The weekly MAS investigation of Hopwood Millers Cottage is closed down for the winter but will start up again in Spring 2017. The attached plan produced by our dig director Robert Huddart, shows the progress in recording the 19th and 20th century foundations so far. Next year we should complete the rest of the structure and investigate an outbuilding identified on old maps. We have recently identified a cobbled surface on the site with evidence of a much earlier occupation.
MAS Weekend Excavation at Hopwood Millers Cottage Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th August 2016.
The Millers House dates to the 18thcentury. Last year we opened a trench at the western end of the building and found the well preserved remains of room complete with fireplace. On the north side of the building a path from the front door leads to a footbridge which had crossed the Trub Brook to the front door of the cottage. There were also garden features including a cobbled terrace with brick edging. Towards the end of the dig a small area of cobbling was discovered which suggest the possibility of an even earlier building on the site.
This year we are looking at the central section of the cottage and have already started to find more walls and surfaces.
The dig will run 10 am until 3.30 pm each day. Everyone is welcome. No previous experience is necessary and training is provided on site. If you would like to take part and do not want to dig then there are plenty of other ways in which you can contribute to the excavation including recording, surveying and small finds processing.
This year we are asking volunteers to register for the dig. There is no charge but if you wish to take part please register by Wednesday 3rd August by emailing
firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning Cliff on 07740 351814.
MAS have completed two reports on their recent activities at Hopwood Millers Cottage 2015 and the pavement investigation at the Old Boar’s Head 2016.
Whilst we don’t expect them to make a best seller list any time soon, they are useful reference documents for people interested in Middleton’s past.
Our thanks go to Robert Huddart and Cliff Ivers for producing them.
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 email@example.com for more information.
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.
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.
We are having so much fun on the Tuesday session, it has been decided to run a weekend dig on Saturday and Sunday 20/21 June 2015. 9.30 -4.0 PM This will give our working members the chance to experience troweling and recording some of the fantastic features we have found there.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring Cliff on 07740351814 if you would like to book a place.
Sunday 2nd August
Only 4 diggers this weekend, must be the rain. Speaking of which, the Millers Cottage must have been very damp and prone to flooding. The internal drain was added post first phase construction but the fireplace is on top of it. Also found some animal bones in the external French drain including beef rib.
We must have had about 18 days on site now. I think 2 of the days were dry! We’ve found a drain going S-N under the cottage. It consist of brick sides and stone roof. For some reason it does a dog leg under the back wall towards the river
Very dark and chilly in the woods, when’s summer? Found a Royal Association of Buffolos clay pipe, late C18/ early C19 today.
Tuesday 9 June
Arrived to find the fairies had visited the dig again and set fire to our tarps. They missed this C19 clay pipe.
Flamin June was wet and windy today but 5 of us got stuck in. The trench is cleaning up nicely but we are planning to extend to try and find a corner. The Bluebells are dying off to be replaced by Hymalayn Balsam, how sad. It feels good to pull them out as you pass. My time lapse of the bluebells over 5 weeks is below.
Day 8 confirmed that the two stone walls are external as the both have French drains running outside. These are both later than the stone wall. The tree roots are making it difficult work and there a lots of features that need cleaning up.Tuesday 19 May
Memory gone on phone so no pics this week. Several new features appeared today as the last of the top soil was removed from area A. They included the base of a fireplace and a water drain running outside the South wall. The Garden feature is becoming even more interesting.We are shortly to announce a weekend dig on the site on 21/22 June so working members have no excuses for not turning up.
Tuesday 12 May
No rain today. Bluebells are looking even bluer than last week, and there are white bluebells growing in places. We joined Trenches 1&2 today and christened the new creation Area A. We found a new stone foundation wall at the North of the trench.
Tuesday 5 May
Day 6 was rather wet at first but brightened up later in the day, 5 MAS members joined in. The woods change every time we walk up the lane, today the bluebells were looking rather splendid. Trench 2 was the center of attention with Geoff Wellens finding another foundation wall before dashing off to his next project. The wall is North South orientation of single end on hand made brick. This is not quite perpendicular to the hefty West East stone foundation found last week.
Trench 2 found a non linear feature, a brick circle that appears to be ornamental. Next week we may join the trenches and see where a walk up the garden path leads us.
Tuesday 28 April
Day five of this fantastic dig saw three merry men and four women brave the four seasons in one day including several hailstorms. A first timer, Jenny, showed the Trench 2 team how to find a cottage and uncovered a lovely stone wall. Trench 1 was extended to find the full extent of the pathway to the bridge. We located another segment of mill stone that appears to be made of volcanic rock.
The time team expanded to nine due in part to the wonderful weather or perhaps word has got out on the exciting archaeology we are finding? The first job was to recover the wheelbarrow and spades from the river where some kind passer by had put them for safe keeping. Trench one is showing a substantial pathway and we found a cobbled surface today that was cleaned by our cobble specialist Sonia. Trench two is a bit of a nightmare with demolition rubble and tree roots. Next Tuesday should reveal some of the cottage walls.
Tuesday 14 April
The first Tuesday and day three of the Mill Cottage investigation. Seven diggers turned up to enjoy the sunshine, birdsong and babbling of the River Trub. The main ditch is starting to show some surfaces and cuts, we are slowly removing the demolition layers. The footpath has turned up a simple carving of “Bobies grave” which may indicate a family pet buried in the garden. We will see if Marian has any recollection.
Join us next Tuesday 21 April if you fancy a day in the woods.
Sunday 12 April
he first weekend went well with 8 people attending, luckily the weather turned out better than forecast. We have two trenches started, T1 is on the footpath from the front door of the cottage to the remains of the footbridge. T 2 is showing lots of demolition rubble but signs of the N and S walls are beginning to come through. Some interesting finds…
Saturday 11th April
The dig commenced with a visit from Marian who was born in Bothy cottage some 84 years ago. Geoff Wellens recorded her memories of living there with her family. This included crossing the bridge to fetch water from the spring and stories of her fathers pony and cart. She used to collect firewood for the lady who lived in the hall.
A reference to a mill house occurs in 1781-2 described as of two bays. The building appears on the 1840 tithe map as a rectangular narrow structure. The adjacent corn mill ceased operation in the 1880s but the cottage continued to be used by Hopwood estate workers and their families. Known as Bothy Cottage, It was demolished in the 1940’s.
Our October clean up of the old mill has been reported in both the Middleton Guardian and Rochdale Online