Volunteers needed to excavate Bolton’s industrial past

Archaeologist at work

Archaeologist at work

Archaeologists from the University of Salford are looking for volunteers to help them excavate buildings in Bolton which shed light on how workers and owners lived during the Industrial Revolution.

During March, archaeologists, assisted by members of the community, will be digging in Moss Bank Park, Halliwell, to find the remains of a series of homes linked to the Halliwell Bleach Works.

They’ll be looking for workers’ cottages and a mansion which was built by owners of the Works in 1786 and was demolished in 1951.

The history of the Halliwell Bleach Works reflects the growth of industry in Bolton as a whole. It was founded in 1739 by Peter Ainsworth, who acquired a bleach croft on the site of an older farm. Successive Ainsworths expanded the facility, with Richard Ainsworth one of the first to use chlorine gas for bleaching from 1807. Later a huge chimney was built by John Horrocks Ainsworth, which still stands today.

The Park is also believed to incorporate the Holy Well, which gave the area its name. This source of fresh water was in use from medieval times but was filled in in 1743 after the three-year-old daughter of bleacher Peter Ainsworth fell in and was killed.

The Salford archaeologists are looking for volunteers of all ages and abilities to take part in this dig which forms part of Dig Greater Manchester. Salford, alongside the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, is leading this four-year project which will conduct a community dig in every borough of the city-region in order to engage local communities with their history.

Digs have already occurred in Bury, Stockport and Tameside, and Bolton Council is supporting this instalment of the project by giving permission to excavate the park.

Brian Grimsditch from the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University said: “We’ve seen huge numbers of people attending our previous digs to learn some new skills and a bit of local history.

“We hope that the dig in Bolton will show us the contrasting lives of workers and managers during the Industrial Revolution by revealing how they lived side-by-side, but very different lives.”

Anyone interested in taking part or finding out more should contact Vicky Nash on: 0161 295 4009 / v.nash@salford.ac.uk

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