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The University of Manchester Field Archaeology Centre

Archaeology for All

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Saturday 2nd September and Sunday 3rd September, 11.00am to 4.00pm

Discover 10,000 years of history in a Mellor Hilltop garden!

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Several major excavations in Castlefield provided for the first time an understanding of the eastern side of the Roman settlement (vicus), with stone founded half-timbered buildings lining both sides of Deansgate, and a Roman temple set back from the North Gate road. Just one excavation, at Barton Street, yielded c 8,000 Roman pot sherds, as well as fine glass ware, metal work and a female cremation. A pre-determination evaluation, at Castlefield Quay, has allowed significant fort and vicus remains to be identified and preserved in situ by redesigning development foundations. These excavations and the mass of finds they have produced will allow us to re-interpret the development and form of the Roman settlement, and it is hoped to bring out a new publication on Roman Manchester over the next year. GMAU have been working with Manchester CC to refurbish the Roman Gardens, including the reconstructed North Gate, as an amenity and educational facility.

A number of important industrial period excavations have taken place, examining and recording remains of c 1800 back-to-back cellar dwellings in Piccadilly, early steam engine and boiler house remains from mill sites in Ancoats, and a c 1800 hat working and soda water manufacturing site off Deansgate.

Several mill surveys have been ongoing, including the Ancoats mills (Royal and Murrays) which are part of the World Heritage Proposal for Manchester.


The extensive Grade 2 listed Wallsuches Bleachworks at Horwich continues to be redeveloped for housing and a detailed scheme of archaeological recording has accompanied this process, providing important new information on the early origins and character of textile finishing, and becoming a type site for industrial archaeology. At Bolton Sports Village, by the Reebok Stadium, archaeologists have recorded and analysed Lower House Farm, a 17th century stone walled farm with excellent 16th century internal timber framing. The results of this survey have informed changes to the planned conversion to a nursery to allow retention of key features such as the timber framed smoke hood and bressumer.


Several archaeological evaluations have taken place, at Pilsworth Quarry south-eastern extension (medieval and later farm site), East Lancs Paper Mill (early bleachworks), and The Burrs Caravan Park (palaeo-environmental data from an old river course). GMAU have provided advice for a New Leaf scheme to present and involve the local community in the heritage of Philips Park, Prestwich. GMAU and UMAU have also supported the local heritage group at Prestwich, leading them on an exploratory excavation of fields adjoining the medieval church.


Much time has been spent on the Denshaw Wind Farm application and its potential impact on nationally important prehistoric remains. Amongst a number of building surveys are several 19th and early 20th century cotton spinning mills which have been recorded prior to development, such as Hey Lane and Acorn Mills, Spring Mill, and Monarch Mill.


The biggest project has been the massive Kingsway Business Park site off the M62 Junction 21. Here 11 historic farms and weavers cottages have been archaeologically recorded prior to demolition, and a similar number of trial trenching schemes are being undertaken to examine the origins of farm sites in this medieval and early post-medieval landscape. Another big scheme is the 30 turbine wind farm proposal at Scout Moor which has required considerable archaeological involvement.


GMAU have contributed to the Greengate Regeneration Master Plan with the aim of restoring the historic medieval market place as a focal point in the new scheme. Several major developments are already underway and there have been several archaeological investigations. A large scale excavation took place at Greengate Abito, on the edge of the old market site, and produced an excellent range of finds and features from the 13th century onwards, including two medieval cess pits and early 19th century back-to-back dwellings.


Important remains of Oldknow's factory on Hillgate, Stockport, were excavated and the power features from the late 18th century were found to be well preserved. This was the first non-water powered mill in Stockport. GMAU have also advised on archaeological input to the SEMMMS road scheme. A major archaeological investigation of Staircase House in Stockport Market Place has been completed and a comprehensive report produced. Many elements of the historic fabric have been consolidated and exposed to public view, including the late medieval cruck frame. Elsewhere the 17th century Ridge End Farm (and barn) and 16th century Wybersley Hall (home of Bradshaw the Regicide) have had archaeological surveys to inform conversion schemes.


GMAU have been involved with archaeological mitigation for the proposed Mottram to Tintwistle Bypass and Glossop Spur. At Denton, we devised an archaeological trenching scheme at St Lawrence's Chapel graveyard to identify the location and depths of graves/vaults and the nature of the ground to inform re-landscaping scheme for the grassed over graveyard. This work fed into UMAU's survey of the remarkable 16th century timber framed chapel resulting in a new publication on the site.


GMAU continue to advise on archaeological interests at the massive Stamford Brook housing development (700 houses). An excavation took place behind 6 Old Market Place, Altrincham, and found a 13th century ditch belonging to the burgage plot as well as an important assemblage of mid-18th pottery from a large pit. Palaeo-environmental analysis of the pit and ditch showed what crops were being cultivated in the local area.


A major programme of archaeological trial trenching for the Grand Arcade shopping development off Millgate, resulted in two open areas of archaeological excavation. One, at Ship Yard produced the first possible evidence for the remains of a Roman fort at Wigan, as well as many medieval and early post-medieval features, the second and larger one at Stairgate yielded a massive, stone walled Roman building containing three hypocaust chambers (for underfloor heating) with stacks of tiles to support the floor and a broken column base still intact. This may have been a mansio (an overnight resting place for senior Imperial officials) which included bathing facilities. Certainly this has radically changed our understanding of Roman Wigan and Romanisation of the North-West. The remains will be destroyed by a new multi-storey car park but it is proposed to present them in a public open space in the new shopping centre.

Elsewhere there has been a building survey and excavation at 120-30 Standishgate, on the medieval route to Preston, examining the site of an early post-medieval town house and stone barn, with some medieval pits being discovered. Following a building survey and evaluation trenching there was a targeted excavation at Standish Bleachworks which located the power features of this long lived and complex industrial site, with an 18th century water wheel pit and early 19th century steam engine beds being recorded. Building surveys have included two weaving sheds at Response Mill and Bedford New Mill, a type of monument that is rapidly disappearing.