"Big Dig" project set to unearth long lost village

A ancient map which shows the location of Hapton Tower
A ancient map which shows the location of Hapton Tower

A  "Time Team" style archaeological dig is set to uncover a "lost village" in Hapton.

And volunteers who fancy trying their hand at getting their hands dirty and taking part in the dig are being invited to take part.

Known as the "Hapton Big Dig" a grant of £62,000 has come from the National Lottery to Bluestone Archaeology CIC which will work in partnership with the Hapton Heritage Committee and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project will focus on the southern half of the late-medieval Deer Park at Hapton. It is their hope to locate the "Lost Hamlet of Birtwisle" which is thought to be in the vicinity of Hapton Tower, a deer park lodge built around 1510 by Sir John Towneley.

Its construction probably led to the demise and sweeping away of the medieval settlement of Birtwistle first documented in AD 1193.

The survey of land on Hameldon Hill also found possible Bronze Age burial mounds and evidence of agriculture. The discoveries have got local heritage champions excited and calls have been made for further archeological work to be carried out to unearth Hapton’s hidden history.

Joan Lakeland, of the Hapton Heritage Group, said: "It could point to something quite interesting up there but we cannot tell for sure.

"It is looking very interesting around Hapton Tower - there seems to be more there than just a tower. I think there is a lot more that needs to be looked into.

"We would not be able to prove for sure without digging down."

Some believe it could be the site of the forgotten village, originally called "Bridtwisell" which means a clearing between two streams where birds gather, located in the area the Towneley family built the tower which has since disappeared off the map.

Mrs Lakeland said: "Birtwistle is a lost settlement from around the 15th or 16th Century. But there is a suggestion there could be a settlement before the village of Birtwistle. It could be very well preserved.

"We don’t want to lose this history. I would like to see another project up there."

Burnley Council also conducted an archeological survey of the area when plans for new wind turbines were made for the Hameldon Wind Farm, and noted evidence of Bronze Age, Neolithic and Mesolithic activity.

The Big Dig volunteers will learn about their Tudor and Elizabethan heritage and they will have a rare

opportunity to excavate a long lost medieval settlement and aristocratic tower house.

They will also learn how to handle and identify finds from the dig and learn ways in which archaeologists reconstruct the past through carefully recording the remains of buildings and the finds.

A display of the project's findings will also be staged at Burnley's Towneley Hall and libraries in the area.

Project Director, Steve Baldwin said: “We are delighted to have received the support of National Lottery players.

"We are confident the project will point us in the right direction and help us discover more about Hapton Tower and

its relationship with the Towneley Family and maybe even locate the lost hamlet of Birtwisle.”

A survey is being carried out at the moment and the excavations will start in June.

If you would like to join the dig contact the project coordinator:Joan Lakeland at joanlakeland@outlook.com

For further information please see the Hapton Big Dig Facebook page and visit

www.haptonheritage.co.uk