In 2016 Curragh Racecourse Ltd submitted a planning application to develop facilities at the racecourse to improve visitor experience and develop a world-class racing stadium. The project involved the following key components:
- Demolition of the existing grandstands and ancillary buildings and construction of a new architecturally-designed grandstand.
- Upgrade of racecourse facilities to include a major refurbishment of the adjacent stable yard complex.
- Change of use, refurbishment and extension of an existing storage building for use as an energy centre.
- Groundworks and landscaping, fuel storage tanks, provision of a new on-site wastewater treatment plant and percolation area.
The development is partially within The Curragh which is a nationally-significant archaeological landscape comprising approximately 2,000 acres of semi-natural grassland. It is home to a dense and varied array of archaeological monuments that consist mainly of burial monuments, enclosures and other earthworks. During the medieval period, The Curragh emerged as an important grazing ground, with the earliest recorded right to graze its rich grasslands granted in 1576. Historical and contemporary land uses associated with the Curragh Plain has curtailed modern agricultural practices (e.g. land division and tillage farming). This has resulted in a relatively high preservation rate for surface and subsurface archaeology compared with other locations where intensive land practices have included the levelling of archaeological sites and monuments.
Archaeological investigations in advance of the construction of the wastewater treatment plant revealed a range of archaeological features of varying date and significance.
These include a pit, two short linear Iron Age ditches which are possibly related to metalworking and an Iron Age ring-ditch, as well as a number of post-medieval plough furrows and part of the Loughbrown/Curragh townland boundary ditch. While no human remains were discovered, two corroded iron objects were found within the fill of the ring-ditch (which was partially excavated). These objects were x-rayed and cleaned by a conservator and may comprise part of a mount and a terminal piece.
All post-excavation and final reporting have successfully been completed for this project. Further information on the archaeological discovered can be found here (https://excavations.ie/report/2017/Kildare/0026167/).