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Leasowe Lighthouse Excavation 2007

The National Museums Liverpool (NML) was commissioned by Wirral Council to carry out a community
dig in Wirral on the 24th September 2007 as part of Wirral’s contribution to the European Capital of
Culture Year of Heritage.  The project was undertaken by NML’s Field Archaeology Unit with a team of
experienced professional excavators from the museum under the direction of Dr Robert Philpott, head
of the unit.

The dig focused on Leasowe lighthouse, which was used as a base for the duration of the project.
Three or four smaller trenches were also be excavated close to the shore at Meols, based on the
results of test-pitting undertaken earlier in the year.  These were close to areas which produced finds
or structures in the 19th century.

Prior to the excavation Dr Philpott, head of the unit said:
“The project is timely as a major new book is being completed on the ancient finds from Meols, to be
published later this year by Oxford University. The book places the remarkable Meols finds in a national
context. The site is of national importance yet we know very little about how much survives of the early
settlements. The research for the book will now be followed by fieldwork, including excavation, field walking
and surveying to shed light on settlement and activity connected with the important ancient port at Meols.”

Dr Liz Stewart, curator of archaeology and the historic environment made several statements during
the excavations:

Wednesday 10 October 07
"We are now half way through the community dig and are finding the remains of some buildings which once
stood next to the lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1763. A late eighteenth or nineteenth century
stable and coach-house is shown in some early photographs and on old plans but the excavation has
revealed more detail about how it was built and used at different times in the past.

There were initially some ideas that the floor of the building was
slate, and flat slates were found, but small
holes in them suggested they had been used as roof tiles, and then as they were lifted a brick floor started
to be revealed underneath.

The brick floors to each of the rooms are now cleaned, and it is clear that they are made from bricks of
different sizes, possibly suggesting
different dates, the stable against the lighthouse being earlier than
the coach-house.

Darkening of areas of the floor and small pieces of coal suggest that the outbuildings were used as a coal
store rather than a stable towards then end of their existence. The buildings were demolished in the early
twentieth century".

Thursday 11 October 07
"We’re into our third week now and have so far only had two days of rain, pretty lucky for the North West!!
We’ve had 2 open days with hundreds of people coming to see what we’ve been up and to and find out
more about the history of the lighthouse and its surrounding areas. We have two main trenches open by
Leasowe Lighthouse which have uncovered the outbuildings from when the lighthouse was occupied and
functional. There was no running water in the 18/19th centuries inside the building and so the wash room
and toilet were outside. We have also discovered the
old stables and pig sty.

All the volunteers have been offered the chance to get a picture of what archaeologists do on a daily basis
and have got their hands dirty! We have been finding lots of debris in the outbuilding from the time when
they went out of use. We also have lots of glass, most likely from the lean-to
tea-shop set up beside the
lighthouse. All these finds have kept us busy with the finds processing side of excavation. This involves
washing, sorting and bagging all the finds uncovered whilst digging. During the second week of the
excavation West Kirby Metal Detecting Club were invited to take part in a survey of the wider area around
Leasowe to see what we could find. Although we did not find any Roman finds, a few of which have been
found on Leasowe Common and the beach in previous years, we did get a few interesting objects including
a 18/19th century harness decoration and an 1860 silver penny.

Other projects around the area have included lots of test-pitting to try and find further areas for excavation.
As many people will know from the finds at Meols we know that the Wirral was not as quiet in the past as
previously thought. So far the sandy soil and high water table have been foiling our attempts at opening
more trenches but we are hopeful that we will be able to open some more trenches soon. If you see a JCB
about with two ladies in yellow jackets it is probably Clare and Helen, archaeologists from the Field Unit."

The Results of the Project
After 4 weeks of excavation the project finally shut down and all agreed that the work was both
interesting and valuable to take part in.  Among the finds are the walls of a
stable block, chimney
pots
, welsh slate, discarded glass and even a small 19th Century porcelain doll's head.  There were
initially some ideas that the floor of the building was slate, and flat slates were found, but small holes
in them suggested they had been used as roof tiles, and then, as they were lifted a brick floor started
to be revealed underneath.  
Click to enlarge
Floor Plans
Additional Information:
The Public out with Metal Detectors during the Project
A JCB on Leasowe Common
Taken mid week during the Project
Taken mid week during the Project
Foundations Walls of the old 19th century Stable Block
Cobbled Floors
Cobbled Floors
Foundations Walls of the old 19th century Stable Block