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News article created on 7 July 2015

A community archaeology project

During April 2015, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Canal & River Trust and Nexus Archaeology ran a community archaeology project at Maesbury Marsh near Oswestry. The work provided a means of promoting the wider Montgomery Canal restoration and offered local people the chance to find and understand more about the village and its connections with the canal.

During April 2015, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Canal & River Trust and Nexus Archaeology ran a community archaeology project at Maesbury Marsh near Oswestry. The work provided a means of promoting the wider Montgomery Canal restoration and offered local people the chance to find and understand more about the village and its connections with the canal.

The Montgomery Canal provided a key route for the movement of materials from the 1700s through to the 1900s. It originally ran for 56km from the Llangollen Canal at Frankton Junction to Newtown (Y Drenewydd) and was built to transport heavy materials for local landowners and farmers in the River Severn Valley. It later also provided transport and power to industries, such as water mills, woollen mills and brick factories. After the construction of the railways in the mid-19th century, the canal declined in importance and it finally closed in 1944. 

Prehistoric activity

Maesbury Marsh was known to be the site of a canal wharf, several warehouse buildings, an 18th century smelting site with six furnaces and a 19th century bone manure works. In addition to this the area held potential for pre-canal archaeology, such as 18th century land reclamation and water meadow systems and prehistoric activity and artefacts.

Over six days, volunteers with little or no archaeological experience excavated three trenches with guidance and support from archaeologists at Nexus Heritage. Around 14 volunteers took part in the excavations each day including local people, students from Oswestry & North Walford College and Derwen College and a student from Leicester University.

Two trenches were sited on the north side of the canal to look at the industry associated with the canal and the wharf, and the third trench was placed on the south side to explore the landscape before the construction of the canal.

What we found

In beautiful weather and with a determined and enthusiastic spirit the participants found and recorded a former enclosed road linked to the wharf with an adjacent kiln. To the north of the wharf a building dating to the early 19th century was discovered with an undulating stone floor, thought by the excavators to have been installed to be prevent damp and to keep the livestock hooves agile during the winter. On the south side the canal a number of late 18th century earthen ridges associated with water meadows were exposed. These were created during the parliamentary enclosure acts which reclaimed and enclosed waste and marsh land around the country. The ridges were constructed of brick ash and chalk to provide structure, good draining and alkaline to the soil. Below one of the ridges was an earlier ditch and circular pit with several worked flint artefacts laid on top.  Although these were not excavated they could be of prehistoric origin.

The project was a great success. We held an open day and we had around 85 visitors over four hours and attracted some great publicity for the Montgomery Canal restoration including local radio interviews and newspaper articles. The event brought local people together to discover, understand, respect and preserve historic elements of the canal and associated historic assets that have previously received little archaeological attention. 

As the restoration of the Montgomery Canal progresses it is hoped that there will be opportunities for more community archaeology projects so the understanding and appreciation of the canal and its heritage can continue.

Nexus Archaeology & Kate Lynch, Heritage Advisor North Wales & Borders

About this blog

Heritage team

The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.

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