Recent Archaeological Discoveries in South East Lancashire

Even on the moors, at 440 metres above sea level, many archaeological sites can be seen, several previously unrecorded.

I will list my recent discoveries in this blog. Most sites have been subsequently confirmed by other archaeologists and a geologist. Certainly much work needs to be done and detailed survey is urgently needed.

What’s new – June 2010

Detailed photographic survey of a site on Rooley Moor completed and magnetometer survey of another site (TBA) undertaken. Watch this blog for more details!

Video added! July

Sites missed

Great grass covered burial mound, near Rooley Moor, also missed amazingly.

The site below was missed in an earlier archaeological survey (oops!) and is man made and not a quarry or a mine, according to a British Geological Survey Geologist who kindly visited the site. Why not a quarry? not local stone! If the stones were quarried on the spot they would be “Haslingden Flags”. The number and orientation of the stones cannot be explained by glaciation. The difference in vegetation, visible in the photograph, may be why this area was chosen by whoever built this damaged, enigmatic site.

Archaeological site on Rooley Moor




Clear signs of working, note the two notches at the base of the stone.

This stone is clearly not from the immediate vicinity and so cannot be the result of quarrying at this location.

Here is another to the SW.

Stone SW of the main site

Bagden Hillocks Cairn

Still visible after thousands of years, the Bronze Age cairn (burial mound) at Bagden Hillocks. The area of the cairn is marked by the greener vegetation, the pile of stones in the centre is more recent.

Thanks to Bury Archaeology Group and Whitworth Historical Society regarding this cairn.


Another damaged mound nearby

Close to Bagden Hillocks cairn another damaged mound can be seen.


Watch this Rooley Moor archaeology video!

Under Construction!

(C) 2008-10 Stuart Mendelsohn

“The Third Castle”

In the 1626 Manor Survey of Rochdale mentions three “castle” place-names.

All three sites can be found in the transcribed Manor survey on the Internet Archive website here.

  1. The Castle site overlooking the river in Rochdale, mentioned in Medieval times.
  2. The “castel ” place-name next to the M62 in East Rochdale a place called “Thrust castel” which translates to the leper’s castle! Note it was written as “Castel”.
  3. The third “Castle” place-name is an interesting site not actually in Rochdale but just over the parish boundary in a detached township of Middleton Parish!
    "Three closes called the Black Croft 
    lying mean betweene Mi" Holte of Ash- 
    worth and him for his part containing^ 
    Divers closes of ar. mead. & past, 
    called Castle Hill, Westcrofte & Mar- 
    croft lying West on the Copyhold land, 
    divided in meane betweene M*" Holte of 
    Ashworth, Thomas & John Hardman 
    lying in Marcroft Fold

    It is a great site overlooking a stream and formed into a naturally defensive hill formed from glacial outwash channels.

    It is called Copped Hill, in Ashworth, a detached part of Middleton parish. It also boasts a lynchet (cultivation terrace) . Part of the hilltop was surveyed with a magnetometer about ten years ago.

    Lidar view of Copped Hill

    Copped Hill Lidar 3D
    CC license


Lidar for your archaeological discoveries!

Lidar used to be exotic and expensive, but no longer! Cutting edge, archaeological  aerial survey techniques are now free for us to use.

Here is an example

Smallshaw, note the three ditches of the prehistoric enclosure and the image “shows” the ground  under the tree cover!

Here is a standard aerial view.


Lidar image bank

Get your Lidar images here

The link example directs to OS grid reference SD 81, which covers most of west Rochdale.

The Ordnance Survey National Grid Reference System

See more about the OS grid reference system  here.

Selecting an OS grid square

Select a grid reference by entering the OS grid or move the map with your mouse or by touch.


Enter SD81 to select the grid that covers west Rochdale.

Download and process your Lidar images

  1. Select the grid you are interested in (SD81 in our example).
  2. Create a directory on your pc, or other device for the group on files you download, example SD81
  3. Select a group of files to download  from the bottom of the display
    (the different file types and what they mean are explained here)
  4. Select DSM (in this example) at 1m resolution for SD81.
  5. The files are a zip archive of 180.3MB!
  6. Select the green download icon to download the zip archive.
  7. Download the zip files to your directory (SD81 for example)
  8. Unzip the files with a compatible program (I used the free Pea zip, there are many others)
  9. You directory, with the unzipped files should look like these names, they are ASC file format.ascfiles
  10. These ASC files have to be converted into images you can view, use a GIS system if you have access to one (lucky you!), if not…go to step 11.
  11. To decode ASC files without a GIS system download the Relief Visualization Toolbox (RVT) for your operating system (currently supports Windows and Linux 64 ) from the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
  12. Download the RVT (for example rvt_1.1_win64 for Windows 7) and then unzip the files to a directory.
  13. Install the software, you should then see this
  14. Select click to continue and then you will see
  15. Select addfiles.jpg add the ASC files in your directory (SD81 in our example).
  16. Your directory should look like this:
  17. Load all the files and use the default settings for now and then select “Start”.
  18. This will take time depending on the speed of your computer.
  19. When the process is complete your directory should now have graphic files (TIFF format) created alongside the .ASC files.
  20. View these files with any program that can read and display the TIFF images, I used a free program called IrfanView.
  21. Here is a selection from one of the images, know what is in the centre? send me a message if you do please! -:) it’s old and it is north of Bury!
    mystery feature

Want to install your own GIS system?

LandSerf is a free GIS system which runs on any platform that supports the Java Runtime Environment (Windows, MacOSX, Unix, Linux etc.)

Too much work?

Try this site, just zoom in to explore your region (some areas do not have Lidar coverage). Note you do not have the choice of surface or terrain Lidar images.

Thanks to…

Special thanks to Marcus Jecock of Historic England for telling me about the Lidar source files and the software to decode the ASC files.

The software to decode the Lidar source files is from Slovenia’s Institute of Anthropological and Spatial Studies and is funded by the EU, see more details here.

James Moran-Zietek for telling me about LandSerf.

Under construction…

Man Road Ditch

Looking south towards Man Road Ditch and Knowl Hill, Photo by David Mercer.

Even the name is mystery, “Man Road Ditch”. The ditch is of unknown date and unknown purpose and runs from the foot of Knowl Hill in a NNW direction.

The earliest reference found so far, is in the first series 6″ OS map (1851) of the area.

See the aerial view of the ditch hereNote select “satellite” to see an aerial photograph of the ditch.

Here is a Lidar view


Man Road Ditch

The feature that crosses it at the bottom of the image is the turbine access road!

You can see the road crossing the ditch in the photo below:

Man Road Ditch, being damaged by an access road.

The Third Castle!

There were three castle place-names mentioned in the 1626 Rochdale Manor  Survey, but I found the site before I knew of the reference to it.

We commissioned a geophysical survey and Al Oswald of English Heritage identified a strip lynchet  on one of the site’s steep slopes (west facing).


It was not actually in Rochdale, it is in what was the old parish of….Middleton, in Ashworth township.

Copped Hill

Copped Hill (facing North)

Aerial View

See the map/aerial view
Select “Satellite” to see an aerial view instead of the map.

Geological summary

“Have looked at data we have on Copped Hill. I’m vaguely remember the
location. I’m pretty sure I never went to the top of the hill. Maps I
did at the time show it has melt water channels on western and southern
sides. The hill is capped by sand and gravel which would have provided
a better drained/dryer site if it was chosen as settlement location.”

Dick Crofts – British Geological Survey 2008/12/03


Scout Moor Archaeology

Introduction – Under Construction…

This post will briefly cover the historical background to the area, (including the Forest of Rossendale) to better understand the context of the many archaeological sites in and around Scout Moor.

Exciting Discoveries

There are some exciting newly discovered sites to reveal. As in the case of the adjacent Rooley Moor, the area has never had a thorough archaeological survey, perhaps that is an understatement.

See for Yourself (from the comfort of your browser)

Select one of the links below to see sites of Farmsteads Fecit Lane and Coal Road: (centered on SD 81852 17717).

To the North of these on Higher Hill (This site is not on any OS maps as far as I know).

The feature is best viewed with Microsoft Bing Maps birds eye view.

See the sites in Fecit Lane and Coal Rd. as they were in 1851 (surveyed 1844 to 1848) on and old OS map of Lancashire LXXX.

Wind farm road cuts ancient ditch called Man Road Ditch,  of unknown date or purpose.


Before the wind farm

Medieval and other documentation for this area

The extensive body of medieval documentation for the area has been largely ignored by archaeological surveys of the area. This has been covered here.

Missed Sites

Some of the sites archaeological surveys of the adjacent areas have missed include:

  • A ruined medieval manor house (Naden Head) complete with earthworks and early wall
  • Several prehistoric burial sites, including a prominent site on Hunger Hill (see the picture at the beginning of this blog.)
  • Prehistoric Fields on Rooley Moor
  • Several early farmsteads, such as Birchen Holts


There was a vaccary (medieval cattle ranch) somewhere in Cowpe, location not yet verified.

Scout Moor lies mostly in what was the NW of Spotland, a township in the parish of Rochdale, and in what was Bury Parish.

These are the historical areas (which were all in Lancashire), modern boundaries are very different; with the area now divided between Greater Manchester and Lancashire (Rossendale district).


Lancashire Forests and the Forest of Rossendale

Newbiggin – History of the Forrest of Rossendale

Medieval Forests – The Lancashire Antiquarian

Springhill website

Aerial Photographs

Google Maps

Lancashire’s Mario map site

Microsoft Bing maps

HER (Historic Environment Record)

Greater Manchester HER


Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) Thesauri

Under Construction…!

British Geological Survey – Essential Data for Archaeological Surveys

Researching the geological context for your archaeological survey is essential.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) has hundreds of data sets to address the main questions a survey needs to answer;

  1. What processes (glaciation fault lines) led to the landscape you are exploring, how did this influence settlement patterns?
  2. Were mineral deposits (such as coal or iron ore) or quarry stone used in the area/period you are researching?
  3. How did soil formation effect (light soils sandy soils easier to plough )  land use?
  4. How  drainage/hydrology effect farming/fishing and transport routes.
  5. Will the surface geology effect geophysical survey surveys?



Game of Drones – Archaeological Aerial Photography by Quadcopter

A ‘game changer’, we are going to use a quadcopter to photograph existing, and reveal new medieval and earlier archaeological sites!

Jeff will be our pilot! He has already delivered outstanding views that show sites in a whole new light!

Where to start?

  • Get a base map of 1st series OS maps, National Library of Scotland have a fine site for this purpose.
  • Check the drift geology of the area (Geological Suvey)
  • See existing aerial photographs of areas of interest
  • Check for any old sites that are recorded but never photographed.
  • Use previously published criteria to locate special areas of interest.
  • Lidar photos may be available, check them is possible (English Heritage have some available)

Suitable Drones

Often called “quadcopters” if they have four motors, the most common format for affordable flying.

I will add to this list from time to time:

  • TBS Discovery used by guess who?!
  • DJI Phatom – a popular quadcopter for taking aerial photos
  • Quadcopters shop in UK – I have no connection with them, so for information only!

Take Off


Thanks to Jeff we have made significant discoveries, more soon!

Further Reading

Aerial Survey – English Heritage

Aerial Archaeology – BBC


Under construction…

An Aid For Your Own Discoveries

Part of key to Ordnance Survey Maps 1st Series

National Library of Scotland

Great site for old OS(Ordnance Survey)  maps of the UK, including detailed maps of Lancashire, here.


The most useful for archaeological work, which contain sites omitted from current maps are:

  • County Series 25 inch / 1:2,500 – 1841-1952
  • County Series 6 inch / 1:10,560 – 1842-1952.