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There has been a recent surge in research regarding the evolution of Irish settlement. Due to the fact that much of this work focuses on larger towns and cities, the investigation of smaller, less influential settlements has consequently been greatly neglected. One of the themes which has been identified in larger towns in ecclesiastical influence on their development. It can be seen that in the case of large and influential ecclesiastical sites have been the basis for subsequent development. These are two of the very limited number of examples which have been investigated with respect to this pattern, and while evidence suggests that this phenomenon is widespread, few practical studies exist which examine the spatial extent. Another shortfall in current research is the absence of comparative study. Apart from this research by Swan, very little analytical work has been carried out to investigate the similarity and differences between Irish sites. This project hopes to rectify this shortfall by exploring the nature and pattern of early Irish church sites, and the manner by which these early foci have evolved into present day settlements. In Chapter 2 of this study a conceptual framework is presented which directs the work undertaken. This contextualisation of research begins by discussing various approaches which are pertinent to this investigation, thereby providing a foundation for the pattern of early Irish settlement development which follows. Then content then focuses on early church sites, discussing their functions and morphology, thereby leading to the generation of a Spatial Model of Early Christian Sites. This model can be used as an aid to identifying and examining settlements of ecclesiastical origin. Chapter 3 presents a range of sources which are of use in the work. Secondary sources having been dealt with in the conceptual framework, this chapter focuses on primary resources and techniques ranging from maps and archaeology to fieldwork, placename evidence and early primary documentation. Following this the chapter presents methodology which employs these sources to their maximum benefit, and culminates in a discussion of Plan Analysis, which will be used in the case study investigations. In Chapter 4, an examination of case study sites is undertaken, focused on Counties Limerick and Clare. This investigation follows a framework which could be utilised in examining the regional or national patterns of ecclesiastical influence on settlement. The approach attempts to redress the current under-representation of settlements with ecclesiastical origins in recent urban literature and to do this in a regional context. By investigating ecclesiastical settlements in this manner the project addresses issues of scale and comparative investigation, providing a valuable insight into this area of academic investigation. Chapter 5 brings together the material from the case studies and arising from this analysis the Spatial Model from chapter 2 is revisited, resulting in the development of a two pronged tool. The first comprises of a template and checklist which explore ecclesiastical continuity at settlements. The other is a visual representation of settlement continuity at the case study sites which were examined. The Final outcomes of the study show that, a standardised pattern (or set of patterns) of ecclesiastical influence may be observed. While some sites where continuity of settlement has been interrupted display clear evidence of ecclesiastical influence, and others where continuity of settlement has somewhat obscured church fabric, an overall pattern is identifiable, once the correct investigative tools are employed.
Griffin, Kevin, "Continuity of settlement in counties Limerick and Clare: the role of "ecclesiastical sites" in the formation of settlement" (2003). Doctoral. 11.