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No 14 June 1998

Monthly Newsletter

Roman Activity at Arley?

At long last the much-anticipated field walking session at Arley got underway last month when a team of six turned up on a bright Sunday morning.  By mid afternoon we had covered almost two third of the targeted area and the final third was completed on the following Friday evening.  I would like to thank all those who gave up their time to take part and apologies to all those who I could not contact.  We have been interested in this particular field for some time as it lies between the Arley mill sites and Worthington lakes.  As I mentioned last year (Newsletter No.1) under this field runs the River Douglas in a tunnel dug in 1852 during the construct of the lakes to supply drinking water for Wigan.  The Douglas was, at that time, the main drainage for all the mine water being pumped out of the many shafts and ‘soughs’ along the Douglas Valley and thus had to be diverted to avoid polluting the reservoirs.  During construction of the tunnel, Edward Hull (a government inspector) identified ancient coal workings as Roman (a supposed hoard of coins was found in one of the galleries).

Traverse and Stint

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This was the method adopted for this field walking session and involves dividing the field into parallel traverses 10 metres apart across the field, with perpendicular stint lines marked at 30 metre intervals.  As we walk along the traverses, pottery is collected until we reach the stint marker when the pieces are bagged and a new session begins.  Working in a line of six the field can be completed fairly quickly but setting up the grid lines at the start can be tricky especially if the field undulates from one side to the other. This was the case on Sunday and legs were definitely tiring by mid afternoon.  When the field is complete the material can be sorted and plotted on a map.  From the distribution patterns it is then possible to identify areas of interest.

 The Collection

From a preliminary study of all the pieces collected on Sunday (over 1200 in total) almost all can be identified as being either Victorian or slightly earlier.  However there are a small number found in one particular area (marked R) that may possibly be described as Roman, and one or two which may be Medieval (marked M).  I hope to have these confirmed or otherwise by the GMAU later this month.  As you can see from the spread of pottery shards there are a number of areas of concentration.  Area A corresponds with a small pond in the field and area B relates to a farm building which disappeared last century.  Area C however has no immediate explanation and therefore must represent some activity in the area not previously recorded.  Obviously further investigation is required.

Pastures New

Bye-the-way Derek Yates, long time member of the Society and who came on Sunday, is getting married later this year and moving to Rochdale.  Derek, who is in his seventies, has never shirked the challenge of fieldwork despite a broken leg last year and a hernia operation earlier this year.  I am sure we all wish him well in his new venture and will be surely missed on our next outing.


Northern Illustrated Lectures in Egyptology (NILE) are presenting a day school at Leeds City Museum on Saturday 25th July 10am – 5pm.  Transport may be available and the price is 20 and 15 concessionary (5 lunch).  See me at the meeting for further details.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Society will be on Wednesday 3rd June at the history shop at 7.30 pm as usual.  This month’s speaker is Mike Nevell from the GMAU who will be updating us on their recent activities.

Hope to see you there - B.A.