Merseyside Archaeological Society offers its members an opportunity to take part in primary archaeological research and to acquire the relevant skills.
This is real archaeology which helps us to discover the past, our ancestors and the world in which they lived. With coaching, members can gain real "hands on" experience in various aspects of practical archaeology.
With the introduction of the UK Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the opportunities for amateur societies to undertake invasive archaeology, such as excavations, reduced greatly. So the Society has also undertaken archaeological projects which use non-invasive techniques such as churchyard recording, and expanded its activities towards other goals such as education.
If you would like to get involved or find out more about fieldwork activities, please contact us.
Current Fieldwork Projects
Stanley Bank, St Helens
There is a volunteering opportunity for MAS members at the Stanley Bank Copperworks Dig.
The Stanley Copperworks was established in 1773 by Thomas Patten to smelt copper ores from Parys Mountain, Anglesey, which was brought to the site via the Sankey Canal.
The works were taken over by Thomas 'King Copper' Williams in 1785, and continued to operate until about 1814. The exact location of the site of the works has been lost since, so the trenches we'll be digging will hopefully confirm the location of the furnaces and buildings.
Graveyard Survey at All Saints Church, Childwall Abbey Road, Childwall
Visitors will have the opportunity to learn the skills required to record a graveyard. The results of our work to date will be on display and there will be the opportunity to gain hands on skills and meet members of the Society. No prior experience is necessary. Everyone welcome.
In April 2009, the Department of Continuing Education at Liverpool University, in conjunction with Merseyside Archaeological Society, ran a course on the techniques involved in surveying graveyards. The course was based at All Saints Church, Childwall, and was attended by about a dozen people. The course and the venue proved so interesting that the Society started a project last summer to record the whole of the churchyard. This involved plotting every grave onto a plan, photographing every monument and recording the detail of each gravestone or memorial. To date about 10% of the churchyard has been recorded and the details of about 250 18th and 19th-century graves and their 622 occupants entered onto a database which is retained at the Museum of Liverpool as part of the Regional Archaeological Research Archive.
We are now beginning to generate some statistics from the information gathered. Firstly, most monuments are 19th century despite being in the historic core, not very surprising but at least now based on evidence. What looks interesting is that there seems to be a greater proportion of females commemorated in the later 19th century. Quite what this tells us we are not sure. It could be that females made up a greater % of the population (one would need to look at parish registers to check that) and that there was a greater tendency to commemorate them later on. Secondly, only one out of five inscriptions in the early 18th century relates to females, which could be a random pattern in the data or it could mean that women were less likely to be commemorated on 18th century memorials. This could be a real effect as it looks as if there’s a gradual change from the late 18th to mid 19th centuries, but we need more data to be sure.
We would like to hear from anyone who has carried out a similar survey in the north-west. The project will continue in the Spring and if anybody is interested in helping with recording please get in touch. No prior experience is required.
Merseyside Archaeological Society was awarded a ‘Your Heritage’ Heritage Lottery Fund grant for a community project known as ‘Rainford’s Roots’. The project was focused on the village of Rainford in St Helens and explored the industrial heritage of the village, focusing on its post medieval potting and clay tobacco pipe cottage industries.
This project was set up in collaboration with National Museums Liverpool and many aspects of the project were supervised and supported by their Field Archaeology Unit. The museum also hosted a Community Project Officer who oversaw the running of the 21-month project.
Rainford has a rich industrial heritage which was investigated through various means of fieldwork, including surveys and excavations, as well as through documentary research. One of the main aims of the project was to encourage community participation, through training, local activities, and outreach programmes.
The project aimed to:
Undertake an archaeological investigation of Rainford
Engage with the local community by providing opportunities for volunteering and learning new skills
Encourage wider participation and learning through a programme of outreach activities
Present the project and its outputs to a wider audience through exhibitions, digital and printed media
How did we get the idea for this project? This project developed from a small community excavation which took place in the autumn of 2011, was carried out by the Society and the Field Archaeology Unit of National Museums Liverpool. The results of this excavation were reported on briefly in the Society newsletter, and a presentation took place at that year’s Christmas party.
To summarise the results of this investigation, a series of pottery dumping episodes from a local kiln was uncovered near an ancient field boundary at the back of a local resident’s property. A large group of 16th and 17th century dark-glazed finewares and coarsewares were discovered (see photo), along with a collection of kiln furniture including saggars. Even though this assemblage is made up of waster vessels which had been discarded by the potters, the quality of the fineware cups and mugs was remarkable.
The deposit forms the earliest locally produced ceramic material to be discovered in Rainford, pushing back the dates of known manufacture by several decades. The collection also forms the first Cistercian-ware kiln group to be discovered in the North West of England.
The Rainford’s Roots project successfully continued on from the success and achievements of these excavations, resulting in the publication of a monograph with National Museums Liverpool (See Publications page).
The discoveries from the project have now been published in two books. The first, published in October 2014, takes a wider view of archaeological work in Rainford, while the second presents the detailed finding from the project, supplemented by other research on the industries in the village and St Helens more widely. See Publications.