Discovering the hidden gems . . . in your garden!

Peter Machen.
Peter Machen.
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A WARNING: this pair want to dig up your lawn.

Or at least they do if you live in Sheffield’s Manor, Arbourthorne or Norfolk Park.

Professor Dawn Hadley

Professor Dawn Hadley

They’re leading a team of 60 archeologists and students from across the world looking for historic artefacts from the deer park, mediaeval industries and prehistoric dwellings which once stood where the sprawling estates now are.

And they reckon there are dozens such treasures hiding under the gardens and back yards of the area’s homes.

Meet, then, Peter Machan, manager at the historical-ruin-cum-education-centre Manor Lodge, and Dawn Hadley, professor in mediaeval archeology at the University of Sheffield.

Let them into your yard only if you’re happy for it to be excavated.

“The area has such an incredibly interesting history and people don’t always realise that,” says Dawn. “When we say there was a deer park there it’s easy think of this huge grassland with lots of deers and hunting but there was actually quite a lot of early industrial activity - coal extraction, quarrying, that sort of thing - and dwellings on the land.

“The thing is while we know it was there and while we know lots about the Manor Lodge itself, we don’t know much detail about the surrounding area. The idea behind this dig is to try to find that out - while also taking archeology to the people.”

It is a noble aim.

But hang on a second chaps - mediaeval artefacts and hidden secrets are all well and good but that’s a person’s garden you’re talking about tearing into. Why should anyone allow that?

“It’s a good question,” says Peter, who has been head at Manor Lodge since 2008. “If someone asked to dig my garden I wouldn’t be that keen but we’re hoping the excitement of what might be discovered down there overcomes that. This is real history on your doorstep.”

Plus, they promise to dig the one-by-one-metre hole wherever it will cause least disturbance. And you get to keep any artefacts they find.

That could potentially include mediaeval tools, deer bones, dwelling foundations and prehistoric implements. They probably won’t be worth much but they’ll still look pretty impressive on the mantelpiece.

The six weeks of digging, called the Deer Park Big Dig, begins on June 19.

A similar event has been held for the last two years but both times the dig was at Manor Lodge itself, rather than going into the surrounding neighbourhoods. Some on-site digging will still be done this year but it is hoped six gardens will be excavated on the first day then a handful more each weekend after.

“The more gardens the merrier,” says Dawn.

They want to dig up your lawn and they promise it will be worth it.

n If you want them to see what’s under your plot contact Manor Lodge Discovery Centre on 0114 267 7637.