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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Station could hold medieval secrets
Andersonstown Police Station
The police station is earmarked for closure
A Northern Ireland police station could be sitting on a medieval Celtic settlement, according to a leading historian.

Dr Eamon Phoneix said Andersonstown police station in west Belfast, which is earmarked for closure, should be given a full archaeological examination.

The station has been prominent during 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, as one of the most frequently bombed stations.

But a delve further into its past could reveal another chapter of history.

Dr Phoenix said: "In the Middle Ages there were six chapelries connected to the old church of Belfast at Shankill.

"One of them was known as the Church of Crook Macht in the medieval records, which was a monastic church at the junction of the modern Andersonstown and Glen roads.

"It was alongside an Iron Age fort, known as Calendar's Fort, down to the early 20th century.

"Both of these sites are under the barracks and its adjoining land. It seems interesting that a modern police barracks was built on a site significant with church and state connections in the past."

He said old maps and records from the 14th century onwards, had pinpointed the church and a medieval graveyard on the site.

A rescue dig might turn up some of our built heritage and artefacts of the distant past
Dr Eamon Phoenix
In May 1983, the station was badly damaged when a 1,000lb IRA car bomb exploded causing an estimated 1m.

More recently, in 2001, an 11-week-old girl was injured after the car she was travelling in was hit by shrapnel during an attack on the station by the dissident republican Real IRA.

This week, the police commander for the area confirmed the station was earmarked for closure.

Dr Phoenix said the site may be a valuable location for archaeologists in the future.

"There is no doubt that this is a valuable historical site for that part of Belfast and archaeologist may indeed want to investigate this site when it finally closes.

"It certainly has a long and varied history."

He said similar excavations weapons had been found.

A site in Dunmurry, near south Belfast, yielded a medieval holy water font, he said.

"Clearly a rescue dig might turn up some of our built heritage and artefacts of the distant past," he said.

Two months ago, a medieval castle, believed to be the first built in the province, was uncovered by archaeologists during an excavation at a former military base in County Tyrone.

Structures believed to be the remnants of an early 14th century castle built by Irish chieftain Domnall O'Neill were found in Dungannon town centre.

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