Risky Business: Managing Risk when dealing with large scale, complex, multi-strand urban developments. Grangegorman, Dublin 7
By James Hession
The development of a new and vibrant campus for Technological University Dublin (formerly D.I.T.) at the site of a former mental hospital in the heart of the city represented a unique project for a variety of reasons.
At just under thirty hectares, the site was one of the largest undeveloped areas within central Dublin and as such was designated a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ). Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd were delighted to be appointed by the Grangegorman Development Agency (GDA) as their archaeological consultants, tasked with managing the cultural heritage assets at the site.
The redevelopment of the Grangegorman Campus from St Brendan’s Hospital involved a 4-year framework—from 2012 to 2016--and resulted in 25 separate archaeological investigations across numerous work stages.
The Grangegorman campus lies in the north of Dublin city in an area that was largely rural to the end of the late medieval period and largely suburban until the industrial development of the area in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It became the focus for the development of a succession of large institutions to cater for the sick and indigent, designed by the foremost architects of the day.
Archaeological Risk Management Strategy
An Archaeological Strategy Document was designed to identify, manage and evaluate all Heritage Assets; define the impacts threatening each asset and develop an appropriate mitigation strategy, taking into account all current legislation and facilitating completion of the project on time and within budget.
The project was divided into multiple work packages which were undertaken and delivered in a phased programme alongside and in partnership with the wider development. Proactive management of the archaeological landscape enabled the GDA to plan appropriate and time-efficient mitigation packages.
The Central Quadrangle
The Central Quad site is located within the campus lands to the west of Grangegorman Lower in the area formerly occupied by the complex of buildings comprising The Richmond District Lunatic Asylum (RDLA). The risks posed to development in this area consisted of encountering subsurface remains associated with the RDLA. As such a programme of test trenching was undertaken to assess the site, determine the extent of any surviving remnants of the RDLA complex and suggest mitigation as to how they could be successfully managed.
The East Quadrangle
The East Quad site is located to the east of Grangegorman Lower and immediately south of the Clocktower Building—a protected structure—that fronts Grangegorman Lower. The Clocktower Building is the surviving remnant of a much larger structure—the Richmond Penitentiary Building. The risks here consisted of encountering subsurface remains associated with demolished wings of the Richmond Penitentiary and ancillary structures. A programme of test trenching was recommended to assess the site, determine the extent of the surviving remains and implement mitigation in order to successfully manage the site in advance of development.
SIPR: Geophysical Survey of the Playing Pitches
One of the most significant aspects of the Public Realm development at the Campus was the installation of a series of new playing pitches and courts. This work involved significant ground reduction and the re-profiling of the old playing pitches. The potential for surviving sub-surface archaeological remains underneath the playing pitches was high, given that this part of the campus was located close to the medieval manor of Grangegorman; an area that was largely rural (not developed) until to the end of the late medieval period. In addition, the institutional use of these lands resulted in localised development within the campus. Large parts of the playing pitches were never developed or previously disturbed.
The Bus Park: The North Union Workhouse
The bus park site was located at the eastern boundary of the campus, adjacent to the Dublin Bus depot at Broadstone. The House of Industry (which subsequently became the Dublin North Union Workhouse) was the earliest of the institutional buildings constructed at the site. Initially established in a disused malthouse on North Brunswick Street (in 1773), a new purpose-built building laid out in a quadrangle, was opened in 1791. In 1798 this building was extended with the addition of a second quadrangle on its north side to house the Bedford Asylum for Children. With the passing of the Poor Law in 1838 the entirety of the building became the Dublin North Union Workhouse.
Adaptive Re-Use: The Top House
The campus development also incorporated the retention and refitting (adaptive re-use) of the various 19th century Protected Structures (The Top House, The Clocktower Building, The Church of Ireland, The Infirmaries, The Female House) located across the campus. A programme of archaeological monitoring of all subsurface works associated with the adaptive re-use was recommended in order to identify and protect any known or unknown features of archaeological and architectural significance and initiate mitigative steps if required.
The programme of archaeological monitoring of the groundworks associated with the Adaptive Re-use of the Top House, a Protected Structure, was undertaken between January and April 2014. The redevelopment works included demolition works, new extensions and material alterations to the extant building. The ‘Top House’ represents approximately one fifth of the original RDLA complex and consists of a three-storey building, the ground floor of which housed a dining hall and four-day rooms at the time of construction.
During the works a partially backfilled flooded underground cellar in the courtyard area situated to the northeast of the former Top House dining rooms was discovered. The removal of the water and backfill from this cellar revealed a heavily corroded wrought-iron triple-throw flywheel and crank pump situated above a circular drystone well. We recommended that the identified remains be fully investigated and recorded – including a full 3-D laser scan survey. Early engagement by the GDA enabled the preservation and conservation of this forgotten aspect of the Top House!
Possible Burial Ground—Cholera Cemetery of 1832
Documentary references to use of the ‘garden’ of the Richmond Penitentiary as a cemetery during the 1832 cholera epidemic were identified early in the project. At that stage the exact location was unknown, but a number of candidate locations for it could be identified within the campus site east of Grangegorman Lower. The potential presence of this site was a factor in the assessment and management of all developments proposed within the eastern section of the campus. No evidence for this burial ground was uncovered during the extensive excavations we undertook within the campus site.
However, sections of the former lands of the Richmond Penitentiary had been sold off previously—most notably to allow for the expansion of the Broadstone railyard in the 1870s—which no longer form part of the current Grangegorman Campus. Investigations during adjacent Luas Cross City works associated with the Grangegorman Luas Stop in 2015 finally uncovered the site of the Cholera Cemetery within the former penitentiary land that had been sold to the Midland Great Western Railway at Broadstone in the 1870s. You can read more about this in our blog on the findings: Richmond Penitentiary Cholera Cemetery Excavation.
Risk Management: The Foundation for Success
Over 25 archaeological investigations were undertaken at Grangegorman during our 4-year framework, comprising:
This extensive project of works demonstrated Rubicon’s ability to deal with the risks posed by large-scale, complex, multi-strand urban developments to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Our highly experienced team consistently delivered high quality outputs on time and within allotted budgets. In addition, all of the investigations were conducted to the highest professional standard and in full compliance with all legislation.
If you would like to find out more about archaeological risk management in construction projects, then check out Webinar 4 of our series dealing with archaeology and development.
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