Brimelow Farm 1985

This was the first time the Society had ventured out to do actual fieldwork – having formed in 1982, it was one of our initial research projects. In 1983 we produced an interim report on our findings which highlighted the two fields in front of Brimelow Farm as having great potential for archaeological survival of the Roman road. Crops were still being grown at that time but during the growing season and after it had been taken, a distinct line could be discerned crossing the north field where the poorer soil had allowed weeds to dominate over the crop. No berm or raised bank could be detected in either field but there was an embankment in the south field, particularly prominent at the south end of it. It wasn’t however on the alignment  speculated from our research, which seemed to be a few metres further into the field. This bank also coincided with a field boundary shown on early maps and, as such, was dismissed as being just that. Our initial work in 1985 consisted of trying to get photographic evidence of the crop mark. At that times I was on a 3 year archaeological course at Manchester University and was able to borrow their equipment, a 15 metre monopole proving most useful. By then however, the farmer was growing hay and the crop mark in the north filed was barely perceivable. The south field had been given over to grazing cattle but there was no sign of the road in the low cut grass. I also managed to borough the Universities kite which was capable of carrying an remote controlled Olypmus SLR complete with motor drive. By then the hay had been cut but there was still no sign of the road. We did however get some good shots of the further along the alignment further north which revealed ridge a furrows in fields on either side. This typically represents a medieval method of ploughing but we suspect not in this case as the ridges are too straight an too far apart. Some have suggested it was a result of a method of ploughing using traction engines at either end of the field with the plough being pulled along via a cable. I’m not too sure as there doesn’t seem to be much room for the engines on the field edges. the exact same field systems and been detected in aerial photography at Robin Hill in Standish and Trevor Boardman pointed them out to us in Borsdane Wood on our trip there in 2016 (my thought is that they’re more to do with field drainage). Finally I managed to get hold of a resistivity meter from the University. This was a Martin-Clark meter, one of the earliest machines of this type and as such was very cumbersome and time consuming to use (there seemed to be probes and cables everywhere). We did however manage to complete 4 single line scans in the north field which did showed some potential,  The following year we attempted an area scan over the most promising linear scan i.e. No.2. Our 4 x 22 meter scan produced quite a good result giving us a good target for a future excavation (at that time I was using a software programme called Vumate which enabled results to be displayed in 3D . At this point it’s worth pointing out that a result in this field wasn’t wholly unexpected as the 6 inch map of 1849 and was showing a road crossing this field on the Roman road alignment.  However it didn’t continue north or south and therefore didn’t make any sense unless it was a leftover from a previous arrangement (it must  have disappeared sometime in the later 19th century as it isn’t shown on any later maps). If it was a remnant of the Roman road then it must have continued across the south field In 1987 therefore we carried 3 more linear scans in the south but were disappointing revealing nothing to indicate a road. However we had a target in the north field and and that was going to be we were going to carry out our very first excavation (Brimelow 1988). Unfortunately and annoyingly we had been beaten to it by the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit who earlier in the year had opened up a trench on the northern edge edge of the north field. It was directed by a Stuart Nichols who been to seem me the previous year to ask me all about the research we had been carrying and promising to involve us in any work they planned to do there. This never happened and the first I heard about was in the local newspaper (Wigan Observer Jan 2 1987). The work was carried out by volunteers recruited by the Manpower Services Commission and in the paper Nichols claims to have “identified a number of anomalies that indicate a substantial cobbled area with a drainage ditch on one side”. However the bad weather hampered their work and the resulting report was quite brief and Nichols admits the road was not definitively identified although “a localised stony deposit may represent the road metalling very much disturbed by agricultural activity”.