Scheme bids to uncover park’s secret history

The latest stage of an annual project at one of Manchester’s best loved parks is bidding to uncover its secret history.

Led by University of Manchester archaeologists, the Heritage Lottery Fund supported dig aims to expose and explore the rich vein of Victorian and Edwardian history still hidden from view at Whitworth Park.

Local schoolchildren will work alongside the University’s top archaeologists, students and local community volunteers in field workshops until 12 July.

Whitworth Park opened in 1890, soon becoming a popular place for families, couples, and hospital staff and patients.

It has provided a space to commemorate the war dead, helped the civil defence of the city during the Second World War and acted as a venue for political marches and civil rights rallies into the twenty-first century.

But little of the park’s heritage is visible today.

Star finds so far include

  • Glazed ceramic ‘five stones’ and marbles, telling us about the games children played in the Park.
  • A medallion celebrating the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902.
  • A clay pipe bowl with a skull and cross design, produced by a Manchester factory, and referred to as ‘Death and Glory’. The bowl probably commemorates the 17th Lancers regiment who participated in the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Other more mundane objects such as bottles, plates, jewellery and house keys lost by Mancunians over the years, depict the changing lifestyles from the mid 1800s to the present day.

Project partners include the Archaeology Department, The Friends of Whitworth Park, Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre – all based at The University of Manchester.

Participants in the project have included local community volunteers, schools, long-term unemployed people, and the CBA Young Archaeologists’ Club.

The team will also lay-on a series of workshops, drama performances, open days and daily tours during the excavations, with future plans for public lectures and an exhibition at Manchester Museum in 2014.

Project Leader, Professor Siân Jones, who specializes in community archaeology, said: “Parks are an important part of the urban social environment informing people’s sense of identity, belonging and place.

“By investigating the history of Whitworth Park, we aim to increase everyone’s awareness of the value of these wonderful green spaces in the heart of the city, and encourage people to become more involved in their future.

“So we are delighted the Heritage Lottery Fund has supported this project to explore its past.”

“Our main objective is to enhance different local communities’ appreciation and use of this vital and vibrant urban green space, while being involved in archaeological discovery and research.

Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this excavation project that is giving local people the chance to quite literally uncover the history of Whitworth Park, which has been at the heart of the community for more than 120 years. We are looking forward to seeing what is discovered and urge everyone to take part!”

Notes for editors

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, HLF invests in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK.  www.hlf.org.uk.

Whitworth Park Community Archaeology Project dates for your diary:

  • Open Day in the Park Saturday 6th July 11-3pm
  • Manchester Museum 'Big Saturday' event Saturday 13th July
  • Visits from local schools on: Friday 5th, Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th July
  • Daily site tours at lunchtime (12.30-1.30pm) but staff and students will be on hand to talk to visitors throughout the day.

Siân Jones, Melanie Giles are available for comment about the project and the excavation.

Ken Shone is available for comment about the Friends of Whitworth Park and the work they are doing to regenerate the Park.

Images are available

For media enquiries contact:
Mike Addelman
Press Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567