The history of one of the wealthiest families in Salford is being unearthed right before our eyes with the lastest historical dig at Buile Hill Park.
Salford University’s Centre for Applied Archaeology (CfAA) have returned to the park as they endeavour to find out more about Salford’s grand Hart Hill Mansion.
The huge private house was rebuilt in 1859 for Manchester merchant James Dugdale and comprised a manor in an Elizabethan style adjoined on the west by service rooms, a glasshouse and conservatory, a yard and coach houses.
The house replaced a substantial earlier residence, shown on a map of 1815 as the property of a Mr Simpson.
It’s thought a property could have been on site here since the mid-1600s, if only archeological evidence could be found to back up the claim.
It’s the second time the CfAA has returned to the site in two years, and the project forms the flagship scheme of Dig Greater Manchester.
In October 2013 scores of volunteers from Salford helped excavate 27 tons of rubble to reveal the site of the park’s former mansion house.
Buile Hill in Salford opened as a public park in 1903.
Hart Hill Mansion was situated in wooded grounds and by the 1840s was approached via a lodge on Eccles Old Road. In the census of 1841 the house was occupied by Thomas Trueman, merchant, while an Anne Jenkle, gatekeeper, presumably lived at the lodge.
In 1891 the house was the residence of Louis Schwabe, a yarn merchant.
We spoke to the leader of the dig, Rachel Reader, who told us the history of the mansion and showed us some of the more interesting finds uncovered by a passionate team of volunteers.
We saw wine bottles, anchovy paste pots, earthenware jugs and even roasted animal bones.
It suggests the occupants of the house were extremely wealthy – only the finest families could have afforded such luxuries.
On earlier digs in Salford – such as the filmed archeological investigation of Chapel Street, which revealed evidence of ‘cellar dwellers’ – it was common to find oyster shells among the building remains.
Surprisingly enough, oysters were a staple diet of the working class, being cheap to buy and extremely plentiful.
But at Hart Hill, none have been recovered, which gives an indication of the wealth of the property owners.
A cobbled courtyard has been revealed for the first time, along with huge slabs of stone which are believed to be the columns from the the entrance to the mansion.
Sadly there don’t appear to be any photographs in existence of Hart Hill Mansion, even though it was only demolished in the 1920s – long after the advent of commercial photography in Salford.
Photographs circulating throughout the local community which were thought to be the mansion have been proven to be that of a grand house that was on Eccles Old Road called Irwell Bank.
However the team do have blueprints of Hart Hill from James Dugdale’s estate, which give an indication of the size of the house and the extensive number of rooms.
The dig will finish in mid October with an open day on Saturday 10 October when the general public will be able to view the treasures unearthed also peer into the excavated trenches.
SalfordOnline.com however will be going back to the site so that we can share with you what has actually been unearthed and learned about the rich history of Hart Hill Mansion.