Shoppers’ Surprise: Ancient Viking Well Under Dublin Store!

Source: Reddit @Parisduonce

Shoppers get a ‘Lidl’ extra when they do their grocery shop! – Local Shop In Dublin Built Over An 11th-Century Viking-Era Well.

A Dramatic Discovery

When building work for a new LIDL grocery store was revealed, it came with an archaeological site dating back almost 1000 years.

Source: Facebook Andrew Finney

The question is, what do you do with the build site if it contains so much history?

Dublin’s Rich History

Dublin is an ancient city. The first settlements were probably set up at least 2000 years ago. By the 9th and 10th centuries, there were two settlements where the city is now, one Gaelic and one Viking. Both settlements left behind traces that can still be seen in the modern day.

Source: Wikipedia

Even so, developers were astonished when they uncovered Viking ruins. What began as a simple excavation for the foundations of a new store turned into an amazing archaeological discovery. An ancient well, still in pristine condition, had been revealed by the building work.

The Viking Well

Developers and archaeologists alike were astonished at the sight of the perfectly preserved well. The wooden lining was still fully intact, even after 1000 years. As they investigated further, they realized that this well would have been part of a Viking-era home.

Source: Nordic Culture

The house was probably built around 1070. What the developers had found was probably an underground storage space or cellar, which would have been covered with wooden planks. Because it was underground, the space was preserved even when new buildings were erected over the top.

A Tricky Decision

Of course, the developers didn’t want to completely halt the store’s construction. On the other hand, they also wanted to preserve the valuable site. It was a difficult situation. How could the store be built without hiding or destroying the Viking relics? They came up with a great solution. It would mean dramatic changes to the store’s design but would keep the well and its surroundings intact.

Source: Twitter Lidl_Ireland

The floor-plan was redesigned to include a huge window in the floor that would cover the well and the surrounding cellar. Every shopper who walked through the store would be able to look down and see this fascinating relic of Dublin’s past beneath their feet.


The move was widely celebrated by historians and archaeologists. During Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” era, this kind of preservation was often sacrificed to progress when areas were redeveloped. LIDL was praised for choosing to preserve the site instead of simply building over it.

Source: Reddit @Parisduonce

LIDL’s decision to keep the remarkable space available for further investigation and for the general public to see was a fantastic idea.

An Everyday Structure

What is important to note is that the structure was special because it had been an everyday space for the occupants.

Source: Twitter Lidl_Ireland

Archaeologists think that the house was probably constructed by Hiberno-Norse people. This group lived in Dublin in the Middle Ages. They were Irish people who were the descendants of Vikings from Scandinavia. The Vikings had settled in the area in the previous centuries.

History In Store

Today, shoppers who visit the Aungier Street store for their daily groceries can take a fascinating peek into the past. As they walk through the store buying eggs, milk and household goods, they can look down and see history laid out below their feet.

Source: Twitter Lidl_Ireland

The thick transparent panels are safe to walk on and let visitors to the store look down into the Viking era. The well is clearly visible, as are the remains of walls constructed from local limestone. It definitely adds a new dimension to grocery shopping.

Another Surprise

The Viking-era well wasn’t the only surprise in store for developers as the store’s foundations were excavated. They also discovered a more recent historic site: the remains of the Aungier Street Theater, which had stood on the site in the 18th century.

Source: Twitter Lidl_Ireland

What they discovered was the theater’s pit trap. This is a brick-lined pit with a hidden staircase which would have been located under the stage. Actors would have hidden in the pit, appearing or disappearing as if by magic through a trapdoor in the stage.

Echoes Of The Past

Even though the theater itself is long gone, the pit remained well-preserved under the streets of Dublin for over a hundred years. It was rediscovered only when the LIDL’s new foundations exposed it, along with the Viking well. The brickwork and the staircase were still intact.

Source: Twitter Lidl_Ireland

The staircase and pit trap were carefully preserved and placed under another thick window so that they could still be seen. The pit trap is located near where the store’s checkouts now stand and shoppers can peek down at the remains of the old theater, imagining the actors who once performed there.

The Finds Kept Coming

The theater’s pit trap and the Viking well weren’t the only discoveries awaiting researchers. As they investigated the site, they uncovered the foundations of a medieval church. This was the church of Saint Peter, which had stood on that site between 1050 and 1650 before eventually falling into ruin. It was once an important building and was of great interest.

Source: Youtube

Only the foundations remained but researchers were able to excavate one or two interesting items, such as a 13th-century jug that would have been used for wine. The jug was remarkably well-preserved, despite its fragility. This kind of item can provide researchers with valuable insights into everyday life.

A Model Development

Not every development on an ancient site has been as sensitive as the Aungier Street store. In the 2000s, during the Celtic Tiger years, Dublin saw a lot of urban redevelopment. Unfortunately, some sites were lost forever after a brief excavation.

Source: Wikipedia

Ruth Johnson is a Dublin city archaeologist. She was delighted by the way that LIDL handled the discovery of the site. Johnson pointed to LIDL’s solution, preserving and displaying the site, as bringing more to the city than previous commercial archaeology. Not all developers have been as interested in preserving ancient sites.

New Approaches

The community praised LIDL for choosing a solution that kept the site intact and allowed the public to continue enjoying it. When similar discoveries were made in the past, the sites were often lost. After a brief delay to allow some excavation, construction would go ahead regardless.

Source: Youtube

It was common in the 2000s for companies to allow limited excavation for a short period, before building over the site and often destroying it.

A Rich Heritage

Ireland is a country with a deep and fascinating past. There are over 10,000 ancient sites known to exist on the island of Ireland, ranging from standing stones and stone circles to megalithic tombs and burial mounds. Some of these sites are over 6000 years old. Any development needs to be conducted very carefully.

Source: Reddit

Dublin specifically is rich with history. From its earliest days as a Celtic settlement to the Viking incursions and through the centuries that followed, the city has grown and developed to become the vibrant capital it is now. Preserving the past while building for the future is a crucial balance to strike.

Windows Into History

The Dublin LIDL store isn’t the only modern business establishment that’s had to tussle with the question of preserving ancient relics during construction. It’s not uncommon for construction work in many cities to uncover important architectural sites. There are other examples of establishments that took a similar approach to LIDL. Take the McDonald’s outlet that opened in Rome in 2017.

Source: Reddit

Construction of the fast food outlet foundered for a while because there was a well-preserved Roman road running underneath the proposed site. It was a challenge but a compromise was found. The company co-operated with researchers and the city’s government to find a solution. Once excavations were completed, the building went ahead — with one unusual modification.

Burger With A Side Of… Bones?

The restaurant was constructed with a floor made from thick, tough Plexiglass. Today, customers at the McDonald’s can look down and see the remains of the Roman road just below their feet. Everything is in a remarkable state of preservation.

Source : Superintendency for Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape

The stones making up the road, the supporting walls, and the drainage ditches on either side are clearly visible to everyone who steps inside. There are even three well-preserved human skeletons on display, lying in the drainage ditches. Maybe not very appetizing but certainly fascinating!

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Clare Edis

Written by Clare Edis

Clare Edis is a prolific and imaginative writer known for her captivating storytelling and profound exploration of the human experience through words. Born with an insatiable curiosity, Clare has always had a unique ability to breathe life into her narratives, transporting readers to worlds both familiar and fantastical.

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