During the early 1970s organisations such as the Chester Archaeological Society were successfully receiving help from their members as volunteer assistance on a variety of locally based archaeological projects such as farm building surveys. The local branches of the Workers’ Educational Association were noticing a growing demand for evening classes in archaeological methods and courses about local archaeology and, in 1974, the University of Liverpool appointed its first extra-mural archaeologist and began to extend its provision. So, here on Merseyside an interest in archaeology was growing and members of the rapidly establishing archaeology classes were expressing a willingness and a desire to become involved in local projects.
In March 1975 the Liverpool University Archaeological Society carried out rescue excavations in advance of a housing development at Yew Tree House moated site in Halewood (Warhurst 1977). Later in 1975 students of Christ’s College Archaeological Society carried out a detailed structural survey of Lydiate Chapel, in response to its precarious physical state (O’Hanlon 1977). Early in 1976 another housing development at Wavertree threatened the site of the 19th-century discovery of eight Bronze Age cordoned urns and was explored by the University of Liverpool Students’ Archaeological Society (Chitty 1977a).
Each of these pieces of fieldwork demonstrated quite clearly the need for some means of bringing together people and resources to carry out rescue work in Merseyside.
As a response, on the 25th of March 1976, a Steering Committee was formed under the secretaryship of Mr Keith Myers in order to bring forward plans for the creation of an archaeological society for Merseyside. The Committee consisted of the following persons:
Mr Roger Ainslie Miss Gill Chitty Mr Peter Davey Mr Peter Halkyn Miss Dorothy O'Hanlon
Mr John Mead Mrs Diana Morgan Mr Keith Myers Mr David Roberts Mrs Margaret Warhurst
Following a meeting at Edgehill College members of this Committee agreed to assist the West Lancashire Archaeological Society in a field survey in advance of the construction of the M58. This project resulted in a joint publication in the following year (Chitty (ed.) 1977). During the summer of 1976 members of the committee were again active in the field with a six-week excavation at South Castle Street, Liverpool on the site of the new Crown Courts in the centre of Liverpool (Davey 1977). In order to undertake this rescue excavation, on or near the site of Liverpool Castle, at short notice the Steering Committee succeeded in gaining a grant from the Department of the Environment, kindly administered by the Liverpool Museum, now the County museum, which also provided technical services and dealt with all of the finds in house. Although Museum curatorial staff were prevented by the terms of their contracts from working on the site, a number took annual leave in order to be part of the project. Labour was provided by many volunteers, a majority of whom were members of local WEA and Extra-Mural classes.
The absence of an organisation such as a local Archaeological Society to fulfil a coordinating role and generate local interest in the history, archaeology and environment of Merseyside was, again, clearly evident and on the 26th of October, the Steering Committee held a consultative meeting at the Royal Institution, Colquitt Street, Liverpool under the heading ‘A proposed archaeological society for the county of Merseyside’. The meeting was chaired by Mr Ben Edwards, Lancashire County Archaeologist and attended by representatives of many local societies and institutions including:
Birkenhead History Society
Christ’s College, Liverpool
Council for British Archaeology
Crosby Workers Educational Association
Lancashire County Records office
Liverpool College of Higher Education
Liverpool Record Office (City Library)
Liverpool University Archaeological Society
Liverpool University, Department of Archaeology
Liverpool University, Institute of Extension Studies
Merseyside County Planning Department
Norton Priory Society
Notre Dame College, Liverpool
Sefton Planning Department and
West Lancashire Archaeological Society
The functions of the proposed society were outlined in the letter of invitation from Keith Myers and agreed by the Steering Committee as follows:
To promote archaeological activity and research within the County of Merseyside and provide a focus for archaeological interests.
To be prepared to organise archaeological resources within the Merseyside County with regard to fieldwork and excavation.
To encourage the preservation of any sites, buildings, monuments or records of archaeological interest in the County.
To collect information for a central records system.
To arrange meetings, lectures, exhibitions, conferences and visits to places of historic interest.
To collect funds whereby financial assistance may be granted to achieve the above functions.
To encourage public interest in and concern for antiquity and archaeology, and should associate itself with other bodies with cognate interests.
Following the positive outcome of this consultation a public meeting was held, also at the Royal Institution in Colquitt Street, on the 4th of December on which occasion the proposed constitution was adopted and the Society formally inaugurated.
The first Annual general Meeting took place on the 30th April 1977 and established the officer structure and functions of its managing Council, with a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Journal Editor, five Metropolitan District Secretaries to co-ordinate work in the differing regions of the County and seven ordinary members. By the time this meeting was held members of the Society had already carried out a graveyard survey in the early months of 1977 at St Mary’s Birkenhead (Chitty 1977b).
Chitty G. 1977a ‘Excavations at Wavetree, 1976’ J Merseyside Archaeol Soc1, 11-12. Chitty G. 1977b ‘Graveyard survey, St Mary’s Birkenhead’ J Merseyside Archaeol Soc1, 17-18. Chitty G. (ed) 1977 M58 Archaeological Survey Liverpool and Ormskirk: Merseyside Archaeological Society and West Lancashire Archaeological Society. Davey P.J. 1977 ‘South Castle Street 1976: Interim Report’ J Merseyside Archaeol Soc1, 13-15. O’Hanlon D. 1977 ‘St Catherine’s Chapel, Lydiate’ J Merseyside Archaeol Soc1, 43-57. Warhurst M. 1977 ‘Moated site at Halewood’ J Merseyside Archaeol Soc1, 5-10.