Around 1810, the Vicar of Disley excavated the Brownlow and Ludworth Intakes Bronze Age Cairns. In the 1970’s-80’s an amateur group of four excavated the Bronze Age Shaw Cairn on the top of Mellor Moor above Cobden Edge. But there was no hint of anything of archaeological interest around Mellor Church.
Then the drought of 1995 showed a green band running across Peter Hodgson’s field to the North of the Old Vicarage – a crop mark did not reappear again until the dry July of 2006. In 1997, an archaeologist from the University of Manchester Archaeology Unit looked at photographs taken by Ann Hearle in 1995. He thought “this is old”. Geophysics and digging started in 1998. Three students found a wide and deep ditch, which contained Roman and Iron Age pottery, cut into the rock at the West end of the OV garden. Another section of this deep ditch was excavated in 2003 at the East end of the OV garden over the wall from the front gate.
A narrower ditch was also found In 1998 in the field. Each year, sections of this ditch were opened up across Peter’s field. In 2004, the ditch was found to cross the Alehouse track into the field heading East towards Mellor Hall. Also in 2004, a similar ditch was found on the South side in Leslie Arundel’s field to the East of the Church car park. This has now been tracked into the next field to the East.
For a few years, we thought that there was one ditch around an Iron Age Hillfort, but it is now clear that there were two ditches. A wide and deep inner defensive ditch, backed by a palisade slot, enclosed most of the OV garden and the old churchyard. A narrower ditch, which could be stepped over, enclosed a large agricultural area surrounding the central defensive settlement. It may go round the top of the hill and enclose about 50 acres.
Meanwhile, the drainage gulley of an Iron Age roundhouse, 13 meters across, had been found in the middle of the OV garden. Alongside there was an area of gullies and post-holes, which may have been the “backyard” of the house.
In 2001, a deep pit was found in the West end of the garden. It was about a meter wide and 3/4 of a meter deep, with the different fill of a post down the centre. Archaeologists disputed what it was. Was it an Iron Age storage pit, which was later used as a post-hole? Or had it been dug by the Romans to support a structure, such as a signal tower? The excavations of 2005/6 showed that neither guess was right. It was one of four lines of large post-holes. Finds of medieval pottery, arrowheads, and radio-carbon dating showed that this was a structure from around the 14-15th centuries. Most probably, it was the original Mellor Hall, lived in by Roger de Melleur, the King’s Forester of the Peak.
Over the years, there have been a great many finds: Mesolithic flints, pottery from 500 BC to Victorian times, metalwork, etc. Each year has brought one specially remarkable find:
2001 - The Mellor Iron Age Pot 2002 - The Neolithic Flint Chisel 2003 - The Roman Brooches
2004 - The Bronze Age Dagger 2005 - The Medieval Arrowhead 2006 - The Medieval Grindstone
Starting with three students in 1998, excavations have continued each year with volunteers from 17 to 70. In 2006, there were about 70 “diggers”, with 20 to 30 and three professional supervisors on any one day. This is community archaeology at its best.
SEEING THE SITE
The section of the deep ditch at the East end of the Old Vicarage garden is open for viewing at any time.
Access is between the entrances to the Old Vicarge and the Church.