full screen background image

Solved: Mystery of ‘new archeological dig’ on Whit Lane in Salford

A new archeological dig is ongoing down on Whit Lane in Salford.

We were alerted by one of our readers to the works, but none of the authorities seemed to know what was being investigated.

Salford University’s Centre for Applied Archeology had never heard of the site, despite digging up Buile Hill Park for the second time this year to discover the Elizabethan manor house Hart Hill Mansion.

Watch: Rich history of Buile Hill Park Hart Hill Mansion revealed

Watch: Salford’s Pompeii – 2012 Chapel Street dig discovers cellar dwellers

Now it’s emerged that housebuilders Keepmoat – who have just submitted an outline planning application to build 430 homes across the 3.5-hectare site – are digging into the earth to find evidence of important former industrial works.

Chester-based L-P Archaeology are examining the Douglas Green area around Whit Lane to discover the whereabouts of Pendleton Old Hall and the Irwell Bleach Works.

We spoke to Pascal Eloy from L-P who told us that preliminary trenches have been dug on both sites and slowly the brickwork from both buildings is being unearthed.

Tonight there’s a public meeting in Charlestown where you can find out the results of this dig and more about the housing scheme.

Pendleton Old Hall was owned by William Douglas, later to be known as Black Douglas because of his harsh treatment of pauper children, who set up water powered hoist mill at the Pendleton Old Hall Site in 1780.

A letter dating from 1792 mentions 3,000 to 4,000 spindles at Douglas Mills.

Douglas chiefly supplied the master manufacturers with twist and warps, which were then distributed to the handloom weavers and by 1782 the Douglas Mills were constructing textile looms.

He died 30 January 1810 at Pembleton Hall and his ghost was said to haunt the area for many years after.

There is also a memorial to the famed business owner in the upper gallery of St Thomas’s Church, Pendleton, which reads: “Sacred to the memory of William Douglas of the Old Hall in this parish, esquire. Died 30 January 1810 aged 64 years.”

Irwell Bleach Works stood close to the banks of the River Irwell, I came across a mention of the mill in a newspaper cutting from December 1850 which tells of a great fire that evening which destroyed most of the works.

“The property was known as the Irwell Bleach Works, and stood on the right bank of the River Irwell, at Douglas Green, Pendleton, about two miles from Manchester. The main building, which is that destroyed, was originally a cotton mill, and one of the largest of its day, having been erected nearly a century ago.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The six storey building was a lofty pile of brickwork about 120 feet long and 24 wide, with its northeast end abutting onto the river.

“A few years since it was converted into a bleach works in connection with a large shed on its north-western side, and was filled with new and very expensive machinery for drying, calendering, glazing, finishing, and packing white goods.”

The mill does seem to have its fair share of fires because the local papers reported a blaze there in 1883 which destroying the beetling, making-up, and calendering rooms.

Cobbled entrances and stone flagging which was possibly the floors of the Irwell Bleach Works has also been discovered.

The archeological investigation is expected to last until summer 2016, after which housing developers Keepmoat will update their plans for the 476 homes.

If you are interested in this scheme L-P Archaeology will be giving a free lecture at 7pm on Thursday 17 December at St Sebastian’s Community Centre on the results of the archaeological evaluation being carried out at Whit Lane on Charlestown Riverside.

This lecture will give an opportunity for those interested in the history of the area a chance to find out what they have uncovered on the site to date and have a look at some of the artefacts recovered from the site.

Facebook Comments

SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.