Greater Manchester’s Past Revealed: First Six Issues now Available to Download

GMPR_cover_vol1As a New Year treat we have made available for download, free, the first six issues of the award winning Greater Manchester’s Past Revealed popular archaeology series.

These volumes cover ‘Piccadilly Place’ (2010); ‘The Triangle, Bury’ (2011); ‘Discovering Coccium’ (2011); ‘Rediscovering Bradford’ (2011); ‘Slices Through Time’ (2012); and ‘An Industrial Art’ (2012).

They can be downloaded from our new Publications page on this blog.


DGM Archaeology Festival: Hunting for Ancient Graffiti

Ordsall Hall May 2012 WEA visit (12)

The late medieval Ordsall Hall – still giving up its secrets


The first Dig Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival in June 2017 had two events linked to the comparatively new research area of medieval and later graffiti. Such research looks at mysterious marks on historic buildings such as circles, daisy wheels, crossed ‘V’s, lines grouped in threes, and many other devices.


In the last decade renewed focus on these ancient marks in the late medieval churches of East Anglia has led to a recognition that such graffiti and protection marks are far more common than previously thought. Sometimes they cluster around the location of old alters but are usually found by doorways and windows. Importantly, such marks provide an alternative way of look at the beliefs and worries of ordinary people in otherwise more formal and controlled spaces.

Recent research is now focusing on domestic buildings and in the North West the timber structures of the 14th to 18th centuries are proving a fruitful source of evidence. The Greater Manchester Graffiti Survey team have been studying a variety of timber-framed halls across Manchester with some surprising results. Ordsall Hall in Salford, for instance, is covered in dozens of protection marks such as circles, but especially taper burns, which leave a burn mark in the shape of an elongated leaf. Indeed, this appears to be the most common form of mark found on the timber-framed buildings of the region. Intriguingly, leaving a the cross by or above doorways using the ashes from Ash Wednesday is still a feature of Greek Orthodox ritual at Easter time.

The Greater Manchester Graffiti Survey team continued their exploration of Ordsall Hall for the festival. Ordsall is one of the hidden gems of northern England’s medieval archaeology: a moated manor house set within the industrial and urban sprawl of late 19th and 20th century Salford that survives with its 14th century solar wing, early 16th century great hall and mid-17th century brick wing. The cross-passage and servant’s wings have yielded dozens of taper burns.

Hall i'th' Wood 20

Hall i’ th’ Wood, Bolton

The Bolton Archaeological and Eqyptology Society ( continued their exploration of Hall i’ th’ Wood on the Saturday of the festival. This research began earlier in 2017 and once more taper burns feature as an important part of the protection and graffiti marks observed. Yet recently they have discovered taper burns on some of the contemporary furniture  in the hall (though much is not from Hall i’ th’ Wood itself). This has also been noted on the Tudor bed at Ordsall Hall, which was commissioned by the Radcliffe family for that very building.


DGM Archaeology Festival: The Historic Pubs of Altrincham


The Old Market Tavern, formerly the Unicorn PH, Altrincham Old Market Place

The first ever Dig Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival has 17 FREE events to choose from. The festival kicked off on Thursday 22 June with a tour of the historic pubs of Altrincham run by the South Trafford Archaeology Group (


The walk is based on the inns, taverns and public houses mentioned in Pigot & Co.’s Commercial Directory of 1822-1823 for Altrincham, before the character of the town and the location of its commercial centre were altered by the arrival of the railway in 1849. Meeting outside the Orange Tree in the Old Market Place (WA14 4DE) at 6pm the two hour tour will take in, amongst other pub sites, the Unicorn (the former town hall of 1849), the Axe and Cleaver (late 18th century), the Wheatsheaf (late 18th or early 19th century), and the Orange Tree, which contains timber-framing from the 16th and early 17th centuries.

Altrincham was given its charter as a market borough in 1290. This market town sits on the northern flank of Bowdon Hill, with the market place terraced into the hillside. Even today the building plots surrounding the old market place reflect the long, narrow, burgages of the late medieval town. Although the placename suggests a late Saxon origin nothing earlier that 14th century has been found. However, Saxon activity was excavated on the site of Timperley Old Hall, roughly 1km to the east, by STAG in the 1990s.

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Excavation behind No 6 Old market Place, Altrincham by UMAU in 2004

STAG have been investigating the Old Market Place since the early 1980s, when they undertook test pitting with GMAU in the town fields to the north-west. In the mid-1984s a late medieval corn drying kiln was excavated off Victoria Street. During the 1990s watching brief work revealed medieval rubbish pits behind the buildings on Market Street, whilst a building survey with the local WEA class recorded half a dozen timber-framed buildings. In the 2000s, a developer-funded excavation behind No.6 Market Place revealed a late medieval burgage property ditch. A flavour of the old market atmosphere can still be got in the Orange Tree, with its timber-framing, brick barrel vaulted cellars and ghost (allegedly).


DGM Festival Booking from 24 May

Buckton castle comm digBooking for the first Dig Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival (22 to 25 June) will go live on our Eventbrite pages on 24 May.

Follow the link here to book:

We have 16 FREE events showcasing the latest archaeological research from across the city region, including: a historic pub crawl in Altrincham, tours of industrial Castlefield and digs in Castleshaw, Salford and Wigan, to a North West Research seminar at Salford University, workshops at Manchester Museum and exhibitions in Tameside.

You’ll be able to follow the festival through our Facebook pages ( and via our twitter feed @DGM_Archaeology

An Overview of the DGM Project, 2011 to 2016

The 28th April 2017 should go down as a landmark in the new digital media archaeology landscape as the date of the first community archaeology twitter conference: There were over 50 papers with 15 minute slots spread across 30 hours (with two keynote speakers kicking things off on the 27th April) from the Americas, […]

via ‘I Dig Therefore I Am: The impact of the DGM Project’: My Public Archaeology Twitter Conference Talk about Dig Greater Manchester — archaeologyuos

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.

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.