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Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit

Archive of Community Projects

Reports for 2007-2008


GMAU have given 24 lectures and presentations, mainly in evenings, to local heritage and other groups on Greater Manchester’s archaeology and community projects. 6 teaching sessions have been given to undergraduates and post graduates. The Historic Environment Record database has been used by 14 undergraduates and 19 post graduates for their research projects. The HER has been shown at the open days for community archaeology projects, such as Mellor, Dig Manchester and Royton, so that visitors can find out about heritage in their area.

The year saw a number of successful community archaeology projects, all of which have involved GMAU in its role as archaeological adviser, facilitator, promoter and monitor:

Dig Manchester

Dig Manchester had its last showcase excavation, at Wythenshawe Hall and Park, where remains of late 18th/early 19th century outbuildings were exposed. James Purnell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport visited the excavation. UMAU have been producing final excavation reports, booklets and information boards as legacy items for the three main sites at Moston Hall, Northenden Mill and Wythenshawe Park. GMAU helped organise a Celebrate Dig Manchester event at the Whitworth Hall in The University to mark the end of this high profile successful project, in March 2008, which saw a unique collaboration between the City Council, University, Heritage Lottery Fund, sponsors and local communities. One of the goals of Dig Manchester was to get children from inner city areas to aspire to higher education at their University of Manchester. Strong links have been forged with the Humanities Widening Participation team, who have similar aims. It is hoped that community archaeology will be broadened out to every authority in the county, as the Dig Greater Manchester Project. Council Leaders have already agreed to support the project (with the addition of Blackburn and Darwen). A bid for further Heritage Lottery Funding cannot be made until the Dig Manchester project has been fully evaluated, but it is anticipated that a proposal will in place for autumn 2009.

The South Manchester Archaeological Research Team

A spin off from Dig Manchester was the foundation, in summer 2007, of a new archaeology group for south Manchester, the South Manchester Archaeological Research Team. They undertook their first independent dig at Wythenshawe Hall and then in February carried out trial trenching on the site of outbuildings at Peel Hall Moat in South Etchells, in south Manchester, supported by the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit (UMAU), the Moat Watch Residents’ Group, local primary schools (led by the Dig Manchester Educational Archaeologist from Manchester Museum) and a grant from the City Council’s community chest. This was a great success with good archaeological survival across all trenches, and will hopefully lead to an open area community dig along the lines of Moston Hall. The fledgling Moston and District Archaeology and Social History group have also undertaken their first independent research dig, at Boggart Hole Clough in north Manchester. UMAU’s workshops and on site advice from the Dig Manchester Community Archaeologist, John Roberts, gave them the confidence to take on their own excavation project.

Heaton Park

An archaeological desk based assessment, funded by Manchester City Council, has been undertaken by UMAU for Heaton Park, again in the north of the city, and it is anticipated that this will provide many opportunities for community archaeological involvement.

The Mellor Heritage Project

had another successful summer dig. Further remains of late Iron Age occupation were found including the largest hut circle so far and evidence for a former entrance way across the eastern defences. The wider Mellor Heritage Project, benefiting from a £455k HLF grant has made good progress. UMAU and retired professionals have run a number of workshops to train up and lead local volunteers to undertake excavations of potential sites, historic building surveys, landscape survey, historic research, geophysical survey and finds analysis across the whole of Mellor Parish. The archaeological project officer, Peter Noble, from UMAU, has led much of this work and has directed the excavations. The educational officer, based with Stockport Museum, has taken many schools and disadvantaged groups to the site and organised a range of archaeological activities. GMAU have trained Mellor volunteers to put all this information into the Historic Environment Record database as part of the project’s legacy.

Recently the Mellor project was a joint winner of the inaugural Brian Marsh award for community archaeology. Two of the four joint winners came from Greater Manchester, reflecting the strength of community archaeology in the county and the strong widening participation role carried out by the two archaeology units at the University.

Royton Lives Through The Ages

The other winning project in Greater Manchester was Royton Lives Through The Ages. A collaborative project between Royton Local History Society, Oldham MBC and UMAU, a third and final season of community archaeological excavation was undertaken on the later, Georgian wing. As usual hundreds of school children and adult volunteers were involved in the investigation. A booklet and information boards have been produced and Oldham MBC will landscape the site of the hall to show the location of walls and other features.

North Bury

In north Bury two community archaeological projects have taken place. A private land owner funded a small excavation on the site of a late 18th century mill in his garden at Kibboth Crew. UMAU provided a professional archaeologist to guide and train Ramsbottom Heritage Society. At Holcombe Moor, funded by the MoD, UMAU have been helping the local heritage group to undertake landscape survey, historical research, excavation and survey work.

Tameside Archaeological Survey

As part of the Tameside Archaeological Survey, UMAU have conducted evaluation through trial trenching at the Scheduled Monument of Buckton Castle on the moors above Mossley, supported by GMAU as archaeological curator. For the first time the true and massive dimensions of the curtain wall have been exposed and recorded, together with the complete plan of a rectangular gate tower, entrance way, and massive defensive ditch. It is felt that this impressive monument was erected by the Earl of Chester in the 12th century. Tameside’s Council supported a second phase of evaluation in April 2008 and a third in 2009. Despite difficult terrain and wretched weather, the evaluations, led by staff from UMAU, attracted volunteers from no less that four local archaeology groups, epitomising the growth in interest in archaeological endeavour.

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