Archaeologists investigate Hulme’s Medieval past

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Hulme’s history is often associated with the notorious Crescents or its vital role in the Manchester music scene. But an archaeological dig is trying to unearth the inner-city district’s forgotten Medieval past. 

Archaeologist Faye Simpson at the site of a new dig by the Manchester Metropolitan University on Birley Fields, Hulme [Credit: Manchester Evening News]

Archaeologists will carry out a three-week excavation at Birley Fields in Hulme before a new university campus is built on the land. 

One aim of the project is to find remains of a farm that could date back to the late Medieval period – thought to be the first time people lived in the area. 

A team of archaeologists from Manchester Metropolitan University believe the foundations of hundreds of terrace houses built at the start of the industrial revolution also lie below Birley Fields. 

Project director and archaeologist Dr Faye Simpson said: “This is a really exciting chance to document Hulme’s forgotten past. From looking at old maps we believe the first occupation of the land was Jackson’s Farm in the late Medieval or post Medieval period, the 16th or 17th Century, which looked like quite a significant building with outhouses. We are also hoping to find the foundations of the terrace houses built for factory workers at the start of the industrial revolution. 

“There will definitely also be people’s possessions down there and in the past we have found quite personal things like cups and children’s toys.” 

Little is known about Jackson’s Farm, which appears on a map of Hulme dated 1831. 

The large building and outhouses are believed to have stood on the site for many years before that. The name Jackson is thought to refer to the family who first lived there. 

Hulme’s Medieval history may come as a surprise to many people who are more likely to remember The Crescents – the notorious flats built in the early 1970s and torn down during the 1990s regeneration of the area – or the Russell Club, on Royce Road, which was home to Tony Wilson’s Factory night. 

The dig will be the last chance to explore the area’s archaeology before work to built MMU’s new Birley Fields campus starts later this year. 

The first step will be geophysical surveys – magnetic mapping of the ground – this Monday and Tuesday, to enable archaeologists to locate the remains of buildings. 

The team is also looking for the remains of two churches – the Apostolic and the Catholic Holy Trinity – destroyed during the Second World War. The Catholic Holy Trinity church was built around 1853, designed by renowned architect George Gilbert Scott, who also designed Manchester Cathedral and London’s St Pancras Station. 

The Apostolic Church was built in 1843 with various alterations made later on. Both buildings stood on what is now Bonsall Street which crosses Princess Parkway. 

Teams of students at MMU are trying to trace relatives of people who lived in the terrace houses to invite them to the dig and see where their ancestors lived. An exhibition showing the results of the excavation and the artefacts found will also be created which will go on display in Hulme. 

The excavation will then take place from March 3 to 23 which will be open to the public. 

Sessions to join in the dig will take place from Tuesday to Sunday while the dig is running between 9am and midday and 1pm to 3pm. There are also places to join the geophysics survey. To book a place contact Faye on [email protected] or call 0161 247 3018. 

Source: Manchester Evening News [January 15, 2012]

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