Category Archives: Mas Events

2017 AGM

The 2017 Annual General Meeting was held following the November meeting. The existing committee were re-elected. Minutes of the meeting can be found here AGM Nov 2017 minutes

The committee gave a series of talks showing the work of the society in 2017, including details of the Hopwood Millers Cottage investigation and desk based research on the first owners of the Old Boar’s Head. The powerpoint slides can be found here 2017 AGM combined talks

Thanks to all our members for your support in 2017. We have an interesting year planned for 2018 and we hope to circulate details as soon as plans are finalised.


Cliff Ivers, Chairman

Hopwood Millers Cottage 2016 update

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.


Public Asked to Help Hunt for Witches’ Marks

Historic England have asked for help in finding Witches’ marks – ritual protection symbols or apotropaic marks – can be found carved into the fabric of many historic places, from medieval churches and houses, to barns, caves and even the Tower of London but they have never been fully recorded.

The marks date back to times when belief in witchcraft and the supernatural was widespread. Magical symbols and ritual objects were a common part of life from around the 16th to the early 19th century.

MAS have started surveying the three oldest buildings in Middleton, the parish church, the old grammar school and the Boar’s Head pub. The surveys will be continuing early in 2017. In the meantime here are some of our apotropaic marks or graffiti.


Pentangle scratch and tally marks on choir stall at St Leonard’s


Initials carved into beam at the Grammar School (Edgar Wood?)


Protective taper burns and scratches on window of the meeting room at the Old Boar’s

Graffiti survey arranged for 6th September 2016

The training session by NW Historic Graffiti has been arranged to start at 9.30 AM on Tuesday 6th September 2016 at St Leonard’s. It will be followed by surveys of the Old Boar’s Head and the Old Grammar School. Register by emailing or phone Cliff on 07740351814.


Middleton Graffiti Poster3

Middleton Research Group to be formed

Local historian and MAS founder Geoff Wellens is organising a research group to work on the history of Middleton. This is the first meeting and all are welcome.

Its on Saturday 9th January 2016 at 2.00 PM at the Olde Boars Head.

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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.

T-4 Days to Heritage Open Days 2015!

imgresThis year’s Heritage Open Days are almost upon us, running from Thursday 10th September to Sunday 13th September the open days give the public access to usually closed and out of bounds buildings and sites.  The doors are being open at St. Leonard’s Church and of course we have our ongoing dig just outside and adjacent to St. Leonard’s Square.  We will have a display in the church too explaining a bit about the dig and the background to the site.

Also open and down the hill is Long Street Methodist Church and School Buildings.  We have a display set up there in the corridor and a few artefacts from our recent Tonge Hall Meadow Investigations on show in the School Hall.  We hope you can visit both locations to view MAS at work and the interesting material we have found.

MAS Display Boards

MAS Display Boards

MAS Display Case in the School Hall

Display showing artefacts from Tonge Hall Meadow

MAS Display Case in the School Hall

Some fine examples of pottery

MAS Display Case in the School Hall

An oyster shell too!

MAS Display Case in the School Hall

Plus tableware – Sunday best?

Weekend Dig Planned at Hopwood Millers Cottage

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 or ring Cliff on 07740351814 if you would like to book a place.


Dead at Chester Cathedral

Ruth Nugent

Ruth Nugent

On Thursday 26th February we welcome Ruth Nugent to MAS.  Ruth will be presenting her talk ‘Dead at Chester Cathedral: The Burials and Commemorations at the Cathedral’.

As a mature student, Ruth received a first-class, undergraduate degree in Archaeology from Chester in 2010 and received the Blue Coat Archaeology and Heritage award as valedictorian, and the Society for Medieval Archaeology’s John Hurst prize for the ‘most original contribution to medieval archaeology by an undergraduate dissertation’.

Published work
Nugent, R. 2012 (in press) Feathered Funerals: Birds in Early Anglo-Saxon Burials. Medieval Archaeology 55.

Nugent, R. 2012 (in press) Review: The Archaeology of the East Anglian Conversion. By Richard Hoggett, Archaeological Journal, 167.

Nugent, R. (in prep.) Home Comforts? Exploring Death as Hypersomnia in early Anglo-Saxon Burials.

Nugent, R. (in prep.) Heads and Tails: The destruction and re-creation of animal-human boundaries in early medieval funerary rites.

Poster for February 2015

MAS dig schedule is released

We have a very busy year planned in 2015 culminating in a four week excavation of the Church House cellar next to St Leonard’s. We hope to have an open day on the last Sunday to coincide with Middletons heritage weekend.

We start work in March attempting to date the stone foundations found next to Tonge Hall. Also we plan to fully excavate the foundations of the Millers Cottage next to Hopwood Corn Mill.

MAS 2015 dig programme

Please drop me an email if you wish to book a place.

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