In April and May a team from the Sheffield Office carried out the excavation of a 7 m by 7 m trench within the nave of Manchester Cathedral in advance of the construction of a raisable dais. The work was carried out on behalf of Lambert Walker and with help and advice from Norman Redhead (Cathedral Archaeologist) and Dr Peter Arrowsmith. Five lead coffins and 49 inhumations were revealed during the excavation and watching brief. The high status of the burials was notable and contrasted well with the individuals seen during our recent work at Wakefield Cathedral. As well as the lead coffins, items of note included ornate coffin fittings and decorative wooden coffins.
Our osteoarchaeologists analysed the excavated bones on site and our heritage team are currently unearthing information on named individuals – although considering the family’s long association with Manchester, Thomas William De Trafford is proving strangely illusive.
The identifiable remains comprised broadly equal numbers of male and females but there were only seven young children and adolescents – possibly a reflection of the lower infant mortality amongst the high status of the buried population, or may reflect the small sample excavated. As well as the burials and coffin fittings 44 ledger stones – horizontal grave stones – or fragments were revealed during the watching brief, although very few are complete or well preserved.