Historic dig finds an army marches on Bovril

Wednesday 21 August 2013
The Bovril bottles found on the dig. Click to enlarge.

A dig at a historically important barracks in Manchester by community volunteers and archaeologists from the University of Salford has found an unusual relic of Britain’s military might during the 19th Century – single shot bottles of Bovril.

Hulme Barracks is known for being the home of the cavalry that charged protesters during the infamous Peterloo Massacre, but details of the findings from the dig at Hulme Barracks in July have shown a more mundane side of the soldier’s life with several examples of the small bottles of beef extract drink found within the walls.

The barracks are a major piece of the city’s history, being the home of the 15th King’s Hussars who were deployed at the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 which resulted in the deaths of 15 protesters when the local yeomanry assisted by the Hussars, infantry and special constabulary attempted to disperse the crowds.

The dig uncovered many important findings from army life during the period (1804-1915) when the barracks were inhabited.  Excavations of the canteen, riding school and terraced houses outside the walls which housed retired personnel and families, yielded clay pipes, uniform buttons traced to a manufacturer in London and the Bovril bottles.

The Hulme Barracks event was part of the Dig Greater Manchester Project, run by the University of Salford and supported by Manchester City Council and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities.  During the four-year project, each borough of Greater Manchester will host an excavation, with local community members given full training to assist the professional archaeologists. And over 170 people visited on a special open day to see the finds.

The next dig, in September will be in Salford.

Senior archaeologist at the University of Salford, Brian Grimsditch said: “Items like this bring the lives of people living in the city during the 19th Century to life.  A hot Bovril would have been a godsend on a drizzly Mancunian night and it’s through this sort of detail that our volunteers gain a connection with the people who lived in their communities hundreds of years ago.”

To be added to the list of volunteers for the Salford dig in September, please email: b.grimsditch@salford.ac.uk

You can see more photographs from the dig at the University of Salford Flickr page.

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