About the dig
An archaeological excavation was carried out by the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF), QUB, at Grey Point Fort Coastal Battery, Co. Down in October and November 2014. The investigation was carried out under the co-direction of Ruairí Ó Baoill and Dr Heather Montgomery. The works were commissioned and funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), now the Historic Environment Division, Department for Communities. The primary research aims of the excavation were to uncover new information about Grey Point Fort and to enhance the visitor experience at the monument.
Excavations were carried out at five locations in and around the monument. These mostly focused on the outer areas at the fort including the northern Blockhouse (bastion), the western side of the perimeter wall and the frontal shore defences in the environs of the east searchlight emplacement. Much useful and exciting information about the sequence and techniques of construction and activity at the Fort was uncovered from the excavation. It also recovered evidence for three broad phases of activity at Grey Point Fort, all dating to the 20th century. These were:
1) The initial construction of the Fort between 1904-1907 with additional strengthening of the defences round the Fort prior to and during the First World War of 1914-18.
2) A second phase of defensive construction in the 1930s in the years immediately prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
3) A final period which commenced when the Fort began to be down-graded in military importance in August 1943, leading to its abandonment as a military fortification after 1956 and its eventual incorporation into Crawfordsburn Country Park in 1971 and its protection as a State Care monument.
All of the information gathered from the 2014 excavation has been entered into the Defence Heritage database as part of the ongoing Defence Heritage Project (DHP). To view the DHP website click here
The excavation was led by professional archaeologists, but this was a community-based programme that enabled more than 800 members of the local community to participate in the fieldwork. Eight Volunteers took part in the excavation during the first and third weeks of the project. During the second week of the excavation almost 200 school children from local schools visited the excavation, were given a tour of the Fort and excavated trenches, and were took part in the excavation. The schools included Towerview Primary School, Bangor Central School, Grange Primary School and Rockport Primary School.
Two public Open Days were held at Grey Point Fort on the 11th and 18th October 2014. Nearly 260 people visited the excavation on the first Open Day and more than this on the second. Both CAF archaeologists and NIEA personnel were on site for both of these Open Days. On the second public Open Day, Scouts from the Jamboree at Crawfordsburn Scout Camp and Defence Heritage Project volunteers were among the visitors to the site as well as Belfast Young Archaeologists Club members (who also got a chance to do a little supervised excavation).
On Saturday 25th October the Ulster Archaeology Society Survey Group carryied out a complete internal survey of the walls and buildings of the Fort, the first ever compiled, tied into base points established by NIEA surveyors.
The excavation was also featured on BBC Radio Ulster and Northern Visions TV (NVTV).