Promoting the physical, mental and social well being of the community of Ossy
Hyndburn Borough Council, working in partnership with Newground, The Friends of Rhyddings Park and other partners, is delivering a Heritage Lottery Funded project that aims to restore Rhyddings Park, protect its heritage, and encourage more local people to use the new facilities.
The park is situated on the eastern fringe of Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, and enjoys a commanding view across the town. At the heart of the park lies the site Rhyddings Hall (centred on NGR 374490 427330), a Gothic Revival mansion that was built in 1853 but demolished in 1938.
Funding for the project was secured in 2016, and has thus far delivered the restoration of the coach house, which had lain derelict for many years, and repurposed the building as a community venue and cafe.
A kitchen garden has been created around the restored coach house, together with a new glasshouse and a growing area of raised beds. The grounds of the park have also to be improved, including an enhancement of the main entrances, and a new events space has been created on an old play area.
The project proposal also allowed for a community-led archaeological excavation in the park, which was intended to engage local communities, including schools, in the rich history of the area and highlight the site as an important local heritage asset by investigating the buried remains of a former building. In order to deliver this element of the project, Newground, acting on behalf of Hyndburn Borough Council, commissioned Salford Archaeology within the University of Salford to facilitate a three-week excavation, coupled with dedicated school visits and several public engagement days on site.
The excavation commenced on 19th May 2019 and culminated on 8th June with a public open day. Three areas within the footprint of Rhyddings Hall were targeted for excavation, including the rooms with bay windows to the north-western and southern sides of the building and the location of a tower on the northern elevation, together with internal room divisions within the house. Substantial stone-built foundations were exposed in each of the trenches, which provided some evidence for several developmental phases of the building, although no internal floors survived intact.
The excavation elicited considerable interest and support from the local community. A core of volunteers attended the excavation during the three-week period of the fieldwork, with 55 adults and 26 children actively participating in the excavation over the three- week period. In addition, numerous local residents and interest groups attended the two public open-day events to learn more about the history of the site and the excavation, and pupils from seven local schools were engaged in the project.
Rhyddings Park lies on the eastern fringe of Oswaldtwistle, and is bounded by Park Lane, Fielding Lane, Edinburgh Drive and Hawthorn Avenue (Fig 1). The park forms the south- eastern part of the Rhyddings Conservation Area. The site of Rhyddings Hall lies in the north-eastern part of the park (centred on NGR 374490 427330).
Oswaldtwistle lies in a natural bowl that is formed by the surrounding hills, which rise to heights of 300-400m above Ordnance Datum (aOD). The uplands are largely flat-topped, creating a series of stepped plateaux with millstone grit escarpments (Gidman 2000, 91).
Oswaldtwistle is not mentioned specifically in the Domesday Book of 1086, although the lands would have been granted to the de Lacy family, Lords of Pontefract, as part of the Honour of Clitheroe in the late 11th century (Smith 1961, 24). The earliest documentary evidence for Oswaldtwistle is recorded in documents from c 1208, when Adam de Rishton granted an area of land to Adam of Oswaldthuisal, which appears to have formed part of the forest of Accrington. The manor was subsequently granted by Philip de Oswaldtwistle to Adam de Radcliffe (Farrer and Brownbill 1911, 405). Richard, great grandson of Adam de Radcliffe, granted the manor to William his son in 1303 (Baines 1868, 52). Presumably the settlement took the form of scattered farmsteads across the township, but probably sited on or near Tinker and White Ash Brooks (Lancashire County Council 2005, 15).
The original manorial centre of Oswaldtwistle has never been located. Catlow Hall, which stood at the junction of Fielding Lane with Stone Bridge Lane, was of early origin, but was demolished before 1911. This estate may have been the half-oxgang of land that Roger de Oswaldtwistle granted to William, son of Richard de Rishton, in the early 13th century, who appears to have later adopted the name of ‘de Cathelow’ (Farrer and Brownbill 1911, 407). Alternatively, the de Oswaldtwistle family may have had a manorial centre elsewhere, possibly on the land between Tinker and White Ash Brooks known as Foxhole (or Foxhill), held by the brother of Philip de Oswaldtwistle in the early 13th century (op cit, 404).
In 1507, Henry VII disafforested the chases of Accrington, Bowland, Pendle, Rossendale and Trawden, leading to the formation of the townships of Accrington Old Hold and Accrington New Hold (Porter 1980, 30). In 1650 the two townships were estimated to contain about 200 families (Williams 1872, 8). However, the hearth tax of 1666 enumerated 38 hearths in Old Accrington and 99 in New Accrington, suggesting that the population of New Accrington was at least twice that of Old Accrington (op cit, 243).
A water-powered corn mill was certainly in existence on the Tinker’s Brook at Foxhill Bank by 1554-5, and may have had medieval origins. Nearby, it is possible that Ippings was one of the early centres of settlement, as it lay next to the ford which was the main crossing point over Tinker’s Brook before Tinker’s Bridge was built slightly higher upstream; Hippings Bridge may mark the position of this ford (Lancashire County Council 2005, 16). The settlement was a fold to the west of the ford, with another nucleation at Cross. The latter possibly acquired its name from the Oswaldtwistle Cross, a replica of which was placed at Rhyddings Park (ibid). This is almost certainly the same cross as the White Ash or Hippings Cross, which stood there in 1818 (Greenwood 1818). It seems likely that the area between the Hippings ford and the Cross was the focal point of medieval settlement in Oswaldtwistle (Hogg 1973, 27).
The Riddings Estate was originally part of the Catlow Estate, owned by the de Catlow family. The estate was divided in the 1500s, and part of it was taken by the Ridding family, who owned it until 1631; it is possible that a property known as ‘Riddings’ was occupied by the Ridding family. The footprint of this building lies within the boundary of the modern Rhyddings Park, and it is shown on the first edition Ordnance
Survey of 1848 (Plate 2).
The corn mill at Foxhill Bank had been converted for use as a fulling mill by the 18th century (Rothwell 1993, 10), but the production of woollen goods had largely given way to cotton by the end of the century. This is reflected in the replacement of the fulling mill with a large textile-printing works that was established by Richard Brewer in 1780 (Rothwell 1993, 10).
The introduction of new machinery led to the development of the factory-based textile industry. In particular, James Hargreaves’s invention of the spinning jenny in c 1764, and the developments of Robert Peel of Knuzden, who had collaborated with James Hargreaves in c 1762 to develop a carding machine. By the 1780s and 1790s mills containing carding machines and jennies were being set up at Hoyle Bottom and Stone Bridge in Oswaldtwistle (Rothwell 1980, 9).
Textile finishing also became an increasingly important trade during the late 18th century, not least through the innovations of the Peel family, which had taken possession of Foxhill Bank Printworks in 1790 and expanded their thriving business. Nevertheless, Oswaldtwistle was still little more than a few scattered hamlets such as Ippings, Moorside, and Stanhill at the end of the 18th century.
The Rhyddings Estate was purchased in the mid-19th century by Mr Robert Watson, a local cotton manufacturer who, by 1851, was living with his wife and two servants at Hippings in Oswaldtwistle (some 0.5km to the north-west of Riddings). Watson demolished Riddings and constructed a new house, Rhyddings Hall, in 1853. He was one of the Watson brothers that founded Stone Bridge Mill and Rhyddings Mill in 1856, and developed the Stone Bridge and Rhyddings estates, which included housing for their employees. Nos 1-19 Rhyddings Street, for instance, were built in 1861 to house managers and foremen of Rhyddings Mill.
Rhyddings Hall was a large villa inspired by Pugin, a 19th-century architect who played a pioneering role in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. It was built in the centre of landscaped gardens, which now form Rhyddings Park, with a coach house, ancillary buildings and several glasshouses to the rear. The main entrance was reached via a sweeping carriage drive from Rhyddings Street, with a separate entrance via a lodge to the rear, close to what is now Edinburgh Drive.
An article printed in The Building News in the mid-1860s states that Watson initially erected ‘a residence, not overlarge, of that plain unadorned style usually denominated Anglo-Italian. But increase and growth of family, and growth of taste cultivated by foreign travel, impelled to what now constitutes an almost entire reconstruction of the plan and detail of the former edifice, combined with extensive additions. These form the present edifice’, which is captured in an engraving that accompanied the description (Plate 2). The article goes on to provide a detailed description of the building, which is worthy of reproducing at length as it provides a flavour of the immensely impressive mansion:
‘A balustraded flight of seven steps leads to a small terrace, from which is reached the loggia, or entrance to the mansion – a structure of solid stone, arcaded upon the exposed sides, the openings glazed with polished plate glass, and with a curved roof of coloured and ornamental glass. Thence, a small vestibule is entered, the windows surrounding which are glazed in single sheets of plate glass, coloured and patterned in enamel, with oval medallions in each of allegorical figures, representing Maternity and maidenhood, Philosophy, Industry, Purity and Plenty. A glazed screen separates the vestibule from the hall. The hall is tripartite in plan, the two compartments furthest from the vestibule being lighted from the top, and having elaborate ceilings. The staircase ascends in a sub- compartment of the central portion of the hall, and has an exceedingly rich entablature overhead, from which springs an arched glass roof. All these ceiling lights are glazed with coloured glass, of large sheets, enamelled in arabesque patterns. Detached pilasters and antae, with ornamental capitals, divide the central hall from the inner hall on the upper floor. The complexity of plan resulting from the union of the staircase and the three compartments of the hall, has produced, from what was at first a difficulty in dealing with the former structure, a novel and pleasant effect. Within the glazed screen dividing the vestibule from the hall is a lavatory and cloakroom, 16ft by 8ft. From the tripartite hall the principal rooms are entered – the library or morning room, 25ft by 16ft, with bay window; Mr Watson’s room, 25fy by 16ft; drawing room, 30ft by 24ft and 16ft, leading through a glazed screen to a conservatory, 21ft by 12ft 6in; dining room, 32ft by 18ft 6in, and 27ft across bay, leading onto a verandah supported by ornamental cast-iron pillars, carrying a glazed roof, and co- extensive with dining room and adjacent room. From the hall a corridor leads to a schoolroom, 18ft 6in by 12ft 6in; and billiard room containing a lavatory and other conveniences.
A corridor with ornamental glass roof divides the kitchen offices from the hall. In these are comprised butler’s pantry, 16ft 6in by 11ft; kitchen, 22ft by 16ft; scullery, 15ft by 12ft, pantry, 15ft by 7ft 6in; store rooms, back staircase, etc. In the kitchen court are a wash-house and other offices, and beyond these the stables and kitchen garden.
The loggia entrance, vestibule, hall, corridors and conservatory are laid with floors of Minton’s encaustic tiles, and are heated with hot water from an apparatus in the basement, where also are wine cellars, laundry, and other household conveniences….The mansion is replete with every convenience of gas and water supply. The grounds are laid out and planted ornamentally, and have horticultural buildings in various parts. Divided from the flower garden by a pavilion and a shrubbery, is the bowling green.
The external walls are faced with Burnley par-points, and the ashlar is of Catlow, Pleasington and Steetley stone…In style the building is an attempt to show the elasticity which the Italian Renaissance, both in grouping and detail, is capable of affording to a designer…Mr James Hibbert, of Preston, is the architect, and Mr John Simpson, the clerk of works’.
The article also lists all the specialist sub-contractors that were employed during the construction work, which included: James Duckett of Burnley, mason and waller; John Clegg of Accrington, slater; Messrs Whitehead and Stevenson of Padiham, joiners and carpenters; Robert Hodgson of Church, plasterer and painter; John Bradshaw of Padiham, plumber and glazier; and Mr Lamb of Manchester was responsible for ‘furnishing the interior on a costly scale’.
The Census Returns for 1861 show that the Watson family at that date comprised Robert Watson, his wife Cecilia, daughters Cecilia, Helena, and Emily, and sons Robert, James and Walter. Robert Watson, age 42, is described as a ‘cotton spinner and manufacturer’, who employed 373 males and 481 females in his mills. In addition to the Watson family, a governess and five servants lived at Rhyddings Hall (housemaid, cook, nurse, laundress and waitress); the coachman and his wife lived at Rhyddings Cottage, and the gardener and his wife resided in the lodge (RG9/3107).
The Census Returns for 1871 show that the Watson family at that date comprised Robert Watson, his wife Cecilia, daughters Cecilia, Helena, and Amy, and sons Robert and John. Robert Watson is still described as a ‘cotton spinner and manufacturer’, who employed 320 men, 339 women and just over 100 children in his mills. By 1871, the Watsons had just three servants living at Rhyddings Hall, together with the coachman and his family at Rhyddings Cottage, and a gardener residing in the lodge (RG10/4186).
The Census Returns for 1881 show that the Watson family at that date comprised Robert Watson, his wife Cecilia, daughters Helena, Emily and Amy, and sons Robert (described as a ‘cotton spinner and manufacturer’), James, John and Walter; their eldest daughter, Cecilia, had married a local merchant, John Glazebrook, in April 1873 (LDS Film 1470816). By 1881, there were four servants living in Rhyddings Hall, comprising a cook, a waitress and two housemaids (RG11/4201).
Watson gradually sold off portions of the western area of the estate, and terraces between Rhyddings Mill and the hall were built in the 1880s. In addition, in 1887, a ‘large quantity of valuable plants…worthy of special notice’ was advertised for sale at Rhyddings Hall by private treaty. The collection included camellias, palms, orchids, ‘a splendid collection of or roses’, and a variety of ferns and greenhouse plants (Preston Herald, 14 May 1887). Robert Watson finally left the estate in 1890 and retired to Southport, although it is noted that he owned of Catlow Hall in Oswaldtwistle (SPR Mic P 168/BL.A.1).
Sale particulars from this time describe Rhyddings Hall as ‘a mansion with vestibule, hall, large dining and drawing rooms, library, breakfast room, small sitting room, large nursery, nine bedrooms, two dressing rooms, servants rooms, kitchens, butler’s pantry and two bathrooms.’ There was also a range of other buildings including conservatory, stable block, wash house, coachman and gardener’s cottages, a laundry, vinery and greenhouse.
It seems that the mansion was purchased by John Bullough, one of the partners in the firm of Howard & Bullough, which manufactured textile machinery and was described as ‘one of the most extensive firms of machinists in the kingdom’, employing between 2,000 and 3,000 men at their huge Globe Works in Accrington. In addition to Rhyddings Hall (known subsequently as The Rhyddings), John Bullough also had a seat at Meggernie Castle in Scotland, reflecting the huge fortune he had generated from the textile-machinery business. However, Bullough died suddenly at the age of 53 in 1891, leaving a widow and ‘several children’ (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 28 February 1891). The Rhyddings estate was bequeathed to his two sons, with the 21-year old George Bullough, being listed as the head of The Rhyddings in the Census Returns for 1891. George lived at the hall with his sister Gladis (sic), together with a nurse, a waitress, a cook, a kitchen maid and two housemaids (RG12/3411). Nearly all of the domestic servants had been born in Scotland, and had presumably served the Watsons at Meggernie Castle.
At the time of the 1891 Census, George Bullough was entertaining three visitors, one of which was escorted by a nurse. It was during the same year that the business of Howard & Bullough of the Globe Works in Accrington was registered as a limited company, with a capital of £500,000 in £100 shares (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 13 July 1891).
The Parliamentary County Electoral Register for 1892 lists Alexandra Bullough as the owner of The Rhyddings (SPR Mic P 168/BL.A.1). The Register for 1896, however, lists George Bullough at The Rhyddings, but describes the property as a ‘tenement’ as a dwelling house. In 1898, William Bullough resided at The Rhyddings, but had a second dwelling on Kinlock Hollins Lane in Accrington (SPR Mic P 168/BL.A.1). In February 1900, the ‘furniture, etc’ in The Rhyddings was advertised for sale by auction (Blackburn Standard, 17 February 1900).
The south-west-facing elevation of the hall during this period, showing the bay window overlooking the formal garden, is captured on a postcard view that is undated but probably originates from the late 19th or early 20th century (Plate 3).
The Census Returns for 1901 list Rhyddings Hall as ‘unoccupied’ (RG13/3919), and the building was leased to the Council in 1909 and converted to a museum and art gallery. A plan showing the proposed alterations to the building was produced around this time (Plate 4). The grounds were officially opened as a public park in May 1909. The funding required to develop the park was raised by public subscription, although Sir George Bullough declined the invitation to subscribe ‘owing to the Budget exactions of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer’ and the resultant ‘insufferable taxation’ (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 7 July 1909).
The Census Returns for 1911 indicate that the hall was still partly is use as a dwelling, providing a home for Joseph Warwick, his wife and their 11-year old son. Warwick was employed by Oswaldtwistle Urban District Council as a park keeper, and presumably tended Rhyddings Park. The Census record notes that the Warwick family had access to five rooms in the hall. The front elevation of the hall at this time is captured in a photograph that features the stone steps leading to the main entrance and the square, three-storey tower adjacent to the entrance (Plate 5). The south-west-facing elevation of the hall was also captured on a photograph, which is undated, but likely to have been taken in the early 20th century (Plate 6).
A children’s playground has been part of the park since 1914 (first built in the northern corner), with two new permanent tennis courts opened in 1925 in the former walled kitchen garden, using funding loaned from the Ministry of Health (Lancashire Evening Post, 25 September 1925). The playground was later replaced by a bowling green (Plate 6). In 1929, Oswaldtwistle Urban Council put forward a motion to construct an additional bowling green in the park, ‘putting the work in hand as a scheme to relieve unemployment locally’ (Lancashire Evening Post, 20 December 1929). This was followed by a suggestion in 1931 that a paddling pool for children was built in the park (Lancashire Evening Post, 24 July 1931).
By 1932, the museum and art gallery were proving too expensive to maintain and new premises were sought in Oswaldtwistle. A notice printed in a newspaper in 1934 refers to Mrs Patricia Holroyd, whose address was given as Rhyddings Hall in Oswaldtwistle (Lancashire Evening Post, 3 December 1934). The hall was demolished in 1938, and the site landscaped.
Plate 7: The bowling green in Rhyddings Park (A.Wilkinson Collection)
Rhyddings Park was subject to an initial programme of limited archaeological investigation at an early stage in the current project. This comprised the excavation of eight small trial pits, which were excavated by Oxford Archaeology North in January 2015, and aimed primarily to establish the presence or absence of any buried remains of archaeological interest, and thereby enable a programme of more detailed excavation to be devised.. The test pits were targeted on the footprint of structures shown on the sequence of historical mapping for the area, and included the site of an former minor hall/large farmhouse annotated ‘Riddings’ on the Ordnance Survey map of 1848, and the site of the mid-19th-century Rhyddings Hall. The footprint of two glasshouses were also targeted, primarily to establish whether these had been greenhouses or heated hothouses, intended for the cultivation of exotic fruits.
The results obtained from the test pits indicated that the structural foundations of Rhyddings Hall survived in-situ, and further excavation of the site as a community-led project would almost certainly yield significant data. The test pits also demonstrated that the site of ‘Riddings’ has been subject to comprehensive demolition and subsequently landscaping works. However, fragments of 18th-century pottery were discovered in the test pits. The test pits also investigated a glasshouse associated with Rhyddings Hall, although no buried remains were encountered (OA North 2015).
The site of Rhyddings Hall was investigated via the excavation of three areas. These were located to target rooms with bay windows to the north western and southern sides of the house and the location of a tower on the northern elevation along with internal room divisions within the house and identify the location of any cellars. Initial removal of turf, topsoil and subsoil was carried out by mechanical excavator to reveal archaeological features below (Fig 4). Excavation then continued by hand by local volunteers.
This area aimed to uncover the remains of the north-western room overlooking the park and its associated canted bay window (Fig 3). Following the removal of the turf and topsoil, a layer of demolition debris (017) was encountered on the eastern side of the trench, and was found to fill a cellar in this area. The cellar itself was enclosed by the outer wall of the bay (033), which was constructed from sandstone ashlar blocks with a rubble and yellowish lime mortar core. The wall measured 0.56m wide and c 5.00m long with the bay projecting c 1.50m from the main wall (Fig 5). The front of the bay was abutted at its corners by two spur walls (035 and 036), which measured 0.52m x 0.70m and lay 1.13m apart. These were interpreted as a supporting structure for the full-height bay.
Due to the presence of a niche between the two bay windows on the north-western side of the house, the main wall was identified as L-shaped feature 016, linking with the bay to the north-west before returning south-west. This wall measured 1.55m north-west/south-east, and 1.40m south-west/north-east, and was 0.71m wide, and was also constructed from ashlar blocks with a rubble core. Close to the southern edge of the excavated trench, the wall incorporated an angled terminus that abutted a narrower section of stone wall (029). This is likely to have represented a window at cellar level. Wall 029 measured 0.20m x 0.43m, before continuing southwards beyond the edge of the excavated area.
The northern end of the bay window was also abutted by an L-shaped section of ashlar wall (013), forming the north-western corner of the house. A recessed blocked doorway lay approximately 1.60m from the corner of the wall. Like wall 016, the recess was angled but also had rounded vertical channel to the north, possibly to accommodate a door frame or internal pipework. The doorway was blocked by a single course of machine-made frogged bricks bonded with a grey mortar, which was only properly finished on the southern face.
Wall 013 was abutted to the north by 032, a narrower, more roughly constructed sandstone wall measuring 0.35m x 0.77m (Plate 10). On its eastern face lay two 0.02m thick layers of plaster abutting a 0.24m-wide plastered ledge supported on a painted brick wall. Both the ledge and wall 032 were cut by a 20th-century cable and abutted another ashlar wall (014) to the north, which was only partially exposed along the northern edge of the excavated area (Plate 11). This wall seemed to be constructed in the same way as 016, and is likely to represent part of the foundation of the arcaded entrance hall on the northern side of the house.
A section of a concrete slab with and associated wall of machine-made bricks was identified in the far north-western corner of the trench. This was interpreted as the foundation of the brick and timber ice cream kiosk, which stood in this area during the later 20th century. The construction of this structure seems to have been the reason that the bay window wall was more deeply buried than the rest of the house walls, as this lay below the level of the later building. It is also thought that the clay deposit 034 was the result of either the construction or demolition and levelling of this later building.
This area was located to uncover remains associated with the service areas of the house marked on the 20th-century plan as the caretaker’s lobby and living room, and the cellar rooms below. The removal of the turf and topsoil exposed an extensive demolition deposit, 002, which sealed all the features within this trench.
A series of stone and brick walls were revealed at a depth of between 0.30m and 0.50m below the modern ground surface (Plate 12). The largest of these walls was wall 011, which was aligned north-west/south-east and was revealed across most of the trench (Fig 6). The wall was constructed from dressed sandstone blocks with a rubble and yellowish lime mortar core and reduced in thickness as it continued to the north-west, with the south-easternmost 2.90m measuring 0.71m wide and the remaining section to the west measuring just 0.41m wide. A close examination of the relationship between these two sections of wall concluded that they may have represented different phases of construction, with the narrower, north- western section seemingly abutting that to the south-east. The position of the two sections of wall corresponds with a partition between the caretaker’s living room and the entrance lobby to the north-west as shown on the early 20th-century plan of Rhyddings Hall that was produced by Oswaldtwistle
Two iron hooks were uncovered at the western end of this wall, which supported a 250mm- diameter pipe. A hole cut through the wall at the same height was probably related to the pipe, which was interpreted as a later addition to expand or install the house utilities, such as electricity or water.
The north-western end of wall 011 was abutted on its north-eastern elevation by three north- east/south-west-aligned walls (010, 012 and 020). Wall 020 was the south-easternmost of the three, and measured 0.42m x 1.80m. Four dressed sandstone blocks survived at each end of the wall, but the central section appeared to consist only of fragmented rubble and mortar. It was not possible to investigate this further, although it is likely that the central rubble section may represent demolition debris filling the location of a doorway between the rooms to either side. The location of wall 020 corresponded closely with the position of the partition between the caretaker’s living room and the museum entrance lobby, as shown on the early 20th-century plan of the building. Excavation demonstrated that this part of the building contained cellars, although these were not investigated fully during the project.
Plate 13: Wall 020, showing dressed blocks to the north and south and central rubble section
Wall 012 lay 1.96m to the north-west of wall 020, measured 0.61m x 1.80m, and was much better preserved. This wall was similarly constructed from dressed stone blocks with a rubble core, although three hand-made bricks were visible on the western face of the wall, possibly representing a repair or later blocking (Plate 14). Whilst wall 012 was of more substantial construction than wall 020, its position corresponds with a partition forming the entrance lobby on the early 20th-century plan of the building.
Deeper excavation in the south-east corner of the room to the north-west of wall 012 revealed that 0.60m below the top of the wall, two iron hooks were fixed, one above the other, which were in line with the hole revealed in wall 011 (Plate 15).
The cellar identified to either side of wall 012 had been filled with a demolition deposit consisting chiefly of sandstone blocks and yellowish lime mortar with occasional fragments of tile, ceramic, wood and elaborately carved masonry (Plate 16).
Plate 16: Carved masonry block, possibly originating from the unexcavated western bay window
No structures were abutted the south-western face of wall 011, although several walls were revealed to extend from the south-western edge of the excavation area to terminate at right angles, c 1.20m from wall 011 (Fig 6). This space has been interpreted as a cellar corridor, which may have been accessed to the south-east by a staircase from the first floor bounded by the easternmost pair of walls 003 and 004 (Plate 17). These walls lay 0.69m apart, and enclosed an area backfilled with larger masonry pieces (up to 0.50m), edged marble fragments and significant numbers of whole and broken Minton tiles. Wall 004 lay to the east, measured 0.27m x 1.25m, and was constructed mainly from sandstone blocks with yellowish lime mortar with occasional inclusions of hand-made brick. To the west, wall 003 measured 0.73m x 1.40m, and was a better preserved, larger construction. The wall comprised a dressed stone and rubble core with a single course of hand-made bricks added to the eastern and northern faces, all bonded with yellowish lime mortar and with evidence of plaster on all three faces.
Plate 17: Wall 011, showing the cellar corridor and features to the south-west. Looking north-west
A third stone wall (005) was exposed 1.74m to the north-west of wall 003. This wall measured 0.40m x 1.36m, and also retained traces of plaster on all three faces. A 1m-deep sondage was excavated to the west of this wall to establish the depth of cellar floors in this area, although this did not extend through the rubble to cellar-floor level
A second sondage was excavated 1.00m to the west, between two single-course walls (006 and 007) of hand-made brick. Wall 007 was aligned north-west/south-east, abutting 006 to the west and cut by a 20th-century copper pipe to the east. The wall measured 0.13m x 2.62m, and was excavated to a height of 0.53m (seven courses), with a truncated stone ledge inserted c 0.32m from the uppermost course.
This ledge was also visible in wall 006 and was thought initially to be related to stone steps, although no further steps were revealed, leading to a revised interpretation as a possible storage shelf or bench. Wall 006 measured 0.13m x 1.30m and had an identical construction to 007 but was heavily truncated by the copper pipe mentioned above. Demolition deposit 008 lay between these walls and like other similar deposits was composed of high volumes of mortar and stone, but in addition contained hand-made brick, moulded marble fragments and by far the highest concentration of whole and broken Minton tiles found on the site.
This area measured 5m x 5m and aimed to investigate remains associated with the south- western bay window shown on historical photographs and mapping (Fig 3), and to assess the presence of cellars on this side of the house. Structures were revealed in this trench almost immediately below the turf and topsoil at an average depth of 0.30m (Plate 20). These structures comprised two curving stone walls, a linear wall of stone and brick construction, and drainage features (Fig 7).
The most substantial feature in the trench was wall 023, a well-laid stone wall with yellowish lime mortar. The wall comprised a straight section measuring 0.82m x 2.55m running north- west/south-east from the eastern trench edge, which joined a curving section to the west, measuring 0.67m x 4.00m, that continued beyond the western trench edge. A square projection was identified at the corner on the southern face with a cut to the east for a ceramic drain. The cut for this drain was revealed in plan stretching 1.76m between wall 023 and wall 028 to the south, and was filled with dark brown silt with frequent fragments of brick and stone demolition debris. This was probably a drain for the roof guttering.
The drain was set within a layer of compacted crushed yellow sandstone, 027, with inclusions of brick and mortar which lay below a thin (<0.10m) black layer of crushed clinker (026). These layers were interpreted as levelling deposits for a terrace in front of the bay window which appears on historic photos of this area. A second stone wall, 028, lay 1.76m to the south of wall 023 and was similarly curved. Wall 028 measured 0.69m x 2.70m and was constructed in an identical way to 023, with large stone blocks bonded with yellowish lime mortar. The location and mirrored plan makes it likely that this wall formed the foundation for the cast-iron columns supporting the glass veranda which surrounded the south-western bay until the early 20th century
Features identified to the north of wall 023 lay beneath a layer of rubble (025), which was almost identical to the upper portions of both 009 and 017. The demolition rubble sealed three north-east/south-west aligned walls that abutted wall 023. The largest of these was 024, which lay on the western side of the trench abutting the curved section of wall 023 and measuring 0.37m x 3.00m (Fig 7). The wall was constructed largely from roughly dressed sandstone blocks, although several hand-made bricks had been inserted in the upper courses. Two voids were discovered to either end of the wall, which appeared to be two to three courses deep and seemingly represented housing for floor joists.
Wall 037 abutted the north-western end of the linear section of wall 023, and measured 0.35m x 0.55m. This wall was identical in construction to wall 023 and had evidence of plaster on both faces. The final wall abutting wall 023 was 038, which appeared to be very similar to 037 but was only identified in the eastern section of the excavated trench. All three walls continued to the north-east, beyond the excavated area.
The pottery assemblage is small and consists of 19th- and 20th-century material from demolition deposits across the site. The largest component of the pottery assemblage (15 sherds) was dark-glazed coarseware. Though dark-glazed coarsewares were made from the 17th-20th centuries, these sherds are likely to be 19th century in date and therefore contemporary with the former hall. Other pottery from the site includes four sherds of blue and white transfer china, two sherds of stoneware marmalade jars, three sherds of brown stoneware, eight sherds of a white china cup, and nine sherds of unglazed red earthenware plant pot. The fragments of pottery are of little archaeological interest.
The Clay Pipes
Just three fragments of clay tobacco pipes were recovered from the demolition deposit 002 in Area 2. These were all plain stem fragments, with no diagnostic features that could provide an indication of their provenance, although they are all likely to be of a 19th-century date. The fragments of clay tobacco pipe are of little archaeological interest.
Tiles make up 65% of the total artefact assemblage from the excavation. This includes five red glazed wall tiles which probably decorated the wall of the hall or vestibule. The majority of the tiles recovered are floor tiles, and includes 109 small tiles of single colour, either black, terracotta or cream. They occur in a variety of shapes including diamonds, triangles, hexagonals, small squares and rectangles, and were probably assemblaged in a geometric pattern forming a mosaic floor surface (Plate 23). Over 200 of these small tiles were recovered from the evaluation at the site carried out by Oxford Archaeology North in 2015 (OA North 2015, 19). In addition, 65 decorative Minton encaustic floor tiles were also collected from the excavations. All the larger decorative floor tiles read ‘Minton & Co Patent Stoke upon Trent’ on the reverse (Plate 24).
In total, 15 different designs were identified, including two types of border tiles; one is rectangular and depicts an archway in cream and black or cream and red (Plate 25). An identical tile was recovered from the evaluation on the site conducted by OA north in 2015. The second border tile is rectangular and depicts a fleur-de-lis, which probably resided in the corner or end of the border tiles (Plate 26).
A further 13 styles of square floor tiles were collected from the excavations. These included a range of geometric and floral-patterned tiles, which are displayed in a set of plates below (Plate 27-38). One blue and white geometric design is displayed in one of Minton’s pattern books SD 1705/MS1367, sheet 13.
Thomas Minton founded the company in 1793, firstly associated with blue and white transfer printed wares, as well as bone china. Thomas was succeeded by his son Herbert in 1836, who developed new production techniques which included decorative encaustic tiles in association with Augustus Pugin. Tiles were continued to be produced through the 19th century and provided decoration for floors in buildings throughout Britain and the US, including St George’s Hall in Liverpool (Fisher 2006).
The Minton tile collection recovered from the site provides an insight into the styles and types of tiles used in the Victorian Rhyddings Hall and would make a useful reference collection for further study into Minton floor tiles in the North West region. Similar tiles have also been found during community excavations at Wood Hall, Reddish in Stockport, with at least three identical patterns as those recovered from Rhyddings (Salford Archaeology 2013).
Marble & Plaster
A small quantity of decorative structural marble fragments was collected from demolition deposits in Area 2. These fragments were remnants from fireplaces and would have decorated the internal features of the former hall (Plate 39). One marble fragment contains an iron fitting, which allowed a second piece of marble to rotate (Plate 40). This may be a fragment of a sundial or similar ornamental feature.
Two fragments of plasterwork were recovered from the demolition deposits on the site. This includes a moulded floral decorative plaster piece from Area 3, which probably adorned the edge of a fireplace of doorway. A plaster moulding with wood interior was also retrieved from deposit 008, which is likely to be a fragment of a doorway or window of Rhyddings Hall.
The glass assemblage is very fragmentary and consists of four sherds of bottle glass from demolition deposits in Areas 2 and 3. This includes to neck to a clear glass ointment bottle, the neck to a clear soda bottle, and two bottle fragments. The fragments are of little archaeological interest
A single iron rod with looped end was recovered from deposit 009 in Area 3. It is a modern piece of iron and provides no research potential.
Non-Ferrous metal objects
In total, 12 copper objects were collected from three demolition deposits in Areas 1 and 2. These include a linked copper chain, seven copper nails, a knob and decorative mount from an internal fixture, and a George VI halfpenny dated 1939. A small complete lipstick was also recovered from a demolition deposit 034. This lipstick is labelled ‘PONDS’ on the lid and still contains red lipstick, dating to c 1920-40 when Pond’s started to manufacture lipstick in the early to mid-20th century.
The assemblage from Rhyddings Hall is dominated by encaustic floor tiles that would have once lined the floor of the former hall. The variety of Minton tiles would form a useful reference collection for other Victorian manor houses or halls with similar decorative features. The remaining material categories are of limited research potential.
The aims of the community excavation were to assess the nature and survival of the remains of Rhyddings Hall, and to engage members of the Oswaldtwistle community with the investigation of their local heritage. Whilst the exterior of the house was well documented in photographs and maps, little was known of the interior layout of the rooms and the division between family and service areas. Although the 20th-century ground-floor plan (Plate 4) was useful in illustrating the location of internal walls, it does not outline rooms within the basement or suggest the function of rooms during the domestic occupation of the house.
Significant foundations of the hall were uncovered in all three of the excavation areas, and the volumes of Minton tiles, painted plaster and marble embellishments, all suggested that the interior of the house was as opulently decorated as the exterior. It is unlikely, however, that this level of decoration extended to the cellars which were found to have plastered and whitewashed walls with the flagstone floor partially revealed in the north-western corner likely to have been common to all cellar rooms. This simple decoration does seem to support the uses to which the cellars were put, according to the Building News article, which referred to storage rooms, wine cellars and a laundry. The excavation also revealed that cellars were not present across the full footprint of the house, indicated by undisturbed clay deposits identified to the
north-east of wall 011 in Area 2.
The excavation was able to confirm that the foundations of the main outer walls of the hall survived in-situ, and reflected the historic mapping and photographic record. Based on wall thickness, it was possible to differentiate between larger, load-bearing walls which continued throughout the house and smaller walls seen within the cellar only and which did not correspond with the ground-floor plan.
In addition to the outer walls, only one wall was interpreted as a full-height structure. This was wall 011 in Area 2 which corresponded to the position of the southern wall of the living room as seen on the 20th-century ground-floor plan. The remaining walls revealed in this area were either more roughly constructed or less substantially built and therefore thought to relate to the cellars and which are likely to have formed partitions between rooms and, like 024 in Area 3, formed the supporting structures for floors above.
Only two brick structures were identified during the excavation, although hand-made brick was also found to be lining stone walls in Area 2 and used throughout for small-scale repairs to the stone walls. The largest brick structure, in Area 2, was not associated with any of the stone walls of the cellar, and may have been added to sub-divide a larger cellar room and provide more specific storage space by the inclusion of a built-in stone shelf, possibly as a cold store or working area. The only other free-standing brick structure was revealed in Area 1 to be blocking a doorway and, based on the use of machine-made frogged bricks, was likely to have been constructed in the early 20th century, perhaps as part of alterations to the house for its use as a museum.
The Building News article of 1864 describes the house as being partially rebuilt and enlarged 12 years after its initial construction, although no indication of which areas were affected by this work is given. Whilst the archaeological remains uncovered do show examples of repairs and alterations to the cellar structures, it is not clear when this work was carried out and if it formed part of a larger scheme of rebuilding. Evidence from the excavation indicates that the features revealed can be categorised into four broad phases:
Phase 1 – 1850s: it was not possible during the course of the excavation to identify with complete confidence those elements of the hall that could be attributed firmly to the initial phase of construction that is alluded to in the article of 1864, and the size, layout and chronology of the original hall remains unknown. The variation in the width of wall 011 (Area2) and the apparent relationship between the two different sections,
however, suggest that it derived from two principal construction phases.
Phase 2 – 1860s-90s: this phase encompasses the enlargement of the house and includes possible repairs and alterations made as part of such work. In particular, the inclusion of under-floor heating would have required some remodelling. Changes to the internal layout of the cellars is also likely to fall within this phase, and include the brick structure in Area 2 as well as the addition of brick lining to some of the stone walls. This phase may also include the addition of new developments, such as the fitting of the possible electrical wiring in the iron pipe fixed to the wall in Area 2.
Phase 3 – 1900s-20s: this phase covers the period following the departure of the Watson family and the changing of the house from domestic to museum use as proposed in the ground-floor plan (Plate 4). Very little appears to have been done within the cellar level during this phase with only the blocking of the doorway in Area 1 and other possible repairs in brick identified.
Phase 4 – 1930s-80s: this phase includes the demolition of the house and the later building of an ice cream kiosk/toilet building in the late 1960s. Only the concrete foundation of this later structure was revealed in the far northern corner of Area 1, but the increased depth of the remains of the bay window wall in this area suggests that its upper courses were removed for the construction of the later building.
The community-led archaeological excavation of Rhyddings Hall was enabled by funding secured by Hyndburn Borough Council in partnership with Newground, and elicited considerable interest and support from the local community.
The excavation was intended to assess the survival, condition and character of any archaeological remains of the hall, whilst highlighting the site as an important local heritage asset. A key aim of the project was to provide local residents and interest groups with an opportunity to undertake archaeological work in a supervised environment, and to receive professional training in excavation techniques and the process of archaeological recording.
The work undertaken by the volunteers has provided a unique insight into Rhyddings Hall. It is now clear that whilst the hall was demolished in the 1930s, a considerable amount of the historic fabric of the building still remains in-situ below the modern ground level. The archaeological remains, complemented by the historical research, have provided details for much of the internal floor plan of the ground floor. The excavation has also demonstrated that the site has considerable potential for public interpretation as an important heritage asset in Rhyddings Park.
The results of the archaeological investigation will form the basis of a full archive to professional standards, in accordance with current Historic England guidelines (The Management of Archaeological Projects, 2015) and the Guidelines for the Preparation of Excavation Archives for Long Term Storage (Walker 1990). The project archive represents the collation and indexing of all the data and material gathered during the course of the project.
Salford Archaeology conforms to best practice in the preparation of project archives for long- term storage. The archive and the excavated material will be deposited with the Lancashire Records Office. The Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS) online database project Online Access to index of Archaeological Investigations (OASIS) will be completed as part of the archiving phase of the project. The material and paper archive generated from the excvation will be transferred in accordance with the guidelines provided by Archaeological Archives: A Guide to Best Practice in Creation, Compilation, Transfer and Curation (Brown 2007).
The archive generated from the project is for the most part in a digital format, and comprises digital drawings, survey data and digital photographs. This archive is currently held by the Centre for Applied Archaeology.
A copy of the archive will be held by Salford Archaeology within the University of Salford, and a copy of the report will be deposited with the Lancashire Historic Environment Record and Accrington Library.