DGM 2012 Part 2: Oldham

Members of the Chadderton History Society who took part in the dig in 2012.

Members of the Chadderton Historical Society who took part in the dig in 2012.

In September 2012 the third DGM evaluation excavation came to Chadderton Hall Park in Oldham: and the site of Chadderton Hall, a building whose origins lie in the Medieval period. Volunteers, school children, and members of the local historical society spent nearly two weeks uncovering the rather grand stone and brick foundations of the mid-18th century hall. This was a four storey building with projecting western and eastern wings linked by a columned portico.
   It is possible there may have been a manor house close to this site in the late 13th century, when Chadderton first emerges in the documentary record. During that century Richard de Trafford divided his estates and gave Chadderton to his younger son Geoffrey, who took the name de Chadderton after the place. The manor later passed by marriage to a branch of the Radcliffe family and in the mid-15th century was divided between the three daughters of Richard Radcliffe. One of these daughters, Joan, married Edmund Assheton of Ashton-under-Lyne and the Asshetons held this share of the manor until the late 17th century, with Chadderton Hall as their main residence. In 1684 the Hall was bought by Joshua Horton of Sowerby in Yorkshire who made it his home. His descendants retained possession until the 19th century, when it was sold to the Lees family and began its decline in status and condition that eventually led to it being demolished in 1939. The later uses of the hall included a ‘Boarding School for Young Ladies’ until 1860, then as a boarding school for boys, and afterwards as a menagerie and a pickle factory.
   The walls and floor surfaces encountered represented the second hall on the site, this one built in the mid-18th by the Horton family. There were hints of the earlier hall on the site in the form of re-used stone ridge tiles, a couple of stone wall foundations that did not fit the plan of the mid-18th century hall, a few sherds of yellow-glazed ware and a pipe bowl that are both late 17th or very early 18th century in date. What impressed, though, was the scale of the remains the DGM volunteers revealed, from the huge ashlar blocks of the main, southern, facade, to the cellars at the rear of the property, where the valley escarpment ran. This was clearly a building designed to impress, not just at the front with its portico facing a formal courtyard that included a gateway and landscaping, but also the position of the hall on the valley edge to the rear, allowing it to dominate this part of Chadderton.
   This site is an interesting addition to our growing evidence of the way in which the communities of the Manchester city region responded to the process industrialisation. In this case the classical mansion of the Horton family contrasts with the smaller, vernacular, buildings of the adjacent Chadderton Hall Fold, where domestic spinning and weaving of cotton was undertaken.

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DGM 2012 Part 1: Radcliffe

Visitors to the Radcliffe DGM open day in July 2012 - one of the few times we saw the sun in 2012!

Visitors to the Radcliffe DGM open day in July 2012 – one of the few times we saw the sun in 2012!

With Dig Greater Manchester well into its second year (and community digs in Manchester, Salford and Rochdale looming) we thought we would take the opportunity to bring you the highlights from last year’s four community digs. So, over the next two weeks we will be posting blogs on each.

In July 2012 DGM came to Radcliffe in Bury: to be precise, the area between Radcliffe’s two oldest buildings – the 15th century Radcliffe Tower and the 15th century parish church.
   During the first two weeks of July the remains of a row of seven cottages were excavated on the southern side of Church Street (formerly Church Row). These cottages were built in the mid-19th century and demolished in the mid-20th century so had a life-span of around 100 years. More than 170 volunteers and 290 children helped to reveal the outline of each cottage and its backyard. These were small brick dwellings, with in most cases just a single living room on the ground floor with a fireplace. Most of the rear yards also had an outhouse with a toilet which in each case produced dozens of small pieces of Victorian pottery.
   It was whilst the backyard of the eastern cottage, No. 200, was being dug that a small bronze oval token was discovered amongst some late Victorian pottery and clay pipes. Roughly 20mm by 30mm, one side had an image of a lady and the other some flowers with a star. Around the edge of one side of the token was the inscription ‘Congregation of the Children of Mary’, indicating that it belonged to a Catholic.
   The Congregation was founded as a result of a series of visions experienced by St Catherine Laboure in 1830, and was a lay order. At first it was open to the girls who were students or orphans in the care of The Sisters of Charity.1 Girls and young women in the society were encouraged to live holy lives in the everyday world by embracing the virtues of sacrifice, prayer and works of charity. In 1876 membership was extended to include all young people, boys and girls, and a version of the society survives into the early 21st century. Newly joined individuals would be given a bronze or silver medallion as a sign of membership, on which to inscribe their name and the date they joined.
   The Radcliffe token is a typical example of a Children of Mary medallion. The obverse side of the medallion shows an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with ‘rays of grace’ that emanate from the rings she wares. A motto ‘monstra te esse matrem’ (show thyself a mother), can be seen around the edge and is a phrase taken from the 9th century devotional hymn ‘Ave Maris Stella’ (Hail, Star of the Sea).
   The reverse shows the Ave Maria monogram with lilies and a star above. The inscription ‘Congregation of the Children of Mary’ runs around the edge, and there is a panel for the member’s name. Sadly the Radcliffe name panel was blank – perhaps it had been worn away?
   Radcliffe in the late 19th century and early 20th century was a diverse town. Living in the streets close by during the 1890s and 1900s were Dutch, Irish, and Welsh, although the majority of the inhabitants of this growing cotton town were born in Lancashire. The census returns for Church Row/Street show that all the inhabitants of the seven cottages were Lancashire-born. Who, then, was the owner of the medallion? It might be one of the Morgan family recorded living at No. 200 in the 1891 and 1901 censuses, but we can’t be sure. This object was certainly a highly personal item for a young adult, probably a girl, living at the end of the 19th century. Such a personal religious item is a highly unusual discovery from houses of this period in the Manchester region, and how it came to be lost or thrown away in the backyard is unknown. Archaeology can only take us so far in revealing the history of an object, even one from the recent past.

1) St Catherine Laboure’s religious order.