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.



Digging and Delving at Castleshaw Roman Forts

It’s June 2017 and we were taking part in the First Greater Manchester Archaeology Festival… the forecast was for rain all day, but surprise! – we managed to get a largely dry day!

Here are Norman’s hands showing the volunteers the area for digging…

 And here are his test-pitting aims for the day:

  1. Undertake archaeological test pitting in the area to the north of the Roman Fort northern defences and bounded on the west by the Roman north road and to the north and east by Dirty Lane. The test pits will be dug at regular intervals to give good coverage across the area to determine the presence or absence of Roman features and deposits.
  2. Locate and partly re-excavate several old excavation trenches located in or close to the north defences.
  3. Undertake archaeological trenching across the site of a former field boundary identified in the 2014 geophysical survey.

Here’s a couple of test pits well underway, one with some stake holes appearing…   

And some of the dig team: Sonia; Tom and Alan; Marc; Cliff; Nick and Gill



By lunch time there were finds!  Including of a piece of daub, a 2nd C AD sherd of black burnished ware, a rim sherd of mortarium, a sherd of greyware and a fragment of melon bead.  See Norman’s report at the end for full description, meanwhile some photos appear below.


Guided tours were happening through the day and here’s a couple of interested participants with Sue, one of the tour guides, with Norman giving info on the test pitting. 

Meanwhile, over on the East side of the fort Phil and me were doing geophysical survey of an oblong area from the East Gate to the fence.


Here’s some pictures of the test pits at the time of the last roundup… and a lovely piece of slip ware c. 17/18C.



Below is an image of the geophyz result, overlaid on to the familiar aerial photo of the forts… you can see the markings of the East Gate at bottom left corner of the geophyz overlay.  And you’ll find more detail on the web-site – http://www.castleshawarchaeology.co.uk/  … just watch the little scrolling bar at the top and click on geophyz survey when it comes up.  You’ll also find there an explanation of the 2014 excavation of the East Gate and how this fits into it.

I think you’ll know that we were pretty pleased with finding this – a new direction for the road that was previously thought to run round the fort!  And raising all sorts of interesting questions….

In his summary of the test pits Norman reports:

“Five test pits were dug in a line parallel with and just outside the defensive ditches on the north side of the Roman fort. The western most test pit revealed the edge of an old excavation trench dug at right angles across the road leading from the north gate. A shallow Roman deposit of burn material was found overlying natural. This contained a sherd of early 2nd century AD black burnished ware. In the plough soil layer above the Roman deposit was found a fragment of Roman melon bead along with several sherds of post medieval pottery including a nicely decorated body sherd of late 17th/early 18th century trail slipped ware. Another test pit was located over the line of an old excavation trench running north from the rampart. The old trench backfill was excavated to reveal a well cut trench with vertical sides going down into natural clay. The date of this trench is not known. Within the back fill, and therefore unstratified, were several Roman finds, including: a rim sherd of mortarium, a base sherd of grey ware, and a piece of daub probably for a timber building wall. These finds might indicate that there was a building nearby. The presence of these sherds within the backfill suggest that this trench was probably dug in 1907-8 when it is known the workmen kept only the larger pieces. One of the other test pits had several stake holes in the base, cut in to natural, but there was no discernible pattern and it is not known what these were for. The last two test pits went down onto natural and had no Roman deposits or finds, but one of them showed clear signs of plough marks cut in to natural yellow clay. This indicates that this north of the defences has been affected by deep ploughing. There were no Roman features but this is the first of 3 days test pitting in this area so we may well find these when we come back to the site at the end of August.”

Many thanks to all the volunteer diggers, to the tour guides, and to the geophysical team for a great day at Castleshaw Roman Forts, to the visitors on the day, and to Norman Redhead for making it all possible.

Farewell, till we talk again, Bloggerina

Our New Information Boards – May 2017

Glorious day up at Castleshaw when the Information Boards were installed and officially opened!  The Boards were part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project – see Blog 1 for details, daily diary and many photos from that time at link  https://castleshawarchaeology.wordpress.com/

Today was the coming together of the final objective, that is to help visitors to gain an understanding of the long history of the Valley.

The main movers in the plan to create and install the Information Boards were Norman Redhead, Archaeologist and Leader of the entire project, and Morgana Restall, the United Utilities Ranger for the site at the time.

Norman and Morgana 

As you go into the public car park along Waterworks Rd you’ll see the first Board facing you as you walk toward the exit at the far end.  Here’s Morgana with the Board.  It describes the landscape and wildlife of the Valley.

Morgana with Valley Board

Then as you walk toward the gate that will take you to the road leading up to the Roman Forts you will see on your right the major Board showing the history of the valley ‘Through the Ages’.

 Norman shows the full extent of the History Board





Here’s the Valley Board ready to be officially opened, and a group of Reception Class children from the Castleshaw Centre who happened to be visiting that day!


Morgan has the honour… and proudly does the job!


Speeches were given by Morgana, Sue Exon, (Chair of the Committee of the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts), and Alan Schofield, (Chair of the Castleshaw Working Party)…


Norman and Alan

Some members of the Committee looked on… all in all everyone agreed that it was a job well done and well completed on a very fine day in the beautiful Castleshaw Valley.


More digging to report on soon, regards as ever, Bloggerina

Trowellers’ Treat for May (2017): Test-pitting at Water’s Clough

Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts Day at Water’s Clough 13th May 2017

In case you don’t know where Water’s Clough is, and honestly not many of us did until last year, it’s the stream area where the Roman Road disappears out of the Castleshaw Valley before it appears again up the hill to the Forts.  Here’s a small map to show our area of investigation…

Here’s a view from the test area down the valley towards Delph, which you can just see in the distance.

It’s roped up just now for the geophyz, but you might be able to detect the agger, look to the right of the image and you can see the slope going down.



We did some initial geophyz of this area last June..  Below is the result and you can so clearly see the road now in black on the geophyz image.  It’s really easy to see the continuation of the road and the probable site of the bridging to get it across the water.


Here’s the geophyz team for today, using the nice upgraded meter, Phil with his best supervisor’s hat on, and Rob from 3rd yr Uni of Mancs.  He says he’s finished his dissertation so it’s ok to be here!


Also trying her hand at a bit of geophyz was Eleanor…

     with the result,

and in close up here…..   


Norman (our leader) planned to put test pits across the part of the road that was surveyed in June as mentioned, and he had five placed in a line as in this photo.




            ..We had some old friends with us…. here’s Nick and Gill


  Sue (committee chair)

and John and Nora with Eleanor


And here’s some pics of the test pits – some showing the road and one showing the clay bed at the side of the road.




Norman reports:

“The line of test pits established that the Roman road is present at this point but quite badly degraded with only the bottom foundation material surviving as quite a shallow deposit. It looks as though there has been heavy recycling of the road material at this point at a later date after it goes out of use – it doesn’t survive to anything like the depth of the Causeway Sett section dug by Saddleworth Historical Society in the 1970s. The road appears to be laid onto a prepared flat natural clay bed with no evidence for road side ditches or buried ground surface, although of course we only sampled a small part of the road.”

These are images from the geophyz… overlaid on to the earth image, with measurements, the 2017 geophyz itself, and then the two images – 2016 and 2017 together.



You’ll see on the first image at the top of post the word ‘RUIN’…..Here’s Cliff, Steve and Mike trenching across the east wall of the ruin; Norman says “deep foundations but no floor or finds”

And here’s Sue, Rob, Mark and Eleanor standing on the corners of another building.  Norman again: “I spotted (this one) which lies close to the ruined one but which we haven’t noticed before. I intend to go back soon and investigate this as it is becoming clear the ruin is part of a larger complex of structures and earthworks. All in all, a useful day!”


And we all agree… watch this space for more!

All geophyz processing and imaging by Phil Barrett; earth photo courtesy of Norman Redhead; photos by Norman Redhead and Jane Neild.  Lead archaeologist Norman Redhead.  Dig team today: Sue; Cliff; Mike; Steve; John; Nora; Nick; Gill; Eleanor. Geophyz team: Phil; Rob.  Blog by Bloggerina.

8th April 2017 – Excavation at Mytholm Mill

Here’s a picture of Mytholm, Mytholme, or Mytham Mill in Uppermill on the morning of the excavation.       

Residents of Saddleworth or anyone walking by the river from Uppermill to the garden centre (Newbank) would recognise this right away!


For anyone else though, if you look down from the canal with the Limekiln behind you it’s the ruined building in front of you, the viaduct and Uppermill on the left, the garden centre down the path to the right. Here’s a map.


The mill (Mytham then) was built in 1779 as a fulling mill by local merchants John Harrop, John Smith and Henry Whitehead.  At this time the woollen industry was expanding at a considerable rate creating a need for processing in a bigger faster way, but the developmental stage at the time produced industrial buildings that looked like typical weaver’s cottages.

This is a photo of it, probably early 20 Century 

Fulling was the stage of beating woven cloth with hammers to thicken it – modern felting is done in the same way – but the scale of the fulling process at Mytholm would have meant that the hammering of the wool pieces would have gone on for up to 20 hours! The hammers were massive wooden blocks and were driven by an ‘overshot waterwheel’.  You can see the groove of the wheel here, and there was a dam to control the water constructed at the height of the first floor.  The dam is visible at the site.

Here’s an interesting legend on the extant wall at the other side of this grooved wall: it possibly refers to the height of the head water or of the wheel.                  

So why excavate?  Well just what the XV1 FEET refers to is one of the questions.  Another question relates to the location of the end wall of the building, and another to the location of the steam engine, which took over the power supply at some point before 1866.  We know that because it was sold by auction at that time along with a great deal of sawmill equipment.  Mytholm had ceased being a fulling mill in the 1840s when Hutchinson and Co turned it into the saw mill, and it is possible that the steam engine was wholly related to that business.  The blocks in the picture are assessed as being the stands for the engine, you can easily get to see them as they’re by the side of the river across from the mill site. 

So the excavation began on the beautiful morning of 8th April 2017, managed by Norman Redhead, County Archaeologist, in association with the local archaeological group that is the Friends of Castleshaw Roman Forts.

 Here’s Norman giving the first briefing to some of the team at the start of the day.

And below, Paul is setting up the Friends information boards and info.


In the early part of the day there were 3 trenches, looking like this.

Phil, Jane, John ….

                             …then John, Nora, Alan

and Norman, Claire and Jack

Things moved on well and the weather held!  We always welcome visitors and we estimate that about 200 people talked to us during the day.

This is the major wall at the East Gate of the Mill.

The middle trench went down through demolition rubble to find a cinder level at around 65cm.  John dug a sondage of 50cm and found boiler waste, so it can be said that the boiler house was in that part.

This is the wall going East, there wasn’t time to find the back or the return.

The other trench found no structure of any consequence.

Finds were gathered, and Phil checked the spoil heaps….  There was… pottery, glass, metal and demolition rubble  … even a wall tie              


But the star find was found by John and Nora in their trench –          

…a beautiful bone pipe-bowl carved with a heart and initials in a cartouche on the reverse…. more photos to be found in Norman’s report, I’ll let you know when it’s on the website.


 Measurements were taken and photography done, then back-filling and closures


Norman gave the final briefing, some things are resolved but some tasks remain, enough for us to come back another day.

Here’s a picture of the group of workers.  I can confirm that they seemed happy and contented after a job well done on a beautiful spring day!

We’ll see you again somewhere then… but farewell for now, as ever, Bloggerina

A Roman Road…or two ?

Out and about 23rd May – thought you might like to see a couple of contenders for Roman Road of the month!

The first is the famous Ardotalia-Melandra to Rigodunum-Castleshaw short-cut.  Its reality as a Roman Road is just a fact of life to the people who’ve grown up in Carrbrook, Micklehurst or Greenfield.  Have a quick surf and you’ll see sources citing Moor Edge Road as the Roman Road that allowed troops to travel from Buxton-Brough-Melandra to Castleshaw and on to York without the extra day’s march to Mamucium-Manchester.

Go to Carrbrook and see the official noticeboard of the country park – whoever wrote this is sure the road is Roman, no question. But the OS Roman Britain map (NMR 2001) doesn’t mark it and it seems there is uncertainty amongst academic sources.  A few pictures to help you make up your own minds…

DSC_0660   DSC_0663

You can’t deny that beautiful metalled surface… and here it is below complete with Roman milepost!  Trust me there’s been no medieval gateway there…


Want a ditch?  Here’s the most well-dug ditch to grace the side of any Roman road.


Later on, after lunch at Woolly Knits, the sun came out and we drifted over to Castleshaw…


How about this one below?  Castleshaw to Denshaw and Rochdale….

DSC_0672  DSC_0675

Same metalled surface, same completely robust structure. …

Here it is straight as you like along the tops …DSC_0705






and this side of the road is really showing itself to be in very good shape





DSC_0676  Back down the hill –

looking straight at Castleshaw

You may think neither of them are Roman.  But if you think one of them is – then the other one stands up to the comparison.  We love them both and, well, we think they’re both Roman!  That’s our view…what do you think?…. we’d love to know

Catch you later


All photos today by P Barrett, if you want to use any of them just ask via blog and we’ll get the original to you.