Water’s Clough – a puzzle, in words and pictures

So.  What was going on at Water’s Clough?

If you’ve looked at previous blogs you’ll know that we first started getting curious about this area in 2016, when some upstanding walls and google earth images seemed like clues pointing us to some story or other.  No records had survived.  No maps from any period showed anything at all.  Here’s where it is, as shown by the little map from earlier blog.


You’ll see then that the site is in the Castleshaw valley by the stream. This is down from the Forts, which are not shown but are away to the North East. The grey road going off the south of the diagram is Waterworks Rd, eventually joining A62 or the back road into Delph.

Since those first questions we’ve done several test-pitting days, some blogged earlier.  And, whilst there were very few artefact finds, it has to be said that our curiosity just grew ever-more pressing because what we did have was structure!

The first question was whether it was some amazing survival of either the Romans or something from the medieval period, or something else?  The Cistercians were great builders and land managers from early medieval and of course it had been always known in Saddleworth that they had, at some point, built a Grange further down the valley, on land just a little bit higher out of the valley bottom.  By the time of the last test-pitting day this was a vague possibility.  The only way forward was to dig in a slightly bigger way than normal (for us).  Preparations began for a week long dig some time during 2018.

By May half-term week this year we had the necessary permissions from United Utilities and even a small grant from them to fund another archaeologist.  So Norman Redhead and Kirsty Whittall were our professional team, we had a couple of dozen members volunteering to dig throughout the week, and the usual Geophyz survey team (Phil and Jane) in operation!  Also flying in with surveying help would be a drone man (Greg), and one more expert survey to be done by Richard from Salford University.


Here’s Norman with Eleanor and the stalwart Utilities people bringing on the grub!


Kirsty looking very thoughtful and Phil with Resistivity survey kit


Greg the drone man (Suave Aerial Photographs)

and below is Norman explaining to Richard exactly what he wants surveying


All systems in place – now it was a frenzy of digging, trowelling, geophyzing, surveying, drawing, and droning.  And the weather was largely up for it too!

   Norman setting the pace…       

           Chris and Mike


Kirsty and Steve

  Sonia proving that you can dig without kneeling…

Now and again they got a break…

But was everybody happy?  You could bet your sweet trowel they were!                    

   Cliff and Mark


                                    Dave, with a mysterious rock

                        Jayne    Sue

  Margaret with a medieval road

                     Margaret and Sue   and Norman

Time for some sample structure…

  Great example of one of the walls

Here it is with the other end of that trench, the medieval road


 One of the corners at the West end

Below, the building is nearest us, the medieval road in the centre and the Roman Road at the far end..

  And from the other direction

Below is the medieval road with a section removed N to S


 a robbed out section

Final analysis and feedback……


Below, Norman gets the best job of all…


and then finds the Roman roadside ditch!



So what was the outcome of all this detective work?  Well it’s just not over!  At this stage I can tell you that we have a huge building. It was probably Cistercian and possibly multi-purpose. If it was Cistercian then it was connected with Roche Abbey.  Beyond that, and if your appetite is wetted at all, then there’s a date for your diary.  Come to Norman’s talk on 12th September, when he will discuss every aspect of the site and of his analysis. This will be at the Civic Hall, Uppermill and is the AGM of the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts, but all are welcome. Suffice it to say that this is a tremendously interesting and enigmatic site that will be the focus of much exploration in the future.


Here’s a pic of the dig team on one of the days but very grateful thanks and warm regards to all who put their strength and sweat into the dig week for the simple love of it!  Special thanks to United Utilities and the professional archaeology team of Norman Redhead and Kirsty Whittall for making it all possible. Thanks to the farmer, we loved the friendly bullocks!  And thanks to those who gave special expert help: Greg; Richard; Phil.

We’ll be back!

Bye for now, your Bloggerina.


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