Other rural houses and cottages

There have been several archaeological investigations of Post-Medieval rural sites in Cheshire include those at Woolston near Warrington (Dodd 2013), Tattenhall, and Oakhanger (Leah 2014). Well-preserved remains were recorded in all cases, whilst at Woolston and Tattenhall there was clear evidence of earlier phases of a Post-Medieval building. It is clear, however, that these were relatively high-status sites, and attempts to locate low-status buildings, often on the fringes of former mossland and heath, have in many instances been unsuccessful.

The excavated remains of Woolston Farmstead, Warrington, Cheshire (courtesy of Earthworks Archaeology)

There has been similar work carried out in Lancashire. At Stanhill near Oswaldtwistle (L), for instance, two early 18th-century weavers’ cottages were excavated in advance of development (Stitt and Miller 2013). The stone-built foundations of both cottages were exposed, although little physical evidence survived for any internal fixtures or fittings, other than substantial stone partitions that separated the front and back rooms of the cottages. The lack of any fixtures and fittings is frequently the case with the excavation of these types of site, and precise dating is often elusive.

At Openshaw West (GM), excavations in 2010 unearthed the foundations of a cottage that had seemingly been built for agricultural workers’ in the 18th century. Ivy Cottage was of particular interest in that the cottages continued to be occupied by agricultural workers into the 20th century, indicating that farming on the fringe of industrial Manchester had not been superseded entirely by industrial activity. The original building comprised a small double-pile house, seemingly typical of a small rural house of 18th-century date (Miller 2013).

At Lowes, in the Walmersley area of Bury (GM), a trial excavation by Bury Archaeology Group revealed the margins of an early 16th-century domestic habitation site, partly buried beneath a shallow deposit of ‘hill-wash’, which contained a group of 17th-century ceramics. Overlying this, an early 18th-century yard, with drainage gully and remains of building foundations, appeared as a possible extension to an earlier building (BAG 2015).

As is the case with recent research into many different types of Post-Medieval sites and monuments, the pressing need moving forward is thematic synthesis of the huge volume of data that has been generated. Much of this information resides in ‘grey literature’ reports, and synthesis will allow those areas that have been researched thoroughly to be identified and, most importantly, will enable gaps in the current understanding of rural settlement and agricultural practice in the Post-Medieval North West to be highlighted. Detailed accounts of some individual archaeological projects have been brought to publication, such as the excavations undertaken at Bewsey Old Hall near Warrington (Ch) during the 1970s and 1980s, which provides a useful and comprehensive case study of a medieval manor house and its estate that was remodelled during the Post-Medieval period (Lewis et al 2011).

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