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No.66 September 2003

Monthly Newsletter

Prehistoric Atherton

Prehistoric_ditch.jpg (58438 bytes)

An amazing discovery has just been made on an excavation site on the outskirts of Atherton. Underneath the debris of the now demolished farmstead at Gadbury Fold, archaeologists from Manchester University have unearthed what they believe to be a large Prehistoric ditch. Its antiquity is confirmed by a small flint scraper found in the bottom. The ditch was first suspected as being Prehistoric in the early stages of the dig when evaluation trenches revealed this feature to be totally devoid of any later material. As we reported in Newsletter 62 the land at Gadbury Fold is being redeveloped as Gibfield Park housing estate and the developers, Black Country Estates - as obliged by PPG16 - are funding all the excavations. The work there has now been completed and Peter Connelly, the site director, says the ditch, which runs right across the length of the site, could be at least 4 thousand years old. This is a fantastic find as Prehistoric settlements, which this feature represents, are extremely rare in this part of the North West.

Roman Connection

The initial interest in this farm was the suspected Roman Road, which is supposed to have run through the site. Evaluation trenches uncovered a cobbled surface, which initially was thought to be the Road but after subsequent work turned out to be a post-medieval courtyard. About 30cm below this, however the archaeologists have detected a small area of another cobbled surface which they are, at the moment, assuming to be remains of the Roman Road.

Continuous Occupation

Peter is also excited about evidence for Medieval occupation which may stretch back beyond the 15th century. The evidence comes in the form of brown glazed pottery associated with pits and other ditches. After initial work, it was realised that enough archaeology survived on this site to warrant a full-scale excavation and so Norman Redhead, from the GMAU, secured an agreement with the developers for a delay in their schedule until a full investigation could be completed. The archaeologists have now moved onto the adjacent Hatton Fold site where our societies’ excavations earlier this year revealed a possible section of the Road in the corner one of the trenches. We are keeping a close eye on this one.

Time Team’s ‘Big Dig’

Well, our ‘Big’ moment came and went (all 2 minutes worth) and I hope you were all tuned in to see it. Fortunate viewers will have seen myself, Tom and our facilitator Mark Chamberlain explain to Channel 4’s presenter Jasmine Lowson why we were all lingering in dark woods on a Saturday evening with trowels in hands. I even got to point out our hole in the ground (just before some juvenile pulled the plug on us). It was all a bit nerve-racking as our spot went out live, but I think we did manage to get our point across.
The site itself has developed considerably since then and all indications are that we have discovered the remains of the Roman Road running from Manchester to Wigan at this point in Ince Park. Three trenches were eventually dug and evidence for a bank and ditch seem to appear in all 3. In trench 1 there is even an array of cobbles, but rather than go into details here, I will leave it for a later issue when we will have a better understanding our find. The site is still open and later this month we intend carrying out more work, particularly on trench 1 where Sharon Saunders from the Parks and Gardens Dept has given us permission to expand.

Best of British Archaeology

This year The National CBA is holding its annual conference at the Maritime Museum in Liverpool and it is open to the public. The event is to be held from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 September and will include a lecture by Loyd Grossman on the role of history and heritage. There will also be presentations on the archaeology of the North West and guided trips to regional archaeological sites. Finally, an evening dinner will provide ample opportunity for people to meet leading national and regional archaeologists. If you are interested, please let me know at the meeting.

French Connection

Once again our happy band of society die-hards are off to Angers for a weekend of sightseeing and prospecting. This year, as well as visiting famous sarcophagus mines there, we have been asked to take our resistivity meter to do some work on the Roman ‘town’ site at Chenehutte.

Next Meeting

Wednesday 3rd September at the BP Centre (Scout HQ) in Greenough Street, at 7.30 pm as usual. This month we were to have had John Darlington from Lancashire Archaeology, but unfortunately, he is unable to attend. Luckily, however, we have been able to persuade Gordon Roberts, at short notice, to present his highly recommended talk entitled ‘Footsteps on the Pre-historic Landscape’. Hope to see you there. B.A.