Archaeology at MeadowSide

Uncovering the Past in Search of the Future

Archaeology: the study of human activity throughout history; it conjures up imaginative tales of mummies, cavemen and ancient rituals spanning the seven seas and thousands of years.

This fascinating sector is often kept to newspapers and action and adventures films but at MeadowSide we have had the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into this profession and discover what it’s like to dig through history and bring to the surface the stories of people’s past.

Since archaeological work commenced at MeadowSide Plots 2, 3 and 5 (The Gate, The Stile and The Mount Yard) we have been speaking to Dr Rob Smith, Director and co-founder of Orion Heritage who is responsible for overseeing the excavation. We put a few questions to him to find out more about the work of an archaeologist and the past of our new MeadowSide homes.

“Dr Rob, what in particular attracted you to urban archaeology?”
Dr Rob Smith:
“All large cities have significant urban archaeological deposits, and Manchester, being one of the biggest outside London, has a great deal of archaeology from the early industrial revolution. In some areas of Manchester built heritage such as mill houses and large industrial structures are still prominent and in various uses today, the potential to investigate and re-develop these are of a particular interest.”
“As an archaeologist, which historical era is the most interesting and why?”
Dr Rob Smith:
“Life in the medieval period where there was significant change to the landscape and how humans interreacted with it, as technological and agricultural innovations increased significantly. There were also large negative changes in terms of calamities such as plague which significantly diminished the population.”

Fast forward a few hundred years to the 19th century where Dr Rob and his team find themselves uncovering life through Manchester’s Industrial Revolution.

The surrounding area of St Michael’s Flags and Angel Meadow park saw a huge influx of rural migration and migrants from neighbouring Ireland throughout the peak of the Industrial Revolution in Manchester around the turn of the 19th century. Men, women and children from far and wide flocked to bustling Manchester in search of work and wealth. Many of these fortune seekers would settle around Angel Meadow and make it their home.

It is these working-class neighbourhoods and homes that have been uncovered during the digs, giving us a first-hand look into what life was like for many of the people that helped shape our great city into what it is today.

“Dr Rob, can you tell me what you have found most interesting about the excavation at Angel Meadow?”
Dr Rob Smith:
“The lack of sanitation, basic amenities and conditions that the poor had to live in and endure in is very eye-opening and provides an insight into how hard life must have been during these times.”
“From your research, what was home life like in this area during the industrial age? What did a typical house/dwelling look like?”
Dr Rob Smith:
“Life would have been extremely hard during the Victorian period at Angel Meadow in particular. Houses within Angel Meadow would typically be back-to-back dwellings, with just two rooms measuring 10ft square, with slate roofs, some had dank cellars which had low ceilings. These were amongst Manchester’s poorest housing conditions. A whole family would have lived in a dwelling, having one fireplace and often sleeping on straw on the floor. Interesting that it was these people that powered the Industrial Revolution in Manchester!”

Thanks to this smoky history, Manchester today is a very different place, with cranes shaping the skyline there is a real sense of innovation and development in the air. Recently placed as the Most Liveable City in the UK (EIU) it’s not surprising that Manchester is still a culturally rich destination for people seeking work and play. If you want to live in marvellous Manchester around the biggest green space in the city there are still apartments for sale at The Gate and The Style with The Mount Yard launching soon!

Archaeological work is due to end at the beginning of September. If you would like to visit the site and see the archaeological team at work visit the open day being held on Saturday 25th August from 10am to 3pm located on the corner of Mincing Street and Aspin Lane.