Big Lea Green Farm, Sutton, St Helens: a post-medieval farm

In 2002, Somerfield Supermarkets were constructing a regional distribution centre at Lea Green, near St Helens. This provided an opportunity for field archaeology to excavate the late medieval farm there. Documentary research had already established the occupation of the farm during the late 17th century by Bryan Lea, ‘yeoman of Sutton’. It probably corresponded to lands held by Thurstan de Standish in the 14th century. The archaeological evaluation identified material dating from the 13th century onwards. The continuous habitation of the site was interrupted in September 1940, when the farmhouse was badly damaged by German bombing.

View to the west of the excavation showing building foundations. Note the semi-circular scar in the cobbled surface marking the bomb crater from September 1940.

The open area excavation of the site has enabled archaeologists to reconstruct the changing organisation and buildings on the site. From pits containing waterlogged leather, horn, bone and animal hair, it went on to the establishment of a sandstone farmhouse and associated barns in the 17th century through to the erection of grain silos in the late 20th century. During the course of the excavation an exceptional collection of ceramics was recovered: dating from the 13th century to the late 19th.

Early 18th Century two-handled slip decorated hollow ware

The post-medieval pottery was an especially rich find which will provide a benchmark for future work in the area. An interim report has been produced and additional specialist reports have been commissioned to examine the pottery, clay tobacco pipe, horn, bone, and environmental material. This will all be incorporated into a full excavation report. The project demonstrated the potential for excavation of smaller yeoman farmsteads, which were key components of the late and post-medieval rural landscape in the region.


© National Museums Liverpool 2004