The Alderley Edge Landscape Project, a co-operative undertaking of The National Trust and The Manchester Museum, was designed, through survey and research, to advance the understanding, presentation and conservation of an anthropogenic landscape, of remarkable richness, rarity and antiquity.
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The Alderley Edge Ancient Mining Landscape Project, a co-operative undertaking of The National Trust and The Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester, was designed, through survey and research, to advance the understanding, presentation and conservation of an anthropogenic landscape, of remarkable richness, rarity and antiquity. The project was conceived in 1995 following the discovery of the hoard of fourth-century coins at Pot Shaft and the dating of the wooden shovel found at Brynlow in the 1870s. The shovel was dated to around 1750 BC, the Early-Middle Bronze Age. The name of the project was reduced later to The Alderley Edge Landscape Project.
Associated chiefly with non-ferrous metal mining, the core study area largely coincides with the National Trust's property at Alderley Edge. Surrounding the core area was a larger hinterland study area which covered the village and the landscape of Alderley Edge and the buildings of Nether and Over Alderley, as well as further aspects of the natural history of the area.
The objective of the study, using modern multidisciplinary techniques of survey and analysis, and through the effective documentation of the resources built up by the project, was to produce a definitive, rounded history. This would be the basis for much improved interpretation and conservation both at the site and at The Manchester Museum.
Previous research at Alderley Edge has been piecemeal and consequently its full potential for contributing to an understanding of the complex relationship between its natural richness and past human activity has not been realised. The project addresses key themes which have been highlighted for future research by principal European academic and curatorial institutions.
The main part of the project was proposed in 1995 and executed between 1996 and 1998, largely funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, with further support from Cheshire County Council. A steering group was set up (see below) and a full-time surveyor, Simon Timberlake, was appointed. The project culminated in an exhibition at Manchester Museum in October 1998 when the preliminary results of the AELP were displayed for three months. Parts of the exhibition were later shown at Alderley Edge Library and are now on show at the Edge itself. The other main outcomes from the project are the planned books. During the project, the National Trust kindly consented to some archaeological investigation of Engine Vein which greatly increased knowledge of the site. The Pot Shaft and the pot of coins were also excavated under the aegis of the project.
The investigative phase of the Landscape Project was formally ended in 2005 although activity related to the findings will continue under National Trust management.
The main issues surrounding the AELP are listed below. Click on the topic to read more.
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Two books have been published under the overall editorship of Professor John Prag, retired Keeper of Archaeology at the Manchester Museum and co-ordinator of the whole project. The first is a detailed review of the archaeological findings from the AELP which was published in September 2005 by British Archaeological Reports (see details below). The second book is a general account which includes a summary of the archaeology, geology, mining and mining history, natural history, social history and local buildings compiled by the various specialists who form the project's research team. This book was published in 2016 as a joint venture by Manchester University Press and the National Trust. These publications are a notable milestone in the history of the area.
The publication details are:
"The Archaeology of Alderley Edge" edited by Simon Timberlake and A.J.N.W. Prag, British Archaeological Reports 396, 2005, published by John and Erica Hedges Ltd available from British Archaeological Reports Ltd, 122 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7BP (www.barpublishing.com).
"The story of Alderley: Living with the Edge" edited by A. J. N. W. Prag, 2016, published by Manchester University Press ISBN 978 07190 9171 1 hardback 1064 pages with 32 colour plates, 235 black and white figures, 25 tables, list of references and index. Price: £50
At the start of the project, it was decided that as much use as possible should be made of the skills and expertise of a number of individuals who had worked independently and together on Alderley Edge. This steering group combined geologists, archaeologists, botanists, biologists, historians, recorders, archivists and representatives of the National Trust, DCC and local landowners. The group met regularly during the main period of the project and both contributed directly to and guided the work of the full-time project members.
When the main phase of AELP came to an end, the steering group was not disbanded as it was appreciated that a wealth of knowledge was available among the members of the group. Instead, it was re-designated as the Working Group and strengthened by the addition of representatives of the three local authorities and other interested bodies in the study area. The group continues to meet regularly.
In 2005, the National Trust took over leadership of the research strategy for the part of Alderley Edge that the Trust owns. The main Working Group does not meet any longer but a smaller research group meets under the Chairmanship of the NT to promote sustainable research and management of the archaeological features of the Edge.
The Club now has its own research ideas which are listed on a separate page.
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While the NT and Museum were represented on the Working Group, it was felt, particularly by the NT, that an overview of the functions of the Working Group should be maintained by NT and Museum management. The Management Group was therefore established and met annually to watch the development of the AELP following the end of the formal, funded phase. The DCC had a representative on the Management Group. The functions of the Management Group have also been absorbed into the NT Research group.
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One of the spin-offs from the AELP itself has been the development of an educational product and website. These have combined into what is now known as AELPHER which is the AELP Historical Educational Resource. AELPHER is based around Alan Garner's fictionalised biography published as The Stone Book Quartet which describes a day in the life of a child in his family in four different generations from the nineteenth century to the Second World War. The books have historical and geographical connections with the Edge and one, The Stone Book itself, links also to the mines. Material from the books is being prepared into an educational website for primary and secondary pupils in English, History and Geography, and to provide public access to the resources of the project through the Museum's website. The website for AELPHER is now available and can be accessed from HERE.
Work on AELPHER has been funded by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, the Duchy of Lancaster, Macclesfield Borough Council, Manchester Airport Community Trust Fund, and the Robert Clutterbuck Trust.
Work is now being planned for the next stage of AELPHER.
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A significant product from the project has been the creation of a valuable archive of material. This includes:
copies of published documents
copies of manuscripts
plans and maps of buildings, mines and the area
photographs of people and buildings
sound recordings of people
Much of this material will be made available to the public as part of the completion of the project. At present, there is a part-time archivist who is trying to keep up with the amount of material collected and an index to the material will eventually be available on the AELPHER website.
The Cheshire Archaeologist's department maintains a Sites and Monuments Record and a copy of parts relevant to the DCC can be found in the Alderley reference section of the Club web pages. In addition to the official archive, the DCC has it own records which include copies of much of the material and this can be consulted on prior arrangement. The records are currently (2006) being re-catalogued.
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Three sets of lectures have been given in Alderley Edge for the public to attend. The first set of nine talks and one field visit in late 1998 covered the main findings of the project with one topic per week. This was followed in March 2004 with a presentation on findings at Alderley Edge Girls' School. In September 2005, another set of presentations were made with the general title "Looking back, looking forward" to conclude the AELP project as a whole. At the last day school, the first book was launched. The DCC contribution, "Looking back, looking forward ... from below", can be viewed HERE. (Do not try to view this as a slideshow, simply view each slide in turn.)
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One of the great achievements of the Alderley Edge Landscape Project has been the collection of a considerable body of hitherto unseen and unheard information. If you have any information you would like to share with the Project, please feel free to contact the Club () or the project team at The Manchester Museum (or telephone 0161 275 2664). We have facilities which would enable us to copy documents at your home so that they never leave your sight or, if you prefer to leave the original with the archive, to provide you with facsimiles. Sound recordings can also be made so if it is a story you have to tell but do not want to write down, we can visit and tape record your account. The oral tradition is especially valuable, and the project is particularly anxious to collect as much as possible. If you have important material to contribute which you wish to remain anonymous or confidential, we can place it under embargo for future researchers, but it must not be lost.
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If you are interested in more information about the topics covered on this page, please get in touch with the Club () or contact the project team at Manchester Museum ().
(My thanks to John Prag for useful criticism and amendments to the original text of this page. NJD)