Archaeology Technician meets Romantic Literature and Visual Anthropology

By John Piprani

John (L) and Grevel (R) on the hunt for the site of Green Hay

As the Archaeology technician at the University of Manchester, I manage two laboratories in the Mansfield Cooper Building, and both overlook an area behind the campus known as Greenheys. This area has an interesting recent history, being a parkland in the mid-1800s it was popular with wealthy families who built large houses. Most of these wealthy families had relocated by the late 1890s as encroaching worker terraced housing started to change the character of the area. Fast forward to the ‘slum clearances’ of the 1970s and the families living in this same terraced housing were relocated to other parts of Manchester, and their homes demolished. My laboratories now overlook the Manchester Science Park and in particular the recently constructed Bright Building. Hidden from my gaze, but nestled within the centre of the Science Park is The Old Abbey Taphouse.

The Old Abbey Taphouse was built in the 1890s and is one of the few buildings from this period left in the area. In its current iteration it is a Community Hub in a pub and one of the landlords, Rachele Evaroa, asked me if it would be possible to find out how the pub got its name. It is hard to separate out the history of the pub from the more comprehensive history of the area, and in my research, I found out that the writer, Thomas de Quincey, had grown up locally. The source of this information was a biography of de Quincey by the now retired University of Manchester Professor of Romantic Literature, Grevel Lindop. Grevel didn’t know exactly where de Quincey’s home was, only that it was called Green Hay, built in 1791 and demolished by 1860. Again, as Archaeology Technician I have access to Digimap, a mapping resource that allows digital access to maps from the 1850s onwards, so of course I had a look on the 1850s map of the area.

Greenheys Hall and its gardens sat on Greenheys Lane, which in turn is less than a five minute-walk from my laboratories. I had identified where it was in the 1850s, but where exactly in present-day Hulme? On a sunny day in April this year Grevel and myself met up at The Old Abbey Taphouse and then set off, 1850s map in hand to look for the site of Green Hay. Visual Anthropologist and filmmaker Daisy Courtauld recorded our adventure, and to coincide with this year’s Manchester Literature Festival Olly Storr from the Bright Building has made Daisy’s eight-minute film available through the QR Code below. Click on the code, or follow this link, watch Daisy’s film, and perhaps use the above 1850s map to see if you can follow in our, and de Quincey’s footsteps.