Big Dig uncovers Rochdale’s secrets

Categories: School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Salford University archaeologists, in partnership with the Rochdale Development Agency, have been leading a special dig in Rochdale which has uncovered some unique insights into the town’s past.

More than 1000 Volunteers, trainees, residents and local school pupils from across the borough joined archaeologists from Salford, led by Dr Colin Elder, as part of the Big Dig 2, which took place on Broadfield slopes this month.

Among the finds that were unearthed were walls and cobbled surfaces that probably date to the 17th / 18th centuries, together with elements of a Georgian water-management system and the substantial foundations of a Victorian corn mill and a public weighing station at the dig behind Rochdale Town Hall.

The Slopes and the surrounding area played a key role in the development of Rochdale town centre, and the team have already discovered the foundations of the ‘Charles Kershaw Central Corn Mill’, thought to date from the mid 1800s, alongside a public weighing station.

Dr Colin Elder said: “This site would have been a hive of activity in the industrial period, with people who would have worked in the corn mill living in houses, now long gone, which lined the steps which run up the Slopes to St Chad’s Church.

“We’ve also found part of a public weighing station, where people, including merchants, would have gone to check whether they had been sold the right amount of cotton, wool or, in this case, probably corn.”

The Big Dig 2 follows a similar dig, the Big Dig, which took place in Town Hall Square in 2021.

Central to the success of the project has been the group of residents of all ages, the volunteers and the trainees, who have been on site each day, helping to uncover their borough’s proud history.

The dig has supported the training of 5 local people, as part of a ten week archaeology course, which will enable them to potentially embark on a career in the field. This talented team has already picked up sufficient skills to enable them to manage the dig themselves, with support from the University.

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.