DGM 2012 Part 3: Stockport

A range of the Minton floor tiles excavated at Wood Hall in October 2012

A range of the Minton floor tiles excavated at Wood Hall in October 2012

In October the DGM team arrived in Stockport to excavate the site of Wood Hall and its farm. Wood Hall lies 1.5km north of the modern town centre of Stockport, on the first terrace above the western bank of the River Tame. It encompassed two sites; the house known as Wood Hall and the adjacent Wood Hall Farm. There was even a reference to the hall 1501/2, suggesting that it might be medieval origin.

The site had already been evaluated through test-pitting by volunteers from the South Manchester Archaeological Research Team led by Norman Redhead in April 2012. In one day they dug seven test-pits and discovered brick walls and floors. So, in October 2012 DGM came back for a 14-day stint to explore the site further. In that time a variety of community groups and individuals took part in the excavations including: 102 adult volunteers; 280 school Stockport school children from 10 schools; eight Stockport ‘A’ level students; 19 graduate and post-graduates; seven special groups; and 237 visitors on the open day.

This particular site highlighted one of the three key research areas for the project: the archaeology of industrialisation, and, within that, charting the industrial transition though its material culture.

There was no sign of the Medieval Hall, and no hint that it was close by. The current site seems to have been founded in the 18th century. Extensive brick and stone foundations were uncovered for the hall farmhouse and its associated barn range to the west. These dated to the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The hall was a double-depth, central staircase, plan house popular with freeholders and used for the richer sort of farmhouse in the 18th century, and popular with the growing middle-class of the 19th century.

The earliest evidence uncovered by the dig was clay pipes from the 17th century (tobacco was a new form of consumer good/vice at the time). The large number of clay pipe fragments ran into the 19th century. Here was evidence of the growing global trade network of this period; the clay pipes themselves were made in the region (Chester has an early kiln from the late 17th century, and Manchester pipe kilns by the 18th century) but the tobacco was imported from plantations in the West Indies and elsewhere.

There was also a large amount of industrial pottery from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. This included large numbers of earthenware, black-glazed, storage jars, perhaps from the Buckley potteries in north-east Wales and the rapidly developing Staffordshire potteries of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Domestic wares took the form of white transfer-printed bowls, plates and dishes, and a few pieces of China (cups and saucers), probably from Staffordshire rather than overseas. There were also bottles and storage jars stamped with local trader’s names (H Clark of Stockport for instance). Most surprising were the highly decorated glazed floor tiles, manufactured by Minton, of Stoke-on-Trent. These were of floral and geometric designs and motifs typical of the art-nouveau period of the late 19th century, and were found around some of the fireplaces but also stacked up on the cellar steps. Perhaps the latter had been put aside for salvage during the mid-20th century demolition but were forgotten about at the last moment?

It’s from such everyday items that the local, national, and international networks of the industrial period can be traced and mapped.

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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.