Keep up with Armagh i

Secrets unearthed as ‘mystery hole’ revealed on Shankill graveyard tour

The suspect hole - which was discovered by members of Friends of Shankill Graveyard group - was initially thought to be a badger sett or collapsed grave

A ‘mystery hole’ which was recently discovered in the Shankill graveyard in Lurgan has revealed its secrets to a lucky group of tourists.

The suspect hole – which was discovered by members of Friends of Shankill Graveyard group – was initially thought to be a badger sett or collapsed grave.

However, it has now been identified as something much more exciting by Conservation Surveyor, Chris McCollum.

Chris advised the group: “My best guess is that this is an 18th Century culvert which looks still to be in operations with clay pipes coming in from the side and a connection to perhaps another drain at its far end. You can see that it runs under the grave next to the hole.

“The bricks are hand made low fired clay with heavy aggregate in the mix and is typical of an early hand made brick.

“The brick we recovered was wedge shape, as to be expected. But a review of bricks lower down the culvert will give you a size for a standard brick. A review of some old maps and any church of Ireland Vestry Books might help date this.

“You can also see that the crown of the culvert is starting to fail in places and when this happens you get falls as you have here.

“The culvert should have a camera put down so that you can track the route and also identify any areas of failure or potential failure.

“Then it can be uncovered (hopefully) and the crown consolidated. The section that has fallen should be carefully dug by hand and the crown rebuilt.”

Whilst on site, Friends of Shankill Graveyard were also able to show Chris another buried headstone that they had recently unearthed.

The unearthed buried headstone (left) and opening to the culvert (right)

Approximately 40-50 people attended a tour of the graveyard on the evening of Wednesday May 9, where they were given a privileged first look at the findings.

Speaking to Armagh I, group founder, Isobel Hylands said: “We always get a good attendance for a tour. We get a lot of visitors from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand – coming over looking for their roots.

“We are totally self-funded and we believe the graveyard belongs to the people. People can support us by coming along to the tours, buying our books or making a donation.

“If they have a skill that we can use, we are happy to use it. Last night a stonemason came up to us and offered his services. That’s another expert we have on board!

“Everybody with different skills getting together to see what we can do, to do right without a lot of money and then the things that we need money for like investigating that hole properly we can do it. We always find a way.”

The discoveries have now been referred to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for a determination to be made of further action required to investigate or restore the sites.

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Most read today

More in Lurgan