Radcliffe big dig gives insight into lives of Victorian townsfolk

Tuesday 21 August 2012
Radcliffe dig
Following a major community dig in Radcliffe, University of Salford archaeologists have catalogued a number of finds that bring the lives of the 19th Century residents to life.

The remains of Radcliffe Close, the home of the Bealey Family which later became a baby health clinic, and a young girl’s medal awarded by a Catholic girl’s group were some of the highlights as children, local people and other volunteers excavated Close Park.

One of the most exciting finds was the late 19th Century medal with the inscription ‘Congregation of the Children of Mary’, indicating that it belonged to a Catholic.

The Congregation was founded as a result of a series of visions experienced by St Catherine Laboure in 1830, and was a lay order. It is possible that this belonged to a member of the Morgan family who are recorded as having lived at cottage number 200 on the site.

The excavation also gave insights into the lives of the ordinary workers who lived in Radcliffe. As well as the Lancashire-born residents there were also communities of Dutch, Irish and Welsh families in the area.

The archaeologists and volunteers found remains of 19th Century milk bottles from Radcliffe Close which, following its use as the home of a local industrialist became a health clinic for sick babies and children.

Crucial to the whole project were around 500 people who volunteered to help with the dig and learn more about their local history. These included adult volunteers, 310 school and college pupils and seven people with learning difficulties from a local occupational therapy unit.

The project is part of Dig Greater Manchester, which will incorporate 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.

Brian Grimsditch from the Centre for Applied Archaeology at Salford said: “This was a great experience for all of our staff and for the volunteers who came along. We had over 400 people attend the open day alone, so we’ve applied for funding to come back and excavate the medieval centre of the town next year.”

The next Dig Greater Manchester event will be at Chadderton Park in Oldham between 10 and 22 September. To register as a volunteer for this, email Brian Grimsditch, Senior Archaeologist or call 0161 295 3818.

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