Archaeology dig features in new display board in Whitworth Park

Exciting news! Our new information board featuring information about the Whitworth Park Dig is now on display in Whitworth Park. It is part of a new series of display boards created by the Friends of Whitworth Park. And it contributes to the wonderful new developments, including the extension of the Whitworth Art Gallery and the creation of a sculpture garden.

Here’s a preview of our display board – though of course nothing beats seeing it in the flesh, along with the rest of the Park! And if you are planning a visit don’t forget our new booklet which you can download from this blog site (see the post before last)

Display Board - final archaeology board

Click on the image to see it in a larger format.


X-ray images of the gun we found

Hi everyone,

Remember the gun that we found in the boating lake deposits during the Whitworth Park dig? It was so heavily corroded it was difficult to make out it’s precise shape let alone any maker’s marks.Well here are the X-ray images that National Museums Liverpool kindly produced of them in advance of our exhibition!

Whitworth Park Gun image 3 Whitworth Park Gun image 5

There has been much speculation about the gun, ranging from it being a child’s toy gun (the cap or pop variety), to a small Derringer Pistol (often seen as a ‘lady’s gun’ or ‘muff pistol’, as it could be hidden in a hand muff, a popular clothing accessory with Victorian and Edwardian women). Since then it has also been suggested that the gun might be a starting pistol, which would be interesting in terms of sporting activities in the park. We currently have an expert from Edinburgh Museum of Childhood looking at it along with the WP toys. But if you have any ideas let us know!

“Whitworth Park – then and now.”

A new public leaflet to help visitors imagine Whitworth Park’s rich past!

Here is the new leaflet I promised. It was designed with the idea of giving visitors a window into past landscapes. Just go to the points on the map in the centre of the booklet and then look up the numbers to find out what that part of the park looked like in the past. We also provide insights about what kinds of ideas lay behind the design of Victorian public parks, and what kinds of things people got up to in parks.

Even if you’re not visiting the park it’s an interesting read. So why not download one of the electronic copies below? If you prefer you can also pick up a hard copy at the Whitworth Art Gallery (while stocks last).

We worked with Sarah Crossland Design, our wonderful designers for the exhibition hosted by Manchester Museum last year. We think they’ve done a lovely job on this and hope you do too!

There are two different formats here. One is designed to print so you can staple it down the middle and fold it into an A5 booklet. The other takes each page in turn and can be printed A4. Take you pick but please note that the map will be spread over two pages with the A4 single page format.



Hello from the project team!

It’s been quiet on the blog in recent months, mainly because we are reaching the end of the project and really busy tying up the loose ends. One job that has occupied a lot of our time is archiving. An archaeological excavation generates a lot of records and material culture. It also creates a lot of digital material like photographs, plans, reports on the finds and so forth. We’ll be archiving the digital records with the Archaeology Data Service where they will be available for anyone to access. The finds from the dig are going to Manchester Museum where they will continue to be used for public engagement and school workshops. We’re also finishing the excavation report and writing an evaluation report for the HLF, which provided the bulk of the funding for the project. Over the next month or two we’ll post about this activity, so keep an eye out for future alerts. We’ll also report on what some of the specialists say about the finds, and upload some of the final public outputs, starting with the Whitworth Park leaflet which I’ll post about shortly.


Volunteers star in new film about the Whitworth Park Archaeology Project!

Last summer Belle Vue Film Production was commissioned by Kostas Arvanitis at the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures to produce a film about the Whitworth Park Community Archaeology and History Project. The idea was to highlight the community engagement and social responsibility issues. We’re delighted with the result! It’s great to hear volunteers and schoolchildren talk about their experience of the project. And we love the camera work and the way the sounds of the park and the dig can be heard in the background.


You can also see the film here if the live stream is slow:

Find out more about Belle Vue Productions:

Blending past and present


Here’s a preview of some of the exhibition content! These blended images for Pleasure, Play and Politics were created by Stuart Jeffrey, Research Fellow in Heritage Visualisation at Glasgow School of Art. Stuart took images from early C20th century postcards (courtesy of Bruce Anderson) and blended them with modern photographs of the same scene which he took last summer. See if you can spot our excavation of the lake in one of the blended images!
For details of the the exhibition and how to visit see Manchester Museum:

Post-Excavation Week

This week we have been processing the finds from the excavation: washing, drying and cataloguing the material, ready for storage and specialist analysis. We’ve also been filling in final details of context sheets, chasing site records and unpacking our digging kit. It’s a nice change of pace, and a welcome break from the sun, but it is lovely to have so many of our volunteers in the department with us, working on this important stage of the project. 



The post-ex team back at the Lab, University of Manchester

Excavating skills… a gallery and reflection by Frank Collins

When Professor Siân Jones and Dr Melanie Giles asked me to complete some sketches in the field on the Whitworth Park Community Archaeology and History Project, it hadn’t occurred to me that there was, forgive the analogy, a rich vein of talent waiting to be rediscovered. I had trained as a Fine Artist well over twenty years ago and as a child I always remember being good at drawing and painting but many of these skills had since been left to gather dust.


I was on the Whitworth Gallery’s Volunteer and Training Programme after redundancy from my previous job as I felt volunteering in the arts and culture sector would help boost my confidence and refresh my skills. I heard about the archaeological dig in the Park and it appealed to me not only because it tapped into my interest in history but also because as a volunteer it would provide a great way of meeting and bonding with people. Little did I know in the first discussions about the placements that my dormant artistic career would be seen as a valuable addition to the team of students, community volunteers and professional archaeologists.


Therefore, imagine my surprise when I was asked by said archaeologists to pick up my pencils again to capture the activities in Whitworth Park. They say you never forget how to ride a bike and somehow, if you have the ability, drawing seems to share that procedural memory. As soon as I started, all the techniques and stylistic touches I had used in the past were revealed again, rather like the Whitworth Park dig allowed us to briefly uncover the Park’s own former glories. It was quite thrilling to reconnect with those abandoned skills and bits of my own past.


My basic principle was to find visually interesting ‘tableaux’ which combined the labour of the dig – people troweling, digging, sifting, drilling – with the peeling back of layers and layers of earth, revealing geological features and materials and particular finds. Work had to be done quickly because archaeological digs change rapidly. The sketching of Trench 1 was particularly difficult. In blazing heat, I had to capture the richness of the materials found under the concrete used to fill in the Park’s old boating lake. Silt was crowded with old bottles and they were being removed as I was sketching. In that instance, I only marked the positions and then took a photo to enable later reconstruction of these finds long after they’d disappeared. And the heat also determined how long I could stand, sketch and get the details.


People also move about a great deal. Again, photos of certain activities enabled me to refer back to positions of those working in the trenches and then embed them back into the sketches and this was the case with drawings of Trenches 3 and 4. Once the general layout was completed in pencil, I used pen and ink to add high contrast and brush work using water to dissolve the ink into washes. Some embellishments were also made with graphite to add textures. The features revealed on the dig certainly allowed for dramatic detail. The old wall of the bandstand in Trench 3 was a particular challenge in terms of detail and the perspectives of the stepping down of each trench were of great visual interest as were the tools – buckets, trowels, spades – used each day.


I was surprised and delighted at the results. I think the comments that the pictures have an antiquarian quality to them, ‘a Victorian or Edwardian feel’ according to Manchester Museum’s Bryan Sitch, is highly appropriate given the dig’s focus on Victorian life and experiences in the Park. The work has certainly fired up my enthusiasm to do more and the experience of working on an archaeological dig has been very fulfilling and given me renewed confidence in my abilities.