Excavation at Cross Street

St. Peters Square

A major programme of archaeological works was undertaken on behalf of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) alongside and in conjunction with M-Pact Thales (MPT), utility suppliers and their subcontractors.

The on-site archaeological work began in early 2014 and will be completed by the end of 2016. It comprised initial desk-based research, watching briefs on utility diversions, site investigations and track excavations. The work include excavation of a post-medieval cemetery along Cross Street, one of the busiest shopping streets in Europe; close monitoring of the removal and relocation of the cenotaph; and monitoring of excavation along the route of the track, to ensure that a second cemetery in St. Peter's Square remained undisturbed. Overview of excavation at Cross Street

The excavation on Cross Street entailed the exhumation of over 270 burials, making it the largest post-medieval cemetery archaeologically excavated in the city. The burials were of varying degrees of preservation. The discovery of several lead coffins and burials with organic material surviving necessitated liaison with the city environmental health, Manchester Southern Cemetery and an undertaker, to enable rapid exhumation, treatment and reburial.

Post-excavation analysis is ongoing, but already great insights are being made into living conditions, demography, medicine, mortality, population movement, status, and graveyard management in Manchester. The work will assist in the understanding and treatment of diseases which persist today such as scurvy, rickets and rheumatoid arthritis.

Despite the complexity of the archaeological remains encountered, no delays were caused to the programme for utility diversions and track excavations, due in large part to the relationship forged between the archaeological team and the many stakeholders in the project.

Despite working extended hours in a construction environment at depths of up to 4m below ground level, there were no health and safety incidents or near misses throughout the project and our archaeologists were commended on their contributions to site safety, dedication and professionalism.

The archaeological work generated a great deal of public interest and a number of newspaper articles. Our archaeologists organised an exhibition at Manchester Central Library, were interviewed by BBC radio, and gave a talk at Manchester Archaeology Day, which was attended by over 300.

As a result of this project our archaeologists have developed not only expertise in efficient cemetery clearance, but also methods in working and in communication with other subcontractors on site so that archaeological constraints are understood early on, that they are dealt with in an efficient way, complying with all relevant legislation and guidance so that construction is free to go ahead unimpeded.