While covering the recent community dig at Hulton Hall, we couldn’t resist the opportunity for an in-depth talk with the archaeological team about the treasures and intrigues being unearthed after so many centuries.

Dr Colin Elder of Salford Archaeology and County Archaeologist Ian Miller of Greater Manchester Archaeological Advisory Service filled us in on the exciting wider significance of the excavation, both for Bolton’s own local history as well as for more far-reaching archaeological concerns.

Mr Miller was keen to impress upon us the rarity of Hulton Park as a dig site.

He said: “We know the hall has been occupied since at least the medieval period, which in the context of Greater Manchester is a rarity in itself. 

“What’s fascinating to me is that though there are lots of 17th century halls around the area, Hulton Park is particularly important in that it’s what we call an unaltered landscape to a great extent, which is incredibly valuable and not something we get to explore very often.”

Mr Miller explained why a so-called unaltered landscape is such a rare phenomenon, especially around a city such as Manchester with its history of ever-sprawling suburbs and massive industrial growth. 

Most 17th century halls in urban towns underwent heavy redevelopment in the 18th and 19th centuries, the physical remains destroyed long before archaeologists had a chance to go in, making Bolton's Hulton Park an undisturbed historical haven.

Mr Miller added: “Some of the finds we’ve dug out here are helping to put flesh on the bones of the hall's story, and it’s fantastic to see, what were the people that lived here? What sort of materials did they have, and where were they getting them from?”

The Bolton News: Ian shows us the beautiful detailing on a piece of Staffordshire slipware, c.17th century.Ian shows us the beautiful detailing on a piece of Staffordshire slipware, c.17th century.

As he showed us the vast array of artefacts already collected, he introduced us to some very talkative pottery. 

Broken fragments of "Blackware," with its lustrous black glaze still shining after three centuries, and "Staffordshire Slipware" with its painstakingly worked detailing don’t just tell the story of a very wealthy, upper-class dining room. 

They also pose quite the archaeological mystery. These kinds of fine tableware are known to have been produced in places like Stoke-on-Trent and Derbyshire, but the closest production centres to modern Lancashire were around Prescot and Rainford. 

In the absence of canals and decent roads in the 17th century, that’s more than 40 miles as the pack horse trots - and as Ian pointed out, pottery does not trot well.

Therein lies the puzzle. So far, archaeologists just don’t know where the kilns were. 

“The absence of kilns in the area around Bolton, Manchester, and Salford has to date been taken to mean that we weren’t producing it down here, which I don’t believe," Mr Miller continued.

“Sites like this are really putting more information like this our way, and strengthening the case for local production centres.

“To me, this is one of the exciting research trajectories coming out of the site - finding out where these materials were made."

The Bolton News: Reporter Zach Harrison and Ian examine a freshly excavated fragment of BlackwareReporter Zach Harrison and Ian examine a freshly excavated fragment of Blackware

For more on Hulton Hall and the upcoming "Hulton Hall Happenings" visit Hulton Park's past explored in archaeological dig here.