Whitworth Park Archaeology and History Project – remains of the boating lake

10 07 2013

Whitworth Park Archaeology and History Project - remains of the boating lake

Throughout our building project there have been a series of surveys and investigations into the surrounding site – these have included checking drainage and water courses, assessment by arboriculturists of the condition of the trees in the park, and of course archaeological surveys of the ground around the Gallery building and adjacent park.

The Whitworth Park Archaeology and History project are currently digging in Whitworth park – the latest in a series of digs to remind people of the importance of the park and its history to its local communities. If you’d like to find out more, there are site tours this week at 1pm on Wednesday 10, Thursday 11 and Friday 12 July – meet at the dig near the circular flower bed in Whitworth Park.

If you’d like to see some of the finds these will be at the Manchester Museum Big Saturday – 11am to 4pm on Saturday 13 July.

This project is a collaboration between the University of Manchester Department of Archaeology, The Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery, Friends of Whitworth Park and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relation Resource Centre, supported by a generous grant of £39,700 by the Heritage Lottery Fund.




2 responses

11 07 2013

Latest up-date on the Archaeology Project:
A collection of long lost toys, just unearthed by a team of University archaeologists on a dig at Whitworth Park, have shone new light on the commercialisation of childhood by the late Victorians.

The Whitworth Park Community Archaeology Project is one of the first projects to expose and explore the rich history of everyday life in public parks between the 1890s and 1950s.

Among the finds are beautifully preserved fragments of a child’s tea set, a toy pistol, a miniature lead soldier, and ceramic “Jacks” game pieces – all early examples of commercially produced toys from the late 19th and very early 20th centuries.

The team also excavated glass balls, removed from “cod bottles” for playing with, alongside mass produced marbles, presumably used by better-off children

Professor Sian Jones, who leads the project: says: “Historical sources provide information on the development of public parks and the ideas behind them – but there’s little record of what ordinary people got up to in parks and this is why this project is so unique.

“One person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure: something dropped by the edge of the lake over a hundred years ago gives archaeologists a huge amount of important – and often forgotten – detail about what life was like in those times.

“So the work not only shines a welcome light on the lives of children, but on other intimate items of daily life, such as buttons, parts of shoes and even gentleman’s pipes.

“The artefacts provide a visceral connection to past lives and shed light on the important cultural heritage of public parks.”
Her fellow researcher Ruth Colton added: “Better-off members of the working class were able to buy marbles, toy soldiers, spinning tops, skipping ropes, “Jacks” (also know as knucklebones or five stones) and coloured pick up sticks, while meccano and plasticine became widely available in the early twentieth century.

“But poorer children were still exposed to advertising and the displays in the windows of toy shops, such as one just outside Whitworth Park.

“So these poorer children made their own toy boats, dolls and other games, though they also competed with other children for marbles as well as “recycling” the glass balls from “cod bottles” to play with.”

The Project is led by the Archaeology Department with partners The Friends of Whitworth Park, Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre. Participants in the project have included local community volunteers, schools, long-term unemployed people, and the CBA Young Archaeologists’ Club.
Whitworth Park Community Archaeology and History Project finishes on Saturday 13 July with a Manchester Museum ‘Big Saturday’.

24 03 2014

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