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.

Annual Event for TEaM: Wed 7 July

This year’s Technical Excellence and Manchester (TEaM) event will be held on 7th July 2021 (9:15am-12:30pm) online via Zoom Webinar. As always, the event will be a celebration of Technicians at Manchester.

  • The Technical Excellence awards will be presented, alongside the winner of this year’s technical stills competition being announced.
  • This year’s keynote speech will be delivered by Professor Perdita Barran: “Mass Spectrometry in the time of COVID – Collaboration and Joy”. Professor Barran holds the Chair of Mass Spectrometry in the Department of Chemistry, is Associate Dean for Research Facilities and Director of the Michael Barber Centre for Collaborative Mass Spectrometry at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, The University of Manchester, UK.
  • Professor Michael Shaver will also be giving a talk titled “Sustainability and Plastics – Recycling, Collecting, Degrading”. Professor holds the Chair of Polymer Science in the School of Natural Sciences at the University of Manchester, where he leads initiatives in sustainable polymers, plastics and materials for the school and for the Henry Royce Institute, the UK’s national advanced materials science centre, for which he is the Sustainable Materials Champion.

A full programme will be posted before the event.

Please use the link below to register with your university email address:
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_elNMzU72RTmR3XLIxLrc5A

If you would like to order the free Technical Excellence at Manchester calendar, please fill in the form in the link below:
https://forms.office.com/r/dkiDSSJybq

If you know any staff in technical roles who have not received this invite, please forward the email to them.

The 2021 Technical Excellence Awards Results

In May we opened nominations for the Technical Excellence awards and were very pleased to announce the top 5, with the comments from our independent judging panel (Manchester Metropolitan University’s technical staff):

5th Place: William Pritchard

“William’s application showed a real can do and team player attitude. Contributing to his team’s success with taking on challenges and creating a real togetherness within his team.

‘William delivers exceptional efficiency when carrying out his duties and performs all his work at an excellent standard.’ His work has directly contributed to several leading journals and he is seen as very valuable member of the team.

‘William is both an excellent technician and great team player, whose presence on the project is essential.’ This stood out to the panel – I enjoy reading about colleagues stepping up to help, without a second-thought. From this nomination, it seems William is an asset to his team and University.”

4th Place: Mark Sellers and Dominic McCullagh

“Mark and Dominic really show drive and motivation and the application reflected a feeling of working above and beyond which was inspiring. It is encouraging to hear how both colleagues saw an issue and used initiative to solve the problem between the two of them.

Mark and Dominic have provided “expert round-the clock maintenance” throughout the year of lockdown. They also proposed and implemented a very successful project that saved the university as significant amount of money.”

3rd Place: Chloe Loveless

“It was clear to see how Chloe has stepped up and continues to give 100% in her job despite the uncertainty of a new role. The panel were impressed by ‘Chloe proactively developing new Standard Operating Procedures for the safe use of kit, developing reopening documentation, and writing new risk assessments’ – in the middle of a pandemic, new role and return to work.

Chloe’s application shares initiative and a passion to ensure students and staff receive outstanding delivery in all areas.

‘Chloe has been an exceptional contributor to not one but two technical communities throughout the year’. Her work supporting the Department of Materials and Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub clearly highlights her commitment in pursuit of an excellence and ability to foster collaboration and partnership both internally and externally.”

2nd Place (love2shop voucher): Mike Hughes

“Michael demonstrates a true passion about his work, as well as promoting technicians, being involved with many steering groups and committees, producing and promoting technicians worldwide through publications and the use of videos on YouTube.

Michael plays a proactive role in running the teaching lab. ‘He continually looks to develop his team and provides exercises for them to develop their analytical skills and provide suggestions and inputs into improvements for the teaching’.

His experience and commitment to the student experience is impressive. The panel particularly liked the references to Michael’s commitment to equality and diversity and participation in conferences and events with other Universities and organisations. The panel were mindful that networking and sharing best-practice is vital in the technical sector, and it’s encouraging to hear how Michael goes above and beyond in his role.”

1st Place (trophy and love2shop voucher): Andrew Gilchrist

“The panel were impressed by the nomination for Andrew and equally as impressed by the real sense of value he brings to not only his team, but to the University and to external companies. From the nomination, it is clear that he is a valued colleague and brings a host of expertise and good-character to his role.

Andrew stood out as an overall great achiever in all aspects of the application, his contribution to his work has been inspiring, going the extra mile and to quote ‘lifetime achievement award’.

Andrew consistently demonstrates excellence across many areas and is clearly a very valuable member of staff at the university. ‘He always delivers above and beyond performance and even in these uncertain hybrid times.’

The panel decided to make Andrew first place due to his impact on the University strategic ambitions with the REDCap survey tool rolled out university wide.”


Congratulations to all our top 5, and everyone else who was nominated – we will be writing to you to let you know. If you can, please come to our Annual Event on Wednesday, July 7th – details here.

Technical Stills 2021

The Technical Stills competition is back, but with a slight difference.
This year we are looking for photographs to represent your work over the past year, whether you have been working from home, back on campus, or something in-between.

You need not be a member of TEaM to enter the competition – although we do encourage all technical staff to join our network so as not to miss out on events and initiatives arranged by technical staff for technical staff.
Please limit your entry to three photos per entrant. If your photograph contains any people, you will need to fill in the University’s image release form and return it with your photos to the TEaM inbox (we will pass it to the University) – found here.

The Deadline for entries is 18th June 2021.
2020 2nd place: Dawn Rearden
2020 winning entry by Megan Barker
2020 3rd place: Nicola Bates
We will also be selecting some photos to use for the TEaM academic 2021 Calendar too!

Please send all entries to the TEaM inbox: technical.excellence@manchester.ac.uk to be in with a chance of winning a £50 voucher prize!

The Technical Excellence Awards 2021

The Technical Excellence at Manchester (TEaM) staff network group invite nominations for the Technical Excellence Awards 2021. The awards are aimed at recognising the contribution of technical staff to the working life of the University.

All staff members (including technical/non-technical PS staff and academic staff) are encouraged to nominate any technical member of staff that they believe deserves recognition for their work.

This year’s TEaM Award winners will meet one or more of the following criteria. The number of criteria is not itself a factor in the judging so it’s better to submit one or two well-evidenced criteria than several less well-evidenced:

  • They always deliver an exceptional ‘first mile’ (i.e. it’s not just about ‘going the extra mile’ but putting in a consistently excellent core performance).
  • They are a great team player, actively supporting colleagues and helping the team to bond.
  • They have shown initiative and commitment in pursuit of an excellent student or staff experience.
  • They foster collaboration and partnership working across the School, with colleagues in other areas of the University or with external contacts.
  • They have delivered an outstanding piece of work that has made a recognisable contribution to their team’s or the School’s strategy and priorities.
  • They are always willing to help and support others.

The award will be judged by a panel of technical staff external to the University and the contribution to be recognised should have been made between March 2020 and March 2021. Nominations should be submitted via our online form by Friday 18th June. The awards will be announced at the next TEaM Annual Event, which will be held on Wednesday, 7th July. Please save the date in your diaries, further information about the event will be circulated in coming weeks.

Please feel free to share this with your colleagues to help us recognise and promote the vital contribution made by technical staff.

UoM Technician Talk, Episode 3

John Piprani is the Archaeology Technician within Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology and Egyptology. A large part of his role involves the organising of equipment, transport and students for the summer fieldwork projects. However, having oversight of two large labs means he also has the space to share his own enthusiasm with interested archaeology undergraduates, by teaching them how to make prehistoric stone tools. After you’ve watched the video (part 1 of 2), head over to his blog for more information. Thanks to Mike Hughes for producing this and previous TechTalk videos.

UoM Technician Talk, Episode 2

Here is our second TEaM TechTalk video, hosted by Mike Hughes, Chemistry Teaching Labs Manager. In this episode he interviews Gwen Riley Jones, who manages Special Collections Imaging at John Rylands Library. Together with James Duff, she hosted one of our Workplace Tours last year which was really enjoyed by staff who attended. The Peterloo Massacre exhibition which was running at that time in John Rylands Library was also excellent. Mike caught up with Gwen to see how things have been going during the pandemic. There’s also a very special extra guest to start the video, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, with a message for the technical community. We hope you enjoy this episode, and more are to follow!

UoM Technician Talk, Episode 1

UoM technicians discuss their different experiences during the campus shutdown. Featuring:

  • Scott Miller – B15 Model making workshop, School of Environment, Education and Development (Humanities)
  • Emma Enston – Dept of Chemistry (School of Natural Sciences, FSE)
  • Tom Bishop – Geography Dept, School of Environment, Education and Development (Humanities)
  • Toria Stafford – Deputy Health and Safety Advisor for Dept Chemistry, FSE

Hosted by Mike Hughes – Teaching Labs Manager at Dept of Chemistry (School of Natural Sciences, FSE).  Mike brings together staff who volunteered to talk about their very different experiences of the Campus shutdown due to Covid-19, and then the start of the phased reopening. It highlights the many and varied ways in which technical staff support the teaching, research and safe operation of activities at the university.   We hope you find it useful and if you are interested in getting invovled in future events, please do get in touch: email technical.excellence@manchester.ac.uk

TEaM Jodrell Bank Summer Trip

The TEaM summer trip took place on June 18th, and we had a great turnout of more than 40 technical staff. Meeting on campus, we piled onto the coach and made our way to leafy Cheshire, and the UNESCO world heritage site that is Jodrell Bank.

The first part of the tour was a walk round the site led by Mike Anderson, the Site Manager and Safety Advisor, who filled us in on the history of the University’s presence at Jodrell Bank (it started as a biological research station), and Sir Bernard Lovell’s reasons for moving his radio astronomy research there (Manchester’s tram system caused too many radio interference spikes as the current-collecting trolley poles made and lost contact with the overhead wires). This need to protect the site from radio interference means that the Observatory still has a great deal of control over planning applications in the local area.

Manchester trams caused Lovell to move his research to Cheshire

The story continued with the massively overspent construction of what would become known as the Lovell space telescope, using recycled gun turrets from a battleship as motors to turn the dish, and that telescope’s role in the space race of the 1960s, tracking Soviet launches and relaying Apollo mission communications signals.

Mike finished by describing the complications of managing the many telescopes on site today, including the difficulties of repairing panelling on a heritage-protected telescope 50 metres off the ground.

After a break to explore the grounds and visitor centre, we were treated to a lecture on the work and discoveries that the Observatory has contributed to over the last 50 years, including pulsars, the expansion of the universe, and the latest images of the Sagittarius A black hole at the centre of the galaxy.

Then it was back onto the bus for the trip back to campus, after a fascinating day out. Where to next year? Suggestions to technical.excellence@manchester.ac.uk please!