Over the last week I’ve been trotting down Oxford road to see the latest finds from the Whitworth Park dig and to record interviews and take photographs for the Whitworth Park exhibition at the Manchester Museum in May to October 2014. This is a community archaeology project designed to explore the history of the park and to complement the Whitworth Art Gallery development project. Some work was done two years ago to find features like the filled-in boating lake and the bandstand.
It got really exciting when the team put in a trench across the edge of the boating lake and found a well-stratified layers and surafces that marked the late Victorian transition from boating lake to paddling pool. Having been covered with a layer of concrete the archaeology has survived brilliantly and yesterday the team was pulling out bottles, children’s toys, pieces of leather shoe and bits of clothing. Even though the archaeology is relatively recent it is a fascinating project which opens up the park of a hundred years ago with all its civic amenities. We can touch the objects that visitors lost or threw in the lake that somehow makes it seem more real than if we simply look at postcards of the park.
It’s also been brilliant seeing just how wide a range of people have been involved, including children from local schools, archaeology students from the university, members of the Young Archaeologists Club, the Friends of Whitworth Park and volunteers who kindly give up their time to help on the project. There’s even an artist/illustator who, as they say, has been ’embedded’ with the excavation team to capture views of the dig. His work somehow has a Victorian or Edwardian feel.
You can go and see what’s going on for free and it’s on until the end of the week.
This project is a collaboration between the University of Manchester Department of Archaeology, The Manchester Museum, the Whitworth Art Gallery, Friends of Whitworth Park and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relation Resource Centre, supported by a generous grant of £39,700 by the Heritage Lottery Fund.