A major new community dig in Radcliffe, which will investigate a medieval tower and church in the town has been announced.

The dig, part of a £266,900 National Lottery Fund grant, will be Organised by the team from the Centre for Applied Archaeology at Salford University and will organise large numbers of volunteers to carry out excavations in the historic centre of the town.

Close Park, a popular local venue will be the hub of activity centred on an ancient tower and St Mary’s church and cemetery.

The tower is now the only visible remains of a medieval manorial site once owned by the de Radcliffe family. The same family owned Ordsall Hall in Salford, which has fared rather better than Radcliffe Manor and still stands complete today.

The Radcliffe site can be traced back to before the Norman Conquest and was mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Both the tower and the church are Grade I listed buildings and the tower is also a scheduled ancient monument.

The area is rich in industrial history and was home to Bealey’s bleach works from the 18th Century. The Bealey family had their own house there too called Close House. They donated the land to the council to create Close Park in 1925.

The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £266,900 to Unearthing and Sharing Radcliffe’s Heritage, a partnership project between Bury Council, the University of Salford and Bury College which will involve local people in both archaeological investigation and research and then in presenting the historical information on sign panels, through exhibitions and guided talks and by putting the information that has been discovered onto a dedicated website.

More formal reports will also be deposited with record offices and the Council.

Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “Uncovering Radcliffe’s medieval heritage will make for a fascinating project and reveal hidden clues as to the way our ancestors lived and how the community around here developed into what it is today. As well as telling the story of Radcliffe through its most historic landmarks, this project will also help bring existing local groups together with other parts of the community to get inspired and get involved.”

The project will involve existing community groups: Friends of Close Park, Radcliffe Heritage Group, Bury Archaeological Group and the congregation of St Mary’s church. Many different, unusual and rewarding volunteer opportunities will also be advertised through the Bury Volunteer Centre and other organisations.

Digging starts in early October.

School groups will have the opportunity to visit and participate in excavations. Workshops will take place giving training in digging, recording and interpretation of finds. The project will be used as an inspiration for art students at Bury College and their work will feature in the exhibition and on sign boards.

Community research will take place facilitated and guided by a professional historian. Designers will give training in interpretation techniques and volunteers will be involved in creating a website, mounting a temporary exhibition and producing briefs for permanent information boards and a phone app.

The project includes conservation work on the ancient tower, which will also provide training opportunities and improvements to the areas around it including the removal of an old section of road and improved footpaths. The project is designed to involve a wide range of people in uncovering the past and sharing what they have learnt. People will gain new skills and have a great time, while they help to make Close Park a more attractive and interesting pace to visit and add to the body of knowledge about Radcliffe history.


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