Lindow Manchester

Commemoration of Lindow Man at Lindow Moss (guest blog by Chiara Zuanni)
Dawn ceremony at Lindow Moss

Dawn ceremony at Lindow Moss

On the 1st August, it was the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Lindow Man, who was found during peat-cutting at Lindow Moss. To commemorate the event and raise awareness of the current state of the bog a walk was organised by Wilmslow Transition Group, on the early morning of Saturday 2nd August. As a museology student researching public engagement with archaeology, I was keen to participate and visit Lindow Moss, and thanks to the kindness of the organisers I was allowed to join the walk.

Offering of flowers in memory of Lindow Man

Offering of flowers in memory of Lindow Man

Wilmslow Transition is part of the Transition network, which connects and inspires a series of initiatives and projects across the UK with the aim to develop a sustainable future within local communities. One of the objectives of Transition Wilmslow is the restoration and protection of the Lindow Moss, once a bog with a rich fauna and flora, whose rich natural and cultural heritage is menaced by intensive peat extraction. The first workshop with different stakeholders was held earlier this April, and an account of it can be found in an earlier blog post by Bryan Sitch. The Lindow Moss Dawn Walk was a second successful initiative, led by Professors John Handley, Anthony Jones and Pippa Tyrrell from the University of Manchester, and that brought together about 60 participants for this two-hour itinerary across the moss, during which we heard different presentations and descriptions of the bog and Lindow Man.

Lindow Man  commemoration on Lindow Moss

Lindow Man commemoration on Lindow Moss

The day began at 4.30am, still before lights, when we met in a car park and started to make our way through the paths of the Lindow Common. We took the track running along the Black Lake, and soon the first reader stopped us introducing the bog’s atmosphere with a short text describing the morning fog on this area close to the lake and the moss. After another few minutes walking, we paused for another reading, which encouraged us to reflect on the environment of the moss and its rich history.


We reached Lindow Moss just in time for the sunrise, and here we had the opportunity to learn more about the bog and Lindow Man. We heard the history of the moss, how it was formed and how much it has changed throughout the years, due to peat-extraction works. After that the focus shifted on the main reason we had walked until there at such an early hour: the following readings introduced us to the phenomenon of bog bodies and to the discovery of Lindow Man. We concluded reading a paper by Richard Turner, the archaeologist who discovered the body: his words recalled the discovery, the first studies, and the importance of Lindow Man for the researches on bog bodies, and reminded us of the importance of protecting the natural and cultural heritage represented by the moss.


We were then ready to walk across the bog and get closer to the exact place were Lindow Man was found. Here, druids from the Wildwood Seed Group were waiting for us, and they welcomed us on site and invited us to take part in a ceremony in his memory. The rite was composed of two parts: a remembrance and an healing sections, aiming both to commemorate the bog body and to encourage a better protection of the moss. Consequently, the first part included a commemoration of the ancestors, and included a druid who spoke for Lindow Man, deprecating the current conditions of the bog and encouraging the presents to take action. Therefore followed the healing part of the ceremony, during which waters of different springs were offered to restore the bog. Concluded this ceremony, flowers were left near the finding site of Lindow Man, and we were then prepared to walk back towards Wilmslow.

Ceremony on Lindow Moss

Ceremony on Lindow Moss

Before getting there though, we had the chance to listen to a last reading, which highlighted also the wider landscape we were immersed, there on the top of a small hill, originated from a refilling of the bog, from where we could see Alderley Edge and the Pennines, emerging from the mist.

Alderley emerges from the mist

Alderley emerges from the mist

In conclusion, despite the threatening weather forecast and a very early rising, the event was a success, with many members of the community coming together to remember the discovery of Lindow Man and taking interest in their local natural and cultural heritage. The next event held by Wilmslow Transition as part of their work on Lindow Moss will be a day-school on the 18th October.



Anything but a Bog Standard Landscape: Restoring Lindow Moss
Prof Anthony Jones opens the workshop

Prof Anthony Jones opens the workshop

It is a few years now since I have been in Wilmslow but I was absolutely delighted to be invited to a workshop about the future of Lindow Moss at the Friends House on Thursday 3rd April by Professor Emeritus John Handley of University of Manchester. John Handley is Professor of Landscape and Environmental Planning at the University of Manchester, and is involved in a collaborative initiative with Transition Wilmslow, Cheshire Wildlife Trust and others to explore a more constructive future for Lindow Moss. They are working to secure the restoration of the current peat working area as a self-sustaining wetland habitat and to conserve and interpret the surrounding peatland landscape. The workshop was the first step in trying to bring people together to discuss the development of a ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’.

Peat extraction 2007 (photo: B.Sitch)

Peat extraction 2007 (photo: B.Sitch)

The organizers wanted members of the archaeological community to be part of this initiative. They kindly invited me because I’d worked on the Museum’s Lindow Man exhibition in 2008-9 and because Manchester Museum has hosted Lindow Man three times for temporary exhibitions since his discovery in August 1984. In fact as one of the speakers reminded us, it will soon be the 30th anniversary of his discovery on Lindow Moss and surely that deserves recognition, doesn’t it? Prof.Handley read an excerpt from a short article by Rick Turner, the archaeologist whose painstaking detective work led to the discovery of Lindow Man’s body.

Many different groups and interests were represented in the audience

Many different groups and interests were represented in the audience

The proceedings were opened by Prof Handley and Tony Evans of Saltersley Common Preservation Society. John talked about the development of the landscape since the time of the last glaciation. Colonization of what was an area of woodland by sphagnum moss during the Mesolithic period killed the trees and created a raised bog. The exploitation of the peat deposits for fuel from at least as early as the Middle Ages resulted in the creation of distinctive field boundaries called moss ‘rooms’. Prof.Handley described this as one of the best-preserved landscapes of this type that he is aware of in Britain, and yet, astonishingly, it is not protected by designation of any kind.

This lack of recognition is compounded locally by the confusion between Lindow Moss and Lindow Common. If a fire is reported at the former, journalists apparently turn up at the latter! After the two opening addresses the participants were invited to join one of four sub-groups which went away for discussion and then reported back in a plenary session. I joined the ‘Education and Interpretation’ which did not have as many people as the other sub-groups. The photo below shows (left to right) local authors Christine Pemberton and Matthew Hyde, Prof Anthony Jones, Tony Evans and Gary, our Chairman for the sub-group.

Sub-group discussion about  education and interpretation. Local authors Matthew Hyde and Christine Pemberton are sitting on the left.

Sub-group discussion about education and interpretation. Local authors Matthew Hyde and Christine Pemberton are sitting on the left.

We had a wide-ranging discussion about what we should be trying to communicate and how to go about doing it. Without wanting to pre-empt the more formal report that will be made, we talked about a multi-disciplinary report that included all the subject disciplines in which Lindow Moss is important: archaeology because of Lindow Man, natural history, ecology because of the unique fauna and flora that live in a bog, and many others too. Christine reminded us that historically the moss was a place of refuge for people who had nowhere else to go.

Gypsey Taylor, Morley Green

Gypsey Taylor, Morley Green (photo: Christine Pemberton)

We said it was important to put Lindow Moss on the map, and ensure everyone knew where and what it was. We felt that people would be more likely to support the proposals if they could see that there were practical benefits.   By stopping the peat extraction the moss could recover and what Prof Handley called ‘keystone species’ re-colonize the wet areas. If rare plants, animals such as water voles, and birds and insects returned the moss could become a centre for bio-diversity, eco-tourism and education. There could be eco-friendly sculpture, demonstrations of traditional wood crafts and art and music. Stephen Vaughn has already captured the stillness and apparently timeless quality of the peat bog in a series of beautiful photographs.

Photo of Lindow Moss by Vaughan

Photo of Lindow Moss by Stephen Vaughan

More practically, by maintaining the water table, problems with subsidence would be avoided by local residents. We also felt there would be health benefits for people using the moss for recreation.   I kind of got ‘volunteered’ into reporting back to the main group. Many interesting suggestions were made, including one to build an Iron Age roundhouse at Lindow Moss but there were too many for this blog to list in detail; but one of the practical things to come out of the day was the proposal to commemorate what will be the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Lindow Man in August 2014. Other ‘quick win’ proposals suggest themselves: joining in the Festival of Archaeology in July or Heritage Open Days in September. Other special interest groups will have their own dates for events and activities so that a multi-disciplinary programme for Lindow Moss could be put together quite quickly to help promote the initiative.

It was a very positive day and we now look forward to the dayschool on 18th October 2014. Richard Turner, who as the former Cheshire County Archaeologist played such a key role in the discovery and conservation of Lindow Man, has already agreed to take part. It is hoped to include a contribution from Manchester Museum too at the event . You don’t have to have attended the workshop in order to go to the Day School, which is seen as a free standing educational event, aimed at generating interest amongst the public and profile-raising for the ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’ initiative.

Lindow Moss Photography Comments
Lindow Moss. Photo by Stephen Vaughan.

Lindow Moss. Photo by Stephen Vaughan.

The following comment was written in the comments book in the photographic exhibition about Lindow Moss:-

“dear curator-type guy, although myself and my amazing girlfriend are aware that there is little chance of you actually reading this we feel the need to congratulate you on the wonderful experience we have had of your museum… as avid historians we feel a little more depths to the descriptions would be useful as many questions were left unanswered. However this is only a mild complaint lost in a sea of awe concerning the educational environment which you have constructed. Much love Sammy and Naomi xx (heart) xx’

I can’t claim any credit for the temporary exhibition about Lindow Moss but I love the salutation  “curator-type guy” and Sammy & Naomi criticize us so nicely it would be churlish not to share this with others.

Or what about:-

“I was born and brought up at Lindow and played on the moss as a kid. “The Bog” we called it. Back then in the 60s a lot of the cutting was still by hand with neat stacks of cut peat next to each trench. Everything was taken away on the narrow guage railway. We used to paly on the trucks. When I’ve been there recently I hardly recognize it. The industrial scale of the detruction is very upsetting. I wish more would be preserved. Sue S.”

I’ll bet Bruce Mould, who contributed to the Lindow Man exhibition, which closes on 19th April, cut the peat that Sue saw. The recent TV programme about peat also explored the subject of the conservation of bogs ‘v’ use of peat in gardens.

This is great stuff and thanks to all, too numerous to include every one, who have left comments.

A New Interpretation of Lindow Man and New Light on the Legend of the Alderley Edge Wizard

I will give a variant of my talk about Lindow Man and sacrificial theory. In the presentation I ask how, if Lindow Man dates from the early Roman period, we can reconcile human sacrifice with the Roman  occupation.

What being occupied by the Romans means in practice is a moot point and there must have been considerable continuity in the early years, especially in northern Britain. Did the killings continue because no-one had banned them  or was it because the Roman army was here and this was how local people held on to a sense of identity under foreign occupation? Rene Girard goes so far as to claim that the whole of human cultural and social order spring  from “acts of unanimous sacrificial violence against innocent victims or scapegoats.” Girard helps to reconcile the practice of human sacrifice with Roman occupation by showing how scapegoats are charged with the worst crimes imaginable in order to justify killing them very violently (Girard uses  emotive words like ‘lynching’ and ‘immolation’).

For example, in the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus, Oedipus is scapegoated and driven from Thebes because he killed his father and married his mother. Girard says that this is the wrong way round and that he was accused of those crimes after the fact in order to justify his banishment.  Girard notes that following his banishment Oedipus acquired sanctified status and Greek cities vied with one another for possession of his remains.

Depiction of the Alderley Edge Wizard

This set me thinking about the local legend of the Alderley Edge wizard. In the story the sleeping king and his knights (King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table?) will awaken and save Britain in her hour of need. Working backwards along the Girardian scapegoat trajectory, the sleeping saviours must have been scapegoated before they could be sanctified. Typically this would involve killing them violently and afterwards writing a more palatable account of their death for posterity (Girard calls this ‘mythic crystallization’) .

Is the Alderley Edge wizard story a re-written account of the killing of scapegoats at the site or nearby (Lindow Moss isn’t very far away). Could it  be a folk memory, committed to writing in the mid 18th century, of the killing of innocent people, whose remains have survived in the archaeological record as bog bodies?

One of the benefits of this approach is to reconcile human sacrifice with the presence of a Roman administration dedicated to stamping it out  because scapegoat victims are accused of terrible crimes to justify killing them. It also leaves us free to disconnect the killing of Lindow Man and the Roman occupation of northern Britain. Sacrificial crises occur for any one of a number of reasons (plague, famine, flood, drought) or none at all. It was possibly  in  response to the Roman invasion but it doesn’t have to have been.

Breeze Hill School and Lindow Man

Newsletter about Lindow Man by Kashif Subhani, Breeze Hill School

Haider Ali's nicely presented Lindow Man article

For Peat’s Sake


Peat extraction Lindow Moss (photo: Andrew Mould)

Peat extraction Lindow Moss (photo: Andrew Mould)

Just been watching the Gardeners’ World programme on BBC1 and was appalled at the complacency of people who make use of peat in their gardens despite knowing that this is damaging a precious and vulnerable habitat.

The presenter rehearsed the reasons why peat bogs are important, one of which was archaeological. At one point the presenter got down in a trench to look at a peat section that went back to the Bronze Age. For me that represents a compelling reason not to use peat compost in gardens. Something that is potentially thousands of years old shouldn’t be extracted on an industrial scale to the detriment of the archaeological record and the wildlife. If this represents a loss to the economy what compensation is there  in using the bogs for eco-tourism; and, if another Lindow Man came to light during sustainable extraction, what benefits might there be to the cultural economy?

I have recently been thinking about how we might demonstrate a Lindow Man effect for the cultural economy of the North West.  Surely that represents a wiser use of this resource than mindless, immoral extraction. No apologists for the peat industry will convince me otherwise.

To add insult to injury, at the ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’ workshop held at Wilmslow on 3rd April 2014 we learnt that the peat extracted at Lindow Moss isn’t of very good quality. One of its uses historically has been as a growing medium for commercial mushroom growing – but only after it has been mixed with horse manure.

Marginal People and Bogs

A recent enquiry took me to illustrations of bogs in the Atlas of Irish Rural Landscape, which mentions that the edges of bogland environments attracted marginalized people because turf was the poor person’s fuel.

This reminded me that back in the late 19th century William Norbury, in his article,“Lindow Common as a peat bog”,  talked about what he called the ‘peculiar’ race of people who dwelt on the edges of the peat bogs.  He felt such people were of a very ancient race, totally different from their neighbours  and that they had had marked physical peculiarities and peculiar habits and ways of life. 

They were often buck-stealers, poachers and fishermen.  “Their handicrafts”, he said, pointed to them being “a primitive people”…  “they are experts in using twigs or osiers, in making besoms from birch, also in making straw work, bee hives etc…. in fact in using all kinds of natural and ready products of the country.  They were very sly and suspicious…apparently very harmless but not so safe as they appeared to be.” (pp. 71-72).  Norbury compares the inhabitants of the mosses to the Euskarians or Turanians, i.e. the Basques.

Heavily laden as these comments are with value judgments (nowadays would making brooms be regarded as ‘primitive’? – rather the reverse I’d have thought!)  and special pleading about Lindow Moss as a quiet backwater forgotten by the rest of the world,  I fear these comments tell us more about Norbury than the people he purports to describe!    

Matthew Hyde and Christine Pemberton explore the rich archive of social historical evidence associated with Lindow Moss. In the pages of their wonderful Lindow and the Bog Warriors the moss is a place where gypsies camp, where shanty town-like dwellings are constructed, where discharged soldiers come to live because they can use peat as fuel for heating and cooking… ‘The whole area was given a wide berth by respectable people’ write Hyde & Pemberton 2002: 65.

It is sobering to think that it was the murder of a  prostitute and the discovery and dating of human remains that attracted archaeological interest to Lindow Moss. At that time the woman would have been regarded as living on the fringes of ‘respectable’ society. To use a current buzz word she and her husband were ‘liminal’ characters. The liminality that we perceive in the archaeological record, one could argue, continues or has continued pretty well until the present day.

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