Author Archives: Cliff Ivers

Artistic reconstruction of the Boar’s Head


This artistic reconstruction shows the Boar’s Head Inn as it was in the mid 17th century and was completed for MAS by local Middleton artist Steve Whitworth. The timber frame on the right was constructed in 1622 and research into probate inventories show it was operating as an Inn as early as 1623. The left hand building is dated as 1654 and was probably occupied by the Walkeden family.  At a later date, the left hand building was split into two, a door and another gable was added. By the early 19th century, the Inn was knocked through into one building and the sessions room was added.

There has been an Inn or Pub in continuous operation at this site for nearly 400 years, surely qualifying the establishment as the oldest pub in England?


Tree-ring dating the Olde Boar’s Head

Following the first phase of Tree-ring dating the timbers of our HQ, MAS members had a presentation from Dendrochronologist Robert Howard. He revealed that the timbers in the upstairs meeting room were mostly felled on a common date of 1622.
Further samples have been take and these should help to identify if all the bay’s of the building were assembled at the same time.
Further research has identified that the Boar’s Head was operating as an alehouse as early as 1640 possibly making it the oldest pub in Greater Manchester.
The Tree-ring dating has been funded by the Middleton Township Heritage Lottery Fund.


MAS join the Vernacular Architecture Group (VAG)

Our society has recently become an affiliate member of VAG . Hopefully MAS members will use the group to help study and survey the fantastic vernacular buildings we have in Middleton. VAG hold a number of conferences each year that MAS members will be able to attend. Also they publish regular journals and have online data bases of items such as tree-ring surveys. If you are interested in getting involved in surveying Middleton buildings, please drop me an email…..

Church House/Grapes Inn 2015 photos available

Some snaps of the dig are now available at 2015-church-housegrapes-inn-photo-album/


Hopwood Millers Cottage

We are re-starting the regular Tuesday dig in Hopwood Woods on Tuesday 22 September. Hopefully we can complete the first half the cottage excavation before the winter sets in. If you would like to join in, meet outside the sports pavilion at 9-15 or look for us 50m downstream of the water mill. Email for more information.


Church House/Grapes Inn Blog


All done, just need to fill in the hole and dismantle the compound tomorrow. The dig was an outstanding success with an average of 7 volunteers on site each day. We didn’t expect to find so many features some of which will need full investigation at a later date. I think we deserve a bit of a rest now.




Was the wettest day we have had so far. Fortunately most of the clean up was done yesterday and were were able to continue recording under the gazebo. Open day and the big reveal tomorrow. All volunteers would be welcome to join the end of dig beer at three PM.




Blog master missed day twenty but good progress continues. We have decided to leave the hearth alone for now. It could be one of the earliest features on the site so we will come back and excavate it next year. The find processing machine (Martin, Anne and Liz) are struggling with the large amount of material we are bringing out of the trench. The rest of the Time-team are working hard to have everything ready for the Sunday evening backfill. 


Hectic days, another drain found, lots of drawing and context recording going on. We are hoping to have it all spic and span for the open day on Sunday. The photo shows Church House in the background.


Lots of progress today with several key features being cleaned and drawn. The drain in the NE corner is done as well as the western side of the cobbled path. The path appears to travel from St Leonard’s square to the rear of the pub but may have been truncated at some time. Rob and Geoff managed to get to the bottom of the pub cellar, unfortunately there is no beer there! The cellar walls are made of early hand made bricks, possibly Tudor. Class 6 of Middleton Parish school visited the site today and were most impressed.

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A lovely sunny Sunday at St Leonard’s today. It’s  great for us to get the support of the churchgoers as they peep into our hole and  ask “have you found anything yet?” Well yes, a pub cellar, a cobbled pathway, a drain, a hearth, lots and lots of clay pipes and pottery sherds.  We’ve not quite managed to interpret how they relate to the history of the site yet, but we have a week left to do this. The MAS dig is turning out to be one of the most interesting archaeological investigations in Greater Manchester this year. Why not pop down and join in?



Bob and me are truly nackered so we’re having a break tomorrow. The archaeology is really intriguing at the moment so we are not really revealing too much on Facebook as we cannot be certain what we are finding. Perhaps you may wish to review what we are excavating and look at the only photo of the Church House farm and a later painting. We really need help on this dig, so please get your scruffs on and come down and get dirty with Mas this Sunday.

Church House Farm was demolished in 1898, but was built on the remains of an earlier Alehouse known as the Grapes Inn. Middleton’s famous radical, Sam Bamford described the Alehouse in his 1849 book “Early Days, Life of a Radical.

“Outside of the (Church) yard wall, towards the north, stood an old thatched timber and daub house, which one entered down a step, through a strong low door with a wooden latch. This was “Old Joe Wellins’s,” the church alehouse; a place particularly resorted to by rough fellows when they had a mind to a private drinking bout. The sacred edifice itself is dedicated to Saint Leonard, the patron of thieves, and whether or not thieves and outlaws felt more assured than common under the wing, as it were, of their saint, it was a current tradition in my younger days, that more than one of “the gentlemen roadsters ” who lived by levying contributions on the northern highways, made it his “boozing ken,” or place of concealment and repose after their foraging expeditions: Nevison and Turpin were especially mentioned as having frequented this house. When this old building was pulled down several curious antique coins were found; of what date no one who saw them could tell. ”



A good turnout today. We have started to empty part of the cellar and progressing work in the north west corner. Some more pics tomorrow. Don’t forget, the dig is closed on Saturday.


Unlucky for some? Well no, we keep on finding features, these are the chunks of masonry or soil/clay/rubble that we don’t understand but try to interpret. What were our ancestors doing there? Drains, fireplaces,cellars, cobbled surfaces all seem to be appearing in the hole. Trowels are now being applied in earnest. Site is open Thursday,Friday and Sunday but we is chilling out on Saturday dudes!


A bit of a coat-on, coat-off day today but we made good progress in recording the various levelling layers that were laid before the farm became a recreation field. Some lovely walls and cobbled surfaces are now making an appearance. Some of the finds have been really good and include a jewelled cross and a miniature three handled drinking cup or TYG. The dig is open all week but will be closed on Saturday.



DAY ELEVEN Bank Holiday Monday

Where are you all? Four of the time team managed to crawl out of bed this morning with another two joining after lunch. We estimate that we need to move over 1,000 wheelbarrows of soil out of the hole during the course of the dig. We have probably moved about a third of this with less than two weeks remaining. The only problem is that we are now filling the barrows using trowels instead of spades! HELP!

Some interesting new features are now appearing including a wall and a stone drain. We have identified medieval pottery shards in the topsoil, let’s hope we find them lower down as well.


Work to clear back and interpret previous excavations continued today.  A few good finds to clean and catalogue.

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No digging today, a well deserved day of rest.  However, we do have a new banner sign, thanks to Ainsley Signs for all their help creating it.

The dig re-starts tomorrow morning (Saturday 29th August).








A day of further analysis as we attempted to find and plot all the digs that have been undertaken previously.

A stone wall was uncovered towards the north west side of the site.

The MAS Chairman turned up and did a bit of digging too, which is quite unusual!

Lots of passers-by today, asking lots of questions about the site and it’s history.

The dig is closed tomorrow (Friday 28th August) but will re-open on Saturday.


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The trench is a bit of a mess as we try to locate the previous years test pits. Instead I have enclosed a picture of last Sunday’s dig. Our digs are very much for the benefit of the community so it was nice to have several families join in. We don’t normally encourage sitting on trench edges! Geoff W is the only one taking it seriously.

The dig is closed this Friday (28th August) but is open  the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend.


The trench looked gorgeous this morning in the sun. Just one thing missing? Watch this space as we take off context 504 (a levelling layer below the topsoil )and reveal some foundations. 13 attendees today including 2 teenage time team fans having their first go at archaeology. ” I’ve found another pipe Robert”


Some more interesting finds coming out as we begin to approach the archaeology. Photographs and description done by Bob on the night shift.

The “Auf Weidersehen My Dear” badge was designed and patented in 1932 to promote a song of the same name written by Al Hoffman and Ed Nelson and performed by Russ Columbo in 1932. The badge was manufactured by Miller, 18 Branston St. Birmingham. 

The Boys’ Brigade badge was issued to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.


Sunday 23rd August, a good turnout today with several families enjoying the warm weather. Our finds processing team were very busy particularly with the clay pipes. Still on context 501.


Some really useful archaeology graduates turned up today (Robert and Jordan). After being incentivised with the offer of afternoon donuts the pair made light work of raising the turf. There has been a wide selection of finds in the top soil including a coconut and Lego man, also black ware and a nice piece of slip ware.


             MAS began our largest archaeological event ever today (21/08/15) at the gates of St Leonard’s Church. We are opening a large trench to record the remains of Church House farm which was demolished in 1898. The farm was built on the remains of the Grapes Inn, described by Sam Bamford as a small thatched building that was the meeting place of thieves and villains! Previous test pits by MAS have located the cellar of the pub and a selection of pottery sherds dating back to the mid 17th century.

The event is a community dig so everybody is welcome to come along and have a go.

17th Century Pottery Sherds found at the Millers Cottage

An update on the Hopwood Mill Cottage excavation  from MAS site director, Robert Huddart;

The evidence so far would suggest 3 or possibly 4 major phases of rebuilding on the site. The problem is that some of the brick has been reused so that the age of the brick doesn’t necessarily reflect the age of the structure. For example the fireplace (now destroyed by vandals) contained 18th/early 19th century hand made brick together with some modern machine made brick and at least one Tudor dimension brick. The hand made brick dimensions from the Millers Cottage are averaging 22cm x 11cm x 7 cm. We haven’t examined the internal drain brick properly yet but it is likely that the this was also reused like the capstones. Similarly I suspect that some of the lime mortar is due to re-pointing and may not help date the wall. We have reused roof stones to cap the internal drain structure and fragments from other parts of the site. Also large quantities of dressed slate which suggests that the earlier stone roof was later replaced with slate.
The stone foundation belongs to the earliest phase (so far) and may well have supported a timber frame building, We now have some pottery evidence to support this. The re-deposited fill from the interior of the building contained 3 sherds of iron glazed earthenware and a sherd of slipware all dating from the late 17th century. So we have evidence of occupation and in the 17th century the building is much more likely to have been timber framed than of stone or brick.

Hopwood Estate tour enjoyed by all

Over 35 members and guest attended the MAS annual guided heritage tour. This was led by Geoff Wellens who has a fondness for Hopwood Clough obviously nurtured as a young boy. He showed us his favourite haunts reminising about the man who had a clock in his shed. The Clough has remnants of C19 coal mine with what looks like a pit head and stone building. Further upstream Geoff pointed out Some WW2 tank traps that were used to shore up the river bank. 

Bob Huddart explained the ongoing investigation of the millers cottage followed by Cliff Ivers demonstrating how the corn mill worked. Geoff took the party up to Lords Wood and highlighted the ice house whilst explaining how it was used.

The tour ended in time to see a glorious sunset over the Hopwood Chapel.

Geoff showing the coal mine


Tank Traps on the River Trub


The Millers Cottage Excavation


Hopwood Cornmill


The Ice House


Boundary of Middleton Hall Park Discovered by MAS Members

David Morris and Geoff Wellens have discovered the extent of Middleton Park, the estate of the Barton/Assheton Lords of Middleton.

MAS publish the Old Boar’s Head Guide

MAS have been carrying out a number of workshops at the OBH to try and understand the history of this iconic Middleton building. We have used the information found to produce a tour guide for visitors to the pub. Its now available on the website  Guide to the OBH

Also, one of the workshop attendees Douglas Newton has a unique knowledge of the building having been an architect on some of the renovations in the 1980’s. He has produced a model of the roof timbers to help interpret the original structure of the building. Douglas feels the original structure consisted of three separate box frame dwellings.  OBH Roof Model (1)

Mas will be carrying out a number of further surveys to the building this winter and hope to publish a booklet on the pub in 2016. Please contact  Cliff Ivers if you would like to help.

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