As mentioned in our recent Newsletter Sygma Solutions, who are based in Westhoughton, have offered the use of their Ground Penetrating Radar machines to survey local heritage sites. This includes free training, so last Monday a team of 5 (myself, Eric, Neil, Darren and Andy) went to their office in Daisy Hill for a morning’s training session. We were met by Mike Langton, who is not only their chief trainer but also teaches GPR to archaeological students at Bradford University (in fact he has appear on a number Time Team episode). He explained that the course normally took 3 days but as we were already familiar with geophysic techniques, our abridged course should be sufficient. The machines they are making available for us, use the latest technology and are capable of producing 3D images in the field. Additionally, if necessary, the data can be downloaded and they will ‘post-process’ it for us with their sophisticated software.
After lunch, with the knowledge gained, we made our way to Haigh Hall where we had previously obtained permission to carry out a demonstration of the equipment. The area selected was on the terrace between the Stables Cafe and the Hall.Mike explained that the unit is capable of ‘seeing’ up to 8 metres deep depending on ground conditions but in general 2.5 metres gives best result. After some general prospecting Mike showed us how to mark out a 10m x 10m grid and proceeded to carry out the survey (readings are taken every 5cm with scan run spacing of 50cm). After a while he left us to it and we completed the survey (which included a second scan at 90 degrees to the first) in about an hour.The reason we had selected this particular area for the survey was that a desk-based assessment done by the GMAU a few years ago had indicated buildings here prior the building of the Stable block in the mid 19th century – and indeed the results showed structural remains at various depths from 30cms to just over a metre. The scan shown below is at 90cm, which was typical with a strong feature (maybe a wall) running at an angle to our gridlines and a structural feature running perpendicular to it.
We are now quite familiar with the equipment and, given the opportunity, we would be able to complete a full survey of the area. This would give us a comprehensive picture of the archaeology in a area which maybe subject to development in the near future. We would like to thank Peter Ashcroft of Sygma Solutions for organising the day and Wigan Council for allowing us on site.
While on site we were join by Patrick and after the survey he suggested we take a look at some ruins he’d spot alongside the path leading into the plantations (maybe it was the reputed summer house shown on early paintings and engravings)A tape measure showed the remains to cover an area over 15 metres long (50 feet) with features such as stone window frames and stone box structures. On the OS map of 1893 the ruins are marked as Park Cottages – they are also shown on the 18th century estate map therefore must be of some age. The suggestion is that they would make a good subject for a future surveying project.
Wednesday 4th November. Back to our usual day, this month we have Kerry Beeston who runs Finds Processing workshops in Manchester. She will be bringing along some of her choice finds for us to look at and I will bring some of ours for her to cast a professional eye over.
Thursday 7th October. Our speaker this month is Norman Redhead whose talk is entitled Archaeological Investigations in Salford’s Historic Core. As you probably know Norman runs the Archaeological Advisory Service for Greater Manchester and over the years the Service has overseen for a number of archaeological investigations in heart of Salford’s town centre. These investigations have been able to uncover Salford’s rich history dating back to the Medieval and Post-medieval periods. Please note the change of day. – this is due to unforeseen circumstances so apologies to those who can’t make it on that day.
Wednesday 2nd September. At our meeting this month Steve Halliwell will be telling us the remarkable story of St Kilda. This remote island off the west coast of the Outer Hebrides has a long history of occupation but it all ended in 1930 when the last families were evacuated to the mainland. Now excavations on the island are being to reveal more about how this isolate community survived for so long.
Wednesday 1st July At short notice, our long term friend from Oxford Archaeology North, Ian Miller has agreed to give us a talk on the Cutacre site near Little Hulton. Excavations there in advance of major development and land reclamation have revealed both Prehistoric and Medieval activity (including Iron Age round houses).
Wednesday 3rd June. We are back to our usual day and this month we have Paul Knight who is a captain in the British Army. Paul served two tours in Iraq and whilst there studied its history and visited many of the famous historical site. Subsequently he has written a book on the Army in Iraq during the First World War. He is a local lad and is currently involved with coordinating WWI centenary events in the North West. However he has taken time out to give us a talk on the British Army’s role in Mesopotamia during the First World War.
Friday 21st May. This month we are having Derek Winstanley as our guest speaker. Derek lives in the US and is only over here on a short visit – so that’s why we have had to move our meeting date (apologies to those who can’t make it). With help of our Society, Derek has been carrying out research on Wigan’s famous Pier. He has discovered some interesting aspects particularly with its association to the Canal Basin and Douglas Navigation which preceded it.
Wednesday 1st April. This month we have Ellon Souter, from Manchester University whose talk is entitled “Stone Tools and the People Who Made Them”. Ellon is studying the subject as part of her PhD dissertation at the University (certainly a fascinating subject).
Wednesday 4th March. This month David Ratledge gave a talk on is favourite subject, Roman Roads. As you probably know David used to work for Lancashire County Council and was responsible for the creation of the very useful Mario website. He last visited us in 2010 but a lot has happened in the Roman world since then. David brought us up to date with all the latest developments both nationally and locally, particularly in the use of Lidar in prospecting for new sites.
Wednesday 4th February. This month it’s the AGM with the usual appointment of officers. However, after the formalities, Patrick Maloney, our chairman, will be giving us a talk on the progress of our Kirkless Iron and Steel Works project. Patrick gave a shortened version of this talk at last year’s Greater Manchester Federation day and apparently it was well received. Sounds like a good one.