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Birchwood Park, Risley, Cheshire. Assessment Report

Newman, Richard (2000) Birchwood Park, Risley, Cheshire. Assessment Report. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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An archaeological assessment of Birchwood Park, Risley, Cheshire (centred on SJ 655925) was undertaken by Lancaster University Archaeological Unit (LUAU) on behalf of DPDS Consulting, in advance of a business park development. The assessment was undertaken in accordance with a project design prepared by LUAU, which itself was based on a project brief by Mark Leah Archaeological Officer (Development Control) Cheshire County Council. The assessment comprised a desk-based study, compiling data from the Cheshire Sites and Monuments Record, Lancashire Sites and Monuments Record, and Warrington Reference Library and Lancaster University Library, as well as a field inspection.

The Sites and Monument Record contained seventeen sites from the environs of the study area, but none from within the study area.

The site is situated within an area of former mossland on the north bank of the River Mersey which in historic times came to be known as the Rixton/Risley Moss complex. Palaeoecological study of the surviving peats in the Rixton/Risley complex indicates that in the Neolithic period the fen carr was widely established across the shallow wet depressions which characterised the future mosslands (Leah et al 1997). Wetter conditions from the early Iron Age led to the coalescence of wetlands into a single continuous moss which persisted in the study area until the medieval/post-medieval reclamation of the mosslands.

While there is evidence of localised reclamation of the moss in the medieval period, centred on sites such as Old Abbey Farm, Risley, it was not until the post-medieval period that any significant reclamation of the mossland occurred. The vicinity of the study area appears to have been reclaimed from moss and was being farmed by the eighteenth century and the land was predominantly in agricultural use until the late 1930s.

At the outset of the Second World War a Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) was established on the site which filled shells, mines and bombs. It consisted of an array of buildings set within a rectilinear pattern by a road and rail network. Buildings included those for security, administration offices, barracks, magazines and filling sheds and they were divided into groups; the magazines were surrounded by earthen bunkers and probably formed the most prominent landscape feature of the sites.

At the end of the War part of the site was taken over by the Ministry of Supply for atomic energy research and the remainder was acquired for use by the Admiralty as a storage depot. When the Admiralty left in 1961 the site remained derelict until acquired by Warrington New Town in 1968 for redevelopment. Redevelopment of the site since 1972 has removed much of the former fabric and layout of the ROF, although there are localised elements of the road system and some buildings that still survive.

The construction of the ROF involved the removal of the underlying peats prior to construction and consequently there is little or no pre-ROF features within the site. The
most significant site within the study area is the remains of the ROF itself, and if it was not for the considerable disturbance to the site inflicted upon it since the 1970s it would be a nationally important site, but in its present condition it is only of local importance.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Cheshire
Period > UK Periods > Modern 1901 - present
Period > UK Periods > Neolithic 4000 - 2200 BC
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology North
Depositing User: hall
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2022 12:48
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2022 12:48
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/6586

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