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Ancient Runcorn life unearthed at Norton Priory dig

First excavations for 30 years find artefacts including flint blade

Graham Evans MP mucks in with some digging at Norton Priory
Graham Evans MP mucks in with some digging at Norton Priory

Secrets of life in ancient Runcorn have been unearthed during the first dig at Norton Priory for nearly 30  years.

The excavation of a section of the monastic ruin’s grounds uncovered artefacts including a prehistoric flint blade.

Lead archaeologist Dan Garner lead  more than 80 volunteers to try to locate the southern end of a medieval moat.

Although the watercourse was not found,  the team discovered other items.

Mr Garner discovered the flint blade  himself. The object was pointed and serrated.

Its origins date back to a time never  previously recorded at the priory, which is  the most heavily excavated monastic site in  Europe.

Archaeologists also found a ‘significant  assemblage’ of cremated bone fragments. Other finds were a shard of pottery from  a Cistercian monk’s drinking cup believed  to date to the 16th century and a complete  iron horseshoe was discovered using a  metal detector.

The excavation was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is part of the  preparation work for the major Monastery To Museum 900 project to be applied for  later this year.

Dan said: “Archaeological excavation is  not always a precise science, and it is  sometimes the case that you don’t find  what you are looking for, but you do find  something you were not expecting.

“This unknown factor is what makes the  process so exciting and this year’s excavation at Norton Priory has been no  exception.

“I hope that it has fanned the flames of  archaeological interest in all of those who  took part.”

Lynn Smith, Norton Priory senior keeper, said: “I am delighted that after 26 years  we have starting excavating again at  Norton Priory.

“Despite the extensive excavations in the  1970s and 1980s, no finds from before the  medieval period were recorded.

“It is fantastic that we finally have some  evidence of prehistoric life here at  Norton.”

Graham Evans, Weaver Vale MP, said: “It  was exceptionally exciting to volunteer on  the new excavation that began this  month.

“It was a real pleasure to try my hand at  such an exciting project and it certain was  quite different to anything I have ever  done.”

Dan will be giving a talk about the dig at  7pm on Thursday, October 17. His talk, Life’s A Ditch, will take place at  Norton Priory museum and entry is £3.To book a place call  01928 569 895 , email  or ask staff during a  visit to the site.

Norton Priory is also hosting a conference on Saturday, October 26, at the  Merseyside Maritime Museum. Life And Death – Stories Of Norton Priory,  will reveal the latest research by the universities of Wales, Lancaster and Liverpool  on Norton Priory and its collections.

Guest speaker Tom Holland, author and  radio and TV presenter, will join academics to put the stories of Norton Priory  into context.

Tickets to the event are £35, or £25 for  concessions.For groups of 10 or more, the price is £20  per person. Tickets include tea, coffee and a  buffet lunch. Tickets can be bought at  or from the  priory. Group booking  enquiries should be sent by email.

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