fitzgeralds took as their cry Crom abu, from the great Geraldine castle of  Croom in Limerick. This revelation has highlighted a link between Bective and the FitzGeralds  of Kildare.

Con Manning writes: Bective is one of the main sources for the tiles with the arms of the Earl of Kildare. There is a complete one in the Heraldic museum from Bective and others in the National Museum. There are two variations, both from Bective, one has the initials G and E added at each side apparently for Garret Mór and his wife. They date from around 1500. Garret Mór (the Great Earl of Kildare), who died in 1513 had lots of land in Meath including some major manors such as Portlester (near Balivor), Ardmulchan, Moylagh, etc. The Kildare Rental has 10 pages of lands that they controlled in Meath, so he probably did finance works at Bective. The tiles have CROM ABO and a bit in medieval French on them. Tom Fanning’s book has both related designs complete. One of the abbots, James of Castlemartin (which is in Co. Kildare), was pardoned in 1488 for taking part in the rebellion of Lambert Simnel. Kildare himself was also involved in this and so they may have been politically connected also.

Stop Press!: It has just emerged that a previous communiqué from tile expert Kieran Campbell should have alerted us to the ‘CRO’ tile’s significance. He wrote on 6 July:

There are only 8 tile designs known previously from Bective Abbey, 3 line-impressed (L71?, L73 and L79) and 5 relief (R29, R51, R52, R56 and R58). The new find [our first tile] does not match any of these five relief designs or, it seems, any of the other 78 relief designs recorded by Eames and Fanning (1988). It is not unusual, in fact it is almost the norm, for new designs to come to light on excavations producing medieval floor tiles. The five previous designs include two bearing the Geraldine arms and the initials G and E, with the Geraldine motto SI DIEV PLET CROM ABO in a circular band; the other three are from four-tile designs (two circular; one hexagonal). The armorial tiles are ‘thought to refer to the second marriage of Garret More Fitzgerald (G) to Elizabeth St John (E) and to have been commissioned before his death in 1513’ (ibid 46). All the tiles should be contemporary and I would expect your tile probably is also (Eames, E. and Fanning, T. 1988 Irish Medieval Tiles. Dublin).


Mark and Rachel display the corner of the newly revealed masonry.

Mark and Rachel display the corner of the newly revealed masonry.

Con Manning inspects the excavation

Con Manning inspects the excavation.


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