Volunteers needed for historic hall excavation

Monday 29 April 2013
Balderstone Hall
Balderstone Hall before its demolition.

The University of Salford’s archaeology department is looking for volunteers to help them excavate a historic hall in Rochdale that has origins stretching back to 1414.

The register of volunteers has just opened for the summer excavations at Balderstone Hall in the town, where archaeologists will help people learn new skills and find out more about their local history.

The earliest reference to the Hall can be found in the 15th Century when James Holt married the daughter and heiress of Henry de Balderston and the couple are said to have had ‘a house of some pretensions’ in Balderstone. The Hall was first officially recorded in the early 17th Century, still in the hands of the Holt family.

Subsequently however, it changed ownership and was modified several times before being acquired by local mill owner Joshua Radcliffe in1851, who rebuilt it a year later.

It is this phase of development that the excavations will focus on.  The Hall built in 1852 by Radcliffe was a substantial residence with 15 rooms, a billiard room, cellars, stables and a saddleroom, together with a coachman’s cottage, greenhouse, fernery and peach house.

Volunteers will focus on the cellars which were filled in when the Hall was demolished in 1967, as these are believed to contain the highest number of potential finds. 

The project is part of Dig Greater Manchester, which will involve over 9,000 people taking part in archaeological projects over four-and-a-half years in 11 boroughs in the region. It is being funded by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and managed by the University of Salford.

Digs have already been carried out in Leigh, Radcliffe and Tameside and Bolton: where hundreds of people unearthed large numbers of artefacts relating to the history of their local areas.

Vicky Nash, a senior archaeologist from the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University said: “It doesn’t matter if volunteers have no previous experience of archaeology - all that is required is interest and the ability to get yourself to the site.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn some new skills, meet people and take part in a major project investigating local history.”

The dig will run between the 3 and 15 June 2013.

To sign up as a volunteer, please contact Vicky Nash (v.nash@salford.ac.uk) or Brian Grimsditch (b.grimsditch @salford.ac.uk 0161 295 4009).