Community invited to dig into Bolton’s history at Hulton Park

The Hulton family and archive were the inspiration for Downton Abbey - and this community dig offers a rare glimpse of the historic estate
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Members of the community in Bolton and beyond are being invited to dig into an important part of the town’s past over the coming weeks at Hulton Park.

A team of archaeologists from the University of Salford will be exploring the site of the former Hulton Hall on the 1,000-acre Hulton Estate from 25th July, with members of the public, local schools and other groups invited to join in.

The community dig is the first in a summer programme of events and family activities planned at Hulton Park, as landowners Peel L&P welcome the Bolton community for a rare glimpse of the historic estate.

The full programme of Hulton Park Happenings events programme will be announced in the near future and is set to include a number of activities through the second half of 2022 based around culture and arts, history and heritage, sports and wellbeing.

The Happenings will also showcase Hulton Park’s potential to host community events in the future, as an integral part of the proposed restoration plans.  

With a myriad of historical and cultural connections as diverse as being the seat of William Hulton, who in 1819 signed the order that led to the Peterloo Massacre, and the site of the UK’s third worst mining accident in the Pretoria Pit disaster of 1910, whilst the Hulton family and archive were the inspiration for the hit TV series Downton Abbey.

The archaeological excavation is a rare opportunity to see first-hand an important part of this historic estate.

Now owned by Peel L&P, the company is keen to uncover and celebrate the history of the Hulton Estate as part of its wider restoration plans.

Working in partnership with the University of Salford, Peel L&P has commissioned the dig on the site of the former Hulton Hall which is expected to have plenty of undiscovered historical artefacts.

Its cellars and foundations are not thought to have been explored since the Hall was demolished by the Hultons in 1958.

As part of the archaeological exploration, local residents and historical enthusiasts will be invited from the 25th July – 6th August to take part in the community dig, whilst learning more about the history of the estate. 

“Hulton Park and the Hulton family played an instrumental role over 700-years in shaping the history not only of Bolton, and indeed the society we know today,” said Graham Mottershead, Project Manager at Salford Archaeology.

“The team and I are incredibly excited to be leading this project and we can’t wait to get started.

“For those living and working around Bolton over the last 700 years, the Hultons were influential in their everyday lives. 

“Excavations like this will help us learn a great deal about some of the most important periods of human history and provide the people of Bolton with an in-depth understanding of the heritage of their town.” 

Charlotte McCarthy, Group Archivist at Peel L&P, who researched the history of the Hulton family and the Estate, said: “Although Hulton Park was a private family estate, in its heyday the Hulton family would host specific events and activities including its Primrose Garden parties, charity open days, group outings and scout camps.

“We are really pleased to offer our neighbours from across Bolton and the wider area the opportunity to join the dig.

“Who knows what fascinating treasures are waiting to be unearthed?

“Our long-term vision for Hulton Park includes restoring parts of estate back to their former glory like the pleasure grounds, walled kitchen garden and serpentine lake, and opening up new walking and cycling routes through the Park, for people to use and enjoy.

“We are living in a really exciting period of modern history for Hulton Park that we hope local people will engage with and this event is just the start of many more we wish to bring to the Park over the next few months.”

Ian Trumble, Chair of Bolton Archaeology and Egyptian Society, who is joining the dig along with Greater Manchester Young Archaeologist’s Club, said: “Having not been explored in 700 years, the potential of Hulton Park as an archaeological site is really exciting and we cannot wait to see what we can find!

“Untouched estates like these, especially in the North West, are really rare to come by and function as a time capsule into Bolton’s pre-historic past.

“Hulton Park has always played a prominent role in Bolton’s history.

“The community dig is a great opportunity to give the next generation the opportunity to get on site and physically dig, explore and find artefacts, as well as learn more about their town’s heritage – hopefully to inspire the next generation of archaeologists within the region!”

There will also be dedicated slots available for local schools and community groups.  

Availability will allow visitors six years-old and over to sign up for a three-hour slot (9am-12pm or 1pm-4pm) or full day, with sun cream and refreshments provided on the day. Equipment will also be provided, with the University of Salford asking those attending to wear sturdy footwear and appropriate clothing. Register to take part here.

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