5th March 2013:
OA North’s excavation on the site of the new National Graphene Institute in Manchester has been gaining attention in the national and international media, as archaeologists uncovered the remains of the Albert Club, a social club founded in the mid-nineteenth century by German industrialists. One of the club’s most famous members was social scientist Friedrich Engels, who went on to write the Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx in 1848. There is, however, little evidence that Engels entered the building in the 1840s, and in 1859 the club moved to larger premises on the corner of Oxford Road and Dover Street.
The building formerly occupied by the club was converted by William Potter into Turkish baths, which were one of the first Turkish baths in the city. Several fragments of ornate stone columns recovered from the excavation are likely to derive from the baths, and removal of the floor exposed remains of the under-floor heating system.
But the site revealed further secrets as archaeologists excavated some remarkable cellars along the former Lawson Street. The street was laid out in the late 1830s as part of the early transformation of Chorlton-on-Medlock from a largely rural area to a thriving suburb of Manchester. Initially a fairly prosperous area centred on the planned 'urban village' of Grosvenor Square, the properties along Lawson Street were blind-back, two-storey houses with only a single room on each floor. It is thought that the excavated cellars were used originally as dwellings, potentially for domestic staff who served the surrounding properties. Each cellar was fitted with a 'set-pot' at that time, suggesting that they were used as laundries.
These cellars are highly unusual. Archaeologists from OA North have excavated well over 100 nineteenth-century cellars in Manchester over the years, but the Lawson Street examples do not conform to any others in terms of plan and structure.