We all think Mellor is a good place to live and so did the inhabitants of this area 4000 years ago. Or, to be more exact, they thought it was a good place to die and they proved it by being buried at Shaw Cairn.
Shaw Cairn is on Cobden Edge where a trig point marks the highest point in Stockport MBC at a height of 328 metres or 1,028 feet. However, the late Neolithic people had recognised its importance long before the Ordnance Survey arrived on the scene.
Mellor parish runs between two major rivers, the Goyt and the Etherow, which flow down from the moors before joining to form the Mersey. Between these two rivers two smaller tributaries have worn deep valleys, thus creating three spurs projecting westward towards the Cheshire Plain. The northern spur, Ludworth Moor, is crowned by Brownlow Barrow, the central spur where Mellor Church stands, is also the site of a hillfort and the southern spur is dominated by Cobden Edge and Shaw Cairn. All three present excellent defensive sites with clear views over the Cheshire Plain and all three have prehistoric artefacts showing that this area was inhabited by some quite sophisticated cultures.
Continuous human occupation of Britain began as the climate improved at the end of the last Ice Age from about 9500 BC. By about 6500 BC rising sea levels had cut Britain off from the rest of Europe. This age of hunters and gatherers lasted until about 4000 BC when the concept of farming began to take hold, introduced from Europe. At first, although the people grew pulses, barley and wheat, they still moved around within larger territories and used stone tools of gradually improving sophistication. There was a significant change when they began to settle down in one place. This was known as the Neolithic Revolution because the change in lifestyle gradually allowed specialist artisans to develop their skills. The three ages of the Stone Age are known as the Paleolithic (old stone age – hunters and gatherers), Mesolithic (middle stone age – nomadic farming) and Neolithic (new stone age – settled farming.) The earliest artefacts found on Mellor Moor date to the Mesolithic but most are from the Neolithic and, particularly, the Early Bronze Age.
It was first identified as an area of interest when a survey was carried out by local enthusiasts in 1975 and a trial excavation the following year confirmed that it was a cairn site. Limited excavations were conducted every year until 1988 with the help and advice of Manchester University. By this time two of the original team had died but interest was rekindled by the discovery of a hillfort at the Old Vicarage. The public interest in this discovery led to the formation of the Mellor Archaeological Trust and that in turn led to a review of the wider landscape. It became obvious that the Mellor hillfort and Shaw Cairn form part of a wider rich prehistoric landscape of considerable archaeological importance.
The early work on the cairn revealed a funerary cairn bordered by a circular stone course, approximately 15 metres in diameter. Between twelve and fifteen cremation burials lay within it. This is a distinct development for the period as most burials in the Neolithic period were communal whereas now they were more individual. Although excavated by enthusiastic amateurs, the work was not properly written up and the finds were stored in kilner jars. These included flints, vases and pottery vessels and two finely shaped flint knives. Several pot-boiler stones have been identified. Stones heated directly on a fire then placed in a liquid to heat it indirectly. The bones have been studied in detail and, although the process of cremation destroys a lot of evidence, it has still been possible to build up a picture of the individuals involved and something of their lifestyle. Radiocarbon dating placed the bodies between 2000 BC and 1700 BC.
After the original findings were catalogued and written up the site has been adopted by the Mellor Archaeological Trust and they have brought in professional archaeologists from the universities of Sheffield and Salford with the help of external funding whenever the opportunity arose. Over the years since 2000 specific trenches have been dug, both across the cairn and also outside the circular stone course in order to find out more about activity beyond its boundary. In the event these proved of little interest but trenches near the cairn produced a number of surprises. Unlike other cairns in the vicinity Shaw Cairn does not have a high profile. Instead it consists of layers of stones and appears to have been built in two stages. The first phase features a circular stone kerb about 12 metres in diameter and 60 centimetres deep. About a century later a new outer kerb was added, expanding the cairn to a monument measuring 14 metres by 16 metres.
In addition there have been two spectacular finds. A superb quality plano-convex flint knife was found in one of the cremation cists.
Even more important, the component parts of a bead necklace were unearthed over two seasons. It began with the discovery of one amber bead but further trowelling and sieving uncovered many more. In the end a fastener, two plates, 14 spindle-shaped beads and 73 disc beads have been identified and a reconstruction of the original necklace has been attempted. This is a very important find. It is one of only two necklaces of this period found in Britain and it reveals a lot, not just about the people living in the area but also about their trading relations and levels of skill.
The excavations at Shaw Cairn have added a lot to our knowledge of the people living in this district 4000 years ago. The defended settlement on the central spur, where St Thomas’ Church now stands, was the focus of the community but burials of selected individuals, some of whom would have been high-status, took place on the southern spur. These burials may have been associated with feasting as part of the ceremony and it is clear that grave goods were often buried with the deceased. There were trade links across northern England and probably to Wessex in the south. However, this merely shows that there were people in the vicinity, using the area for defence, for cultivation and for burial. Much more remains to be found out, particularly where and how these people lived. No trace of any dwellings of this period have yet been found. No doubt these will be discovered eventually but until then Shaw Cairn probably has more secrets to disclose.
National Bell Ringers Day
The village of Mellor has often punched above its weight having once had the world’s largest mill and another time England’s best lacrosse team. Now the Church bell ringers are launching a national day of celebration.
They discovered that there is no National Bell Ringers Day
Research revealed that a number of saints compete to be recognised as the Patron Saint of Bell ringers. St Agatha, who is one of the group, has her Feast Day on February 5th so this will be announced from the belfry of Mellor Church as National Bell Ringers Day.
As St Agatha is also the patron saint of breast cancer patients it seems appropriate to twin the celebrations with fund raising for the Pink Ribbon Foundation that supports a wide range of breast cancer charities.
Can you raise funds on the 5th when church bells will ring out ?
The Thomas Brierley Grave at St Thomas’ Church, Mellor
I read in the September issue of the Mellor Society News (issue 75 – A Masonic Mystery …solution) the article about the Thomas Brierley’s grave at Mellor Church written by Neil Mullineux and wanted to share with the editor’s sentiments that the unique feature of this grave is in a sad state of deterioration and in need of some TLC.
St Thomas’ Church Fabric Committee are a sub-committee of the St Thomas’ Parish Church Council and meet regularly to discuss and enact repairs and modifications to the fabric of St Thomas’ Church and Churchyard, reporting to the Parish Church Council. It might be of interest for your readers to know some years ago we noted the dilapidated state of the Thomas Brierley grave. We shored it up as it had become unstable, including chocking the railings and wrapping strong cord around one of the split stones. The Fabric Committee was aware of Churchyard Regulations 2007 and the code of practice issued by the National Association of Memorial Masons (the NAMM Code). As alluded to in the Mellor Society News article, the Thomas Brierley grave is of local historical interest. Our concerns were that the repair should be of the highest quality of workmanship and that only the NAMM standard of workmanship would be acceptable for the repair of a grave of such local repute and prominence next to the church entrance. We were aware at the time that some repairs in 1985 and in 2000 had been conducted with the help of the local Masonic Lodge but sadly these had not managed to prevent further deterioration of the monument. The reason the grave has been left in its present condition is that before approval can be sought and work commenced we need specific plans, as the repair is not a simple matter with additional construction likely to be necessary, and these have not been forthcoming.
The Fabric Committee’s proviso for the planned repair was that any stonemason employed needed to be a registered monumental mason. It was further assumed by the Committee that the placements and railings which encompass the grave, highly unusual in monuments of this period, were ‘historic’ and therefore any repair to them would require an overview by our Diocesan Advisory Committee. The churchyard regulations and NAMM code are there as an assured standard not only to repair and beautify but also to make sure lasting changes are in keeping with the local setting and environment.
St Thomas’ offers a commitment to work with the local or national Masonic Lodge to repair the Thomas Brierley grave. As the history of Mellor thus represented is unique it surely would be a shame to delay in providing a substantial and lasting repair. The recent article by the Mellor Society is to be applauded and certainly raises interest in this curious tomb. We at St Thomas and our Fabric Committee of volunteers stand ready to work alongside all parties to initiate a substantial repair along these lines. We care about this monument and its church setting and look forward to an improvement in the railings, stonework and general appearance for many to wonder at and appreciate in the future.
MMMC received a considerable boost shortly before Christmas, with the arrival of some much needed funding from Locality UK.
This will enable us to set up a web site, produce publicity material and hold meetings, so that we can explain the purpose of the Forum to a wider audience and obtain their views on the future development of our community.
A detailed opinion survey is planned for later in the year, but in the meantime, members and supporters of the Forum will be consulting a wide range of local groups and stakeholders, to explain how they can influence the development of our Neighbourhood Plan.
Whilst a lack of funding has undoubtedly restricted our ability to communicate effectively in recent months, that is now set to change in 2020.
Mellor Country House
Our biggest fundraising event of the year – the annual plant sale – will be held at the house on Saturday and Sunday May 23rd and 24th May from 10 am to 4pm each day. Visitors can buy bedding plants and hanging baskets, also choose from a large selection of outdoor plants, shrubs, and trees as well as enjoy our fabulous cream teas and bacon butties. Watch out on social media for more details on how to order and pay for our fabulous plants.
We are still looking for volunteers to help us in a few ways so if you have just a couple of hours or longer to spare, nothing too heavy, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch using any of the details below, we have various fundraising events held during the year where we always could use spare helping hands. We will be hosting a coffee afternoon for viewing the home on Wednesday 26th February at 2.30pm for individuals and businesses to see what we are doing and how we can be helped. Any help offered is hugely appreciated as we are a handful of dedicated volunteers trying our best to keep the charity open to those in desperate need. If you want to be part of our wonderful group please get in touch.
To contact Mellor County House, either
ring 0161 4271893
Thank you Margaret Powell
Mellor Parish Centre
“Crimes of Violence in Late Victorian and Edwardian England” – a talk by Dr Kevin Felstead
- Thursday 27th February’20
Dates for Bridge Drives:
- Saturday 1st March
- Saturday 18th July
- Saturday 17th October
The Friends of Mellor Parish Centre are supporting Mellor Open Gardens which will take place on Sunday 5th July 2020
For more information on any of the above please contact The Parish Centre Office 0161 484 5079
The Wharf Marple – Update
As you may be aware the Canal and River Trust – Church Street planning application, which includes our Wharf warehouse project, was refused at the Marple Area Committee meeting on Thursday evening11thDecember2019.
What this means for us
Unfortunately this means that the planned purchase of the Wharf will be delayed into this year. However, we remain very positive about our Wharf warehouse project and need to keep up our funding momentum.
We are confident that planning consent will be given in due course.
Good news: We did get Listed Building Consent for the warehouse building, which is a great step forward. We shall report further when we have more information.
Our community fund raising continues to gain momentum and we are delighted to report that we have now reached in excess of £110k of our £175 target. We are also pleased to note that some of our investors, as well as doubling their original investment, have been investing for family members as Christmas and birthday presents – What a great idea!
Forms can be downloaded via the link on our website www.thewharfmarple.co.uk
Don’t forget you can also take advantage of the tax relief and capital gains tax relief too.
Recent Wharf Events
Our two open days at the Wharf building have given local residents a good insight into the project and a chance to view the building close up. Also, our Wharf Team were on hand in the recent Winter Wonderland event in Marple Bridge. These events have resulted in lots of interest and many new investors.
Next Open Event
From talking to visitors at our open days we know that some of you have questions about the scheme and in particular our relationship with CRT/H2O and the adjacent development. We want to give everyone the opportunity to ask any questions they may have and therefore we shall be holding a Q&A session early in the New Year. We shall advise you all of this date soon after Christmas.
We would like to that the wider Marple community for their excellent support so far and look forward to an exciting 2020. Sue, Malcolm, Bob, Andy, and Chris. The Marple Wharf CIC Directors
The Mellor Society AGM and Quiz
CANCELLED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS
The event will be now be held at a date when the emergency restrictions permit.
The agenda for the AGM includes the approval of the previous AGM minutes, reports from committee members, fix the subscription rate, receive certified accounts and election of officers. Also, the consideration of any business brought forward by the committee or membership will be dealt with.
Please note that any business brought forward from the membership needs to be in writing to the Hon Secretary (contact details on page 1) and in good time for the Hon Secretary to notify the membership if necessary prior to the meeting. If any member wishes to help delivering newsletters, collecting subscriptions or serve on the committee please contact The Chair and/or Hon Secretary before the date of the meeting. Importantly the position of Membership Secretary is still vacant and if the Mellor Society is to continue your committee needs your support. Refreshments will be available during the evening.
This year the AGM business will again be followed by the Great Mellor Quiz and team entry forms can be obtained from Tim Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 449 5935
There will be a modest team entry fee which will be donated to the Mellor March supporting cancer charities.