Friends of Whitworth Park: Whitworth Art Gallery Dig – Ken Shone report 2012-11-26

This was the second day of a limited programme of excavation to follow up an evaluation that Oxford Archaeology had done earlier in the year.

Whitworth Art Gallery DigThe site had been cleared in the dig areas to give easy access to the remains of most of the buildings shown on the 1930 OS map.  The glasshouses at the west end had been left outside the dig area but a paved courtyard and the footings of buildings on three of its sides exposed.  Another area to the south of the courtyard had been dug down to natural clay, exposing land drains but no buildings. The area to the north east of the courtyard and behind the eastern building had been dug down through several layers to natural where a brick land drain was exposed.  This trench included a lot of building debris which extended southwards towards the park and in this area a cylindrical section of worked red sandstone had been found. This has a dowel hole in it suggesting that it was part of a column from an earlier building.

Grove House had an entrance porch with two columns of similar diameter.  This was demolished c.1906 when the new east front of the Gallery was built, and it may be that the rubble in this part of the site came from that. Between this site and the eastern building there is a neat rectangular concrete slab with tamping marks(?) on its surface.

New Picture (2)To the south of this a U-shaped set of footings which extended out of the trench towards the Gallery fence.  It has brick and a half thick walls but is only about six foot wide overall. I worked on this narrow structure and little of note was found in the topsoil which after about four inches became clinkery fill with occasional broken window glass. New PictureThere was no sign of any floor to this structure but I did not excavate far into the fill.  I found that the brick walls had one course of relatively shallow footings only and at the end of each of the north and south sides a bent round ended iron strap about 18” long protruded vertically out of the fill material.  At the north end was the end of a 6” earthenware pipe similar to one on the eastern building.

New Picture (3)This trench produced a fairly well-preserved, but fragile child’s shoe from the bottom of the topsoil layer.

Examination of the 1907 OS map shows only a dotted outline in this position. The 1922 OS map does show a long thin structure in the place where I excavated, attached to the building shown on the earlier sheet. The 1930 OS map shows only the long thin structure with a smaller one next to it but separate from it. The 1950 OS map shows only the long thin structure. Given that whatever it was worked independently of the building originally next to it seems possible that it was a cold frame or possible hot bed. The cross hatching on the OS maps (indicating glazing?) possibly support this (see image above).

New Picture (5)Dorothy Ennis-Hand worked on the south end of the eastern building. Its walls were well constructed 9” (one brick) walls and a roll top edging had been exposed which may have enclosed a narrow flower bed running on its south and east faces. She found part of a sign which may have indicated the closing time of the park. 1922 arial shotsAerial photos from circa 1922 show two chimneys in the length of this building,which may indicate that it was inhabited.  They also show that on the side facing the courtyard there were tall round topped openings.

On the day that Dorothy and I were present deep excavation was made of the outer wall of the eastern building at its north east corner.  This showed three layers of well constructed footings going down about 18” and sitting on what looked like consolidated clinker fill.

New Picture (4) Another interesting feature was excavated on the south side in the middle of the courtyard.  This is a U shaped entry into the paving and shows a 9” wall with one layer of footings but sitting on fill that contained flat earthenware material.  New Picture (6)It may have been an entrance to the courtyard, but is not clear on the aerial photos.

The courtyard is paved with stone setts, perhaps jointed with bitumen, and showing irregular subsidence.  At the centre is a complete, but badly corroded square gulley top in cast iron.

Ken Shone


0161 928 5744


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