Lyme Park and my first archaeological dig at Wood Hall!

On stage in the Long Gallery, as the family did in the Edwardian period.


At the beginning of October, some of the HLF trainees met up at Lyme Park.  It was a great chance to look around at a partly owned Stockport Council site, which is run by the National Trust.  I have previously done a university placement at Lyme Park and some volunteering, so it was nice to go back.  I even saw some of my handy work in the interpretation – during my placement I searched the archives for images and documents that could be used in a scrapbook for the Edwardian nursery bedroom.  Some of the images now appear on the new house map.  I felt quite proud of myself! We also had a quick walk around a small part of the gardens, and may or may not have ended the day by having a meeting about the upcoming Wood Hall dig in the tearoom….

The house map for Lyme Park, which includes images I found in the Lyme archives and scanned in for a placement project in 2010!


Emma, Juliette and Katie in the gardens at Lyme Park

Emma, Juliette and I in the gardens at Lyme Park

The Dig

Day 1: Unearthing the cobblestones, before and after…

As mentioned in a previous post, a community excavation took place from 8th October – 19th October at Reddish Vale Country Park, which all of the HLF trainees completed research and compiled work for.  We also  undertook two days of digging at the excavation site, to work with volunteers and the University of Salford archaeology team to help uncover the secrets of Wood Hall.  Our main task was to reveal the cobblestones, by using a mattock and shovels to dig away the earth; later using trowels to scrape and clean them.  Backbreaking work, but it was fun and lovely to be outside in the crisp Autumn sunshine!  Here are some photographs from the two dig days (10th October and 17th October), and from the open day (20th October) in which four of the trainees and I presented the work we had done about Wood Hall and the history and conservation of buildings in the Reddish area.

Day one: Katie, Emma and Greg

Day one: Juliette and Rosie drawing up plans

Day one: Scraping mud from the cobblestones


Day one: Myself wielding a mattock


Day two: Unearthing more cobblestones… before and after


Day two: Trowel



Day two: Emma working on the cobbles


Day two: Katie working on the cobbles


Day two: Work that had been done on digging out the foundations

Day two: Work that had been done on digging out the cellar

Open Day: Table displays created by Juliette, Rosie, Emma and Katie


Open Day: The timeline and posters I created


Open Day: various


Open day: Tiles on the finds table


Open Day: Museums Collections, Conservation and Libraries & Archives trainees


Open Day: (clockwise L-R) Intact lightbulb, ceramic egg, marble fireplace fragment with date scratched in, and porcelain flapper girl ornament


Open Day: All the HLF trainees bar two – (L-R) Yours truly, Emma, Juliette, Rosie, and Katie

The dig led to uncovering many foundations and steps down to a cellar; and some of the archaeological finds included tiles, a lightbulb, glass bottles, marble fireplace fragments, and coins.  It may be possible to bid for more funds to extend the dig in the future –  I am sure there is a lot lurking underground and a lot more about Wood Hall and Wood Hall Farm that is yet to be discovered. 


more of a catch up – Wood Hall, Stockport Heritage Trust, Vernon Park Museum, and HIL numbers…

The lone object in the collection directly involving Wood Hall. A negative plate showing ‘A View of Stockport’ (RD.21149).

A lot of the time up to the beginning of October was spent researching (search being the operative word) for information about Wood Hall, which was situated in Reddish. A community excavation organised by Dig Greater Manchester (DGM) and managed by the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford gave all of the HLF trainees a chance to work on a community involvement project.  As touched upon above, there is not much documentation on Wood Hall other than census records which show the inhabitants.  Indeed, no known photographs or paintings of the hall exist, the only object in the collection directly including Wood Hall being a negative plate showing ‘A view of Stockport’. There are however some photographs of Wood Hall Farm and similar census records which show the inhabitants.  Volunteers and school groups were to be involved in the dig, and so I created some interpretation in the form of posters and a timeline. 

Screenshot of a poster showing objects in the collection relating to the dairy farming industry.

The posters showed images of objects in the collection, relating to the farming industry.  These objects may well have been used at Wood Hall Farm.  The timeline showed key dates in the history of Wood Hall and Wood Hall Farm as well as the Reddish area; and I put this into context by showing key dates and world events.  

Screenshot of part of my archaeological finds poster.

These can be handed to school groups, and can be used as background information for volunteers and other visitors to the site.  The Libraries and Archives trainees produced a report about the history of Wood Hall and Reddish, using records and other sources – which is also available to read at the site. 

Screenshot of my timeline.


 The actual dig commenced on Monday 8th October, and will continue for two weeks – leading up to an Open Day at the site on the 20th October. I will create a new post with images from my day of digging once I am up to date with my blogging….

Another project I have been working on is to catalogue the documentation belonging to Stockport Heritage Trust.  There are many files worth of research and reference documents at the Heritage Centre, with no way of searching for a specific item or area of interest.  With my new experience of using MODES and cataloguing objects, this is a good challenge for me to manage.  I immediately saw creating a database with Access or Excel as problematic; with visions of accidental deletions and various copies having to be made due to maximum document sizes…  So I searched the internet and quickly found a free database, specifically created for museums and archives by a man named Jim Halpin.  This database is called Museum Archive Software (MusArch for short), and can be found at  It was decided that this was worth downloading and using to catalogue all of the documents in the Trust’s collection.  To start with, it will be trial and error of how to configure the database in a way that works for the Trust and those searching for records.  I have changed the numbering system I originally started using, and will also have to alter the descriptions of objects.  This will be a long task, one which I cannot see through to the end due to my 12-month contract coming to an end in June – but can certainly help establish and create easy guildelines for volunteers to use so they can continue to document the reference collection.  Here are some initial screenshots from the software.

A screenshot of MusAarch – editing a record

A screenshot of MusArch – the list of records so far.

Finalising my display of the stockings at Vernon Park Museum.

Another recent task I helped with was to empty a case at Vernon Park Museum with Janny.  Maintenance work which involved the inside of the WWII case meant all of the objects from had to be decanted, packaged up and taken back to the heritage stores. 

A week later when the work was complete we were able to take the objects back to Vernon Park and re-display the items – which ranged from stockings to a fire log book – in the case. Vernon Park Museum is a lovely, traditional museum with fascinating displays of objects.  I had never visited before, and realised that I have missed out by not doing so!

The finished case that Janny and I re-displayed (a mash-up of two separate images hence the wonky join!)

 Finally, another of the projects I have started (but may have mentioned in an earlier post) is to document the reference material in the Hatting Information Lounge.  At the end of September I started to rifle through box 24 and add records to the reference catalogue on MODES.  When discussing how to go about this project, Katie and Nicola decided that there should be a system of recording each type of document: those with entry forms, those without, original delicate objects, photographs, books, photocopies of documents or photographs etc.   Each document has a HIL number, and this will eventually make it a lot easier to use resources as we will know where certain documents are and can assist people with their enquiries in a more organised way.

a bit of a catch up… starting with the filming at Bramhall Hall

Hello there

I have a bit of blogging to catch up on to say the least, having not done a post since August.  Lots has gone on since then, which I have tried to tweet about as much as I could along the way.

In September, ITV used Bramhall Hall as one of the locations for a one-off period drama, which will be shown on Boxing Day this year.  It is a screen adaptation of the 1901 novel ‘The Making of a Marchioness’, by Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett; a Manchester-born writer most famous for ‘The Secret Garden’.  Bramhall Hall was used for two weeks, with filming taking place in many of the rooms. Two members of the curatorial team needed to be present at all times.  This was to be on-hand in case any of the collection objects, small or large, needed to be moved by the prop team or others; to monitor what was being used during filming (making a note of the change in location for objects) and behind scenes (lots of moving laptop cases off the settles etc.), as well as conservation issues (lighting candles for only short period of time before being snuffed out with a damp cloth to minimise the smoke).  Once filming had ceased in a particular room, we were able to give the rooms a good clean, re-display the objects, and update MODES as to which items had been used in the filming and where they were now being put back to.  I worked on the laundry room – displaying flat irons and linen sheets alongside wooden washing dollies and wicker baskets.   It was such an interesting experience to see a period drama being filmed, a real eye-opener for the work that goes into producing a period drama.  I haven’t been able to watch Downton Abbey in the same way since, thinking about the props team who set up the scene, for the curatorial staff at Highclere Castle guarding their collections, or for the endless times someone will have shouted “quiet please, turning!”.

Some of the actors we saw filming scenes were Linus Roache, Lydia Wilson, Hasina Haque, James D’arcy, and Souad Faress.  A few photographs were taken by myself and Janny during our ‘shifts’ at Bramhall, including the dressed rooms, rehearsals, and during the publicity photograph shoots. I will include some here.  Make sure you watch ‘The Making of a Lady’ on Boxing Day! In some of the scenes, I may have been on the other side of the room….

Rehearsals with input from the Director Richard Curson Smith, taking place in the Withdrawing Room. Seen here are the actors Lydia Wilson as Emily, Linus Roache as Lord James Walderhurst and two young actors as the children.

Filming in the Great Hall.

Filming in the Kitchen.

My re-display of collection items on the table after filming in the Kitchen had finished.

My re-display of items in the Laundry Room after filming had finished.

Photographer Stuart Wood taking publicity shots of some of the cast in the Withdrawing Room; Hasina Haque as Hester and James D’Arcy as Captain Alec Osborn.

Publicity shoot – Hasina Haque as Hester.

Publicity shoot – Lydia Wilson as Emily.

A false wall in the Neville Room

The Anteroom (a small but beautiful room adjoining the Neville Room) was used for a scene where Emily writes a letter.  Here you can see the props used in the scene.

Take one! L-R, Helen, Janny and Katie with ‘The Making of a Lady’ clapperboard.

Lots of time was spent setting up the Library by the props team. It was even painted red for the purpose of filming. The room was used for a scene but probably won’t be shown in-depth in the final cut.

Another view of the props in the Library.