Dig into past of a medieval hall

Aerial shot of the site of the former Etherstone Hall in Leigh
Aerial shot of the site of the former Etherstone Hall in Leigh

A FORMER medieval hall is to be excavated as part of the biggest ever archaeological project the borough has ever seen.

The University of Salford is inviting locals to help excavate the site of Etherstone Hall on Atherleigh Way, Leigh. The dig, which is the first in the Dig Greater Manchester project, will start on Monday and finishes with a public open day on Saturday, March 17.

Lying within a small wooded area immediately north of the Leigh Sports Village, the earliest evidence for a structure dates from 1415 and the site may contain evidence of a medieval moat.

In the 18th Century the status of the occupants changed and the hall was leased to tenant farmers. An 1825 advert for sale of the land described the site as containing a farmhouse and outbuilding, and that year marked a new chapter in its history.

A local cotton broker bought the land and built an imposing house next to the old farmhouse and other outbuildings were erected.

This new house was pulled down in 1908, but the farm continued well into the 20th Century, before being finally demolished in the 1970s.

A small-scale archaeological evaluation was conducted in 2006 that found remains of the buildings and recovered some medieval pottery.

The March excavations will be open for up to 20 adult volunteers every day, and individuals are able to book up to three days each and will receive training in archaeological techniques – while getting a full hands on experience of excavating their local heritage.

During the first week there will also be 10 schools and colleges spending half a day completing various archaeological activities run by a dedicated educational archaeologist.

Dig Greater Manchester will see more than 9,000 people taking part in projects. It is being funded by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and managed by the University of Salford.

No previous experience is needed.

Local councillor John O’Brien has been involved in plans to study the area’s heritage. He said: “Etherstone Hall is an important part of our town’s identity and history. We have a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our past by getting involved in an archaeological dig right on our doorsteps. ”

To take part ring Debbie Atkin on 0161 295 6286 or e-mail d.atkin@salford.ac.uk.