LIP: Project Outline and Design



The LIP project will investigate domestic life within urban Derby and beyond from the late Victorian period to the mid 20th century (c. AD 1870-1945). It will test innovative methodologies of data collection and public participation, and in doing so inform the development of a subsequent, larger project. It will investigate the general material conditions of working-class households during this time (focusing upon urban housing, but also examining suburban and rural housing); should public participation generate sufficient historical evidence, LIP will examine this material to explore the materiality of community and place (particularly in relationship to poverty, inequality, and class), critically appraising dominant discourses and contributing to wider debates surrounding these issues. The project will examine a range of historical sources (including documentary and visual evidence and oral histories) in conjunction with material culture, to provide a historic context, and to enhance understanding; collaboration with individuals, families, and communities will both inform and broaden interpretations.

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Project Outline

Summary Description

Living in the Past Community Archaeology Project investigates everyday (primarily domestic) life within Derby and District between the mid 19th century to mid 20th century by testing innovative methodologies of data collection and public participation, focusing upon contexts not often attributed historical significance. The Project in general analyses contemporaneous material remains (principally industrial terraced housing within working-class neighbourhoods) by undertaking Garden Artefact Surveys and Archaeological Building Investigation and Recording, in particular investigating domestic and sanitary waste contexts. A programme of Field Evaluation (sampling of surface material at a refuse disposal site associated with the main study area) is proposed; and Field Survey of an associated graveyard is planned, in order to complement the investigation of domestic contexts. Examination of previously excavated material will in addition enhance understanding of the primary data. A range of historical sources (including documentary and visual evidence and oral histories) have been and will continue to be examined in conjunction with material culture, to provide a historic context, and to enhance understanding; collaboration with individuals, families, and communities will both inform and broaden interpretations.


Living in the Past Community Archaeology Project will undertake a programme of non-intrusive historic building recording Archaeological Building Investigations and Recordings (ABIRs), Garden Artefact Surveys (GASs); and Field Survey and Evaluations (FSEs) of associated contexts (e.g. survey and field-walking of contemporaneous domestic waste deposits) primarily within Derby and surrounding area. The primary execution stage of the project will run January 2013 – December 2013.

The Project has been developed with regard to both the needs for further research outlined within the Regional Research Assessment, Agenda, and Strategy (Campion 2006; Knight, et al. 2012), and the accessibility of relevant contexts within local communities. It will provide opportunities to develop expertise within a hitherto neglected field of archaeology.

The occupants of, or those with legitimate access to, housing (particularly that housing industrial workers) constructed and / or occupied during the late 19th and early 20th centuries within case study areas, and the focused study region, will be targeted for participation. This is most likely to incorporate small urban terraced houses, and small rural or semi-rural cottages.

The primary focus is Allestree Village (a suburban / semi-rural location, on the northern outskirts of the Derby City limits, fig. 1.1). Community participation within other north Derby neighbourhoods will provide comparisons: case studies have begun in the Chester Green area (on the edge of the inner city, fig. 1.2), which like the primary study area incorporates a conservation area, and has connections with the Derwent valley World Heritage Site (as indicated by preliminary research). Previous archaeological and historical investigations of the ‘West End’ region of Derby (fig. 1.3) provide opportunities for further research in this and the surrounding area (Friar Gate / Ashbourne Road area, fig. 1.4), through community participation. Investigations undertaken within the nearby market town of Ashbourne (approx. 12 miles to the west) may also provide comparisons.

Figure 1 Location of Derby Primary Study Areas (Map: OpenSource)

Project Aims and Objectives

The primary aims of the Project are as follows:

  1. To promote public awareness of and engagement with the Historic Environment (and Heritage Services), supporting community inclusion within archaeological and historical investigation and research
  2. To explore different approaches to data collection, in order to examine a range of material evidence alongside other historical sources relating to everyday (particularly working-class) life within the study region between the mid 19th – mid 20th century
  3. To improve understanding of everyday (particularly working-class) life within the study region during this time, by focusing upon the materiality of domestic waste

The primary Project objectives are:

  1. To develop, pilot, and evaluate new ways of generating public interest in archaeology and history, through participation in data collection, recording, and interpretation
  2. To create a record of domestic material culture associated with working-class households during the study period and within the study region, and compare this evidence with other data sets (e.g. gravestones, census data, oral history records)
  3. To analyse and interpret this record, disseminating findings in a number of ways, defining the heritage significance of Victorian and early 20th century everyday life and material culture in general, and waste disposal in particular

Project Rationale

The benefits of studying the recent past archaeologically have been recognised for more than a decade (increasingly so over the past five years within Britain), as Historical Archaeology in general has expanded in scope. However, Britain is only beginning to follow North America and Australia in this field (e.g. Davies and Lawrence 1999; Mayne 2006; Mayne and Murray 2001; Murray and Mayne 2003; Praetzellis and Praetzellis 2009; Yamin 2001).

The acknowledgement within Regional Research Strategies, Assessment, Agenda, and Strategies that much may yet be learnt through this field of enquiry has encouraged greater attention to 19th century domestic contexts within both developer-funded and research projects. Public interest and enthusiasm for archaeologies of the recent past evident (e.g. ‘Dig Hungate’, York; ‘Angel Meadow’, Manchester; and Olympic Park, London; Heeley City Farm, Sheffield; and Bingham Heritage Trials Association) is evident (Matthews 1999; Nevell 2011; Rimmer et al. 2011). Interpretations (such as those of the pilot project ‘Living in Victorian London: material culture and every day domestic life in the nineteenth-century metropolis’) both aid understanding of aspects of daily life neglected by texts, and transform (and sometimes overturn) long-held assumptions derived from contemporaneous written records (e.g. see Connelly 2011; Jeffries 2006; Owens et al. 2010; Rimmer 2011).

A common aspect of many of these studies, as of those undertaken outside Britain, is the realisation that domestic waste and sanitary contexts are perhaps the most valuable source of information with regard to archaeological investigations of everyday – particularly domestic – life in the recent past (e.g. see Connelly 2011; Geismar 1993; Jeffries 2006; Owens et al. 2010; Wheeler 2000). One major benefit of investigating the 19th – mid 20th century refuse site at Allestree Park is the prospect of retrieving a wide range of material – including artefacts rarely found within many excavations – e.g. pieces of leather footwear that would normally require waterlogged conditions to ensure preservation. This breadth of material provides opportunities to ask much more detailed questions of the evidence, and thus holds the potential to achieve greater understanding of everyday life during this time – particularly through adopting an ‘ethnographies of place’ approach by investigating the material data in conjunction with other historical sources (see Mayne and Lawrence 1999).

Previous non-archaeological research (see Bell 1999) both demonstrates local public interest in this topic, and provides a platform from which further research in this field might be developed at the local level. The current state of knowledge and experience derived from major archaeological projects that have recently been carried out provides an ideal back-drop for such studies, opening opportunities not only to draw upon, but to develop, previous methodological and theoretical frameworks, in order to accommodate and expand the diversity both of public engagement with the Historic Environment, and source material. This Project will be informed by previous and ongoing research in this field, and in doing so may both extend and develop public interest in archaeology of the recent past (and in the Historic Environment in general), and provide a valuable contribution to historical archaeology. The investigation of several locations enable comparisons to be made that might permit the development of more rounded studies into poverty, social mobility, and class during the 19th and early 20th century in Britain that focus upon ‘poor’ areas alone has hitherto precluded (see Symonds 2011: 568).

The East Midlands Regional Research Assessment, Agenda, and Strategy and Strategy, which informed initial Project development, outlines research themes that might address gaps in knowledge regarding the Modern Period (Campion 2006), highlighting a dearth of knowledge, understanding, and skills, and a corresponding need for further archaeological work, into the topics touched upon, and directly, investigated by this Project. The Updated Regional Research Agenda and Strategy (Knight, Vyner, and Allen 2012) develops and clarifies the themes of the Regional Research Assessment, Agenda, and Strategy and Strategy, has further informed the direction and focus of LIP.


A number of approaches will be used to enable community participation in collecting a broad range of data. Households within the study areas will be approached to record archaeological material found within garden topsoil (learning from successful techniques previously adopted by such schemes as the Bingham Heritage Trails Association); householders will also be offered the opportunity to take part in archaeological building surveys of their homes, with a focus upon external features. Community-based field surveys of a Victorian and early 20th century waste disposal site in the village of Allestree, on park land owned by Derby City Council (if permitted collecting material samples; otherwise undertaking in situ recording of surface finds), will provide a large data set that may be compared to material and data located and recorded at private properties. A survey of the associated village graveyard will provide further data that may aid greater understanding of everyday life during the period under investigation. Recovered data will be analysed alongside other historical sources (written evidence and oral history).


Bell, David 1999 Nottinghamshire Privies. A Nostalgic Trip Down the Garden Path

Campion, Garry 2006 ‘The Modern Period (1750–2000)’, in Nicolas J. Cooper (ed.) The Archaeology of the East Midlands. An Archaeological Resource Assessment and Research Assessment, Agenda, and Strategy, Leicester Archaeology Monographs No. 13, pp.237-57

Connelly, P. A. 2011 ‘Flush with the Past: An Insight into Late Nineteenth-Century Hungate and its Role in Providing a Better Understanding of Urban Development’, International Journal of Historical Archaeology 15, pp.607–616

Davies, P. and Lawrence, S. 1999 An Archaeology of Australia Since 1788

Geismar, Joan H. 1993 ‘Where Is Night Soil? Thoughts on an Urban Privy’, Historical Archaeology 27:2, pp.57-70

Jeffries, Nigel 2006 ‘The Metropolis Local Management Act and the archaeology of sanitary reform in the London Borough of Lambeth 1856–86’, Post-Medieval Archaeology 40:2, pp. 272–290

Knight, David, Vyner, Blaise and Allen, Carol 2012 East Midlands Heritage. An Updated Research Assessment, Agenda, and Strategy and Strategy for the Historic Environment of the East Midlands

Matthews, Keith 1999, ‘Familiarity and contempt: the archaeology of the ‘modern’’, in Sarah Tarlow and Susie West (eds.) 1999 The Familiar Past? Archaeologies of Later Historical Britain, pp. 155-79

Mayne, Alan 2006 ‘Big Notes from a Little Street: Historical Research at Melbourne’s “Little Lon”’, International Journal of Historical Archaeology 10: 4, pp. 317-28

Mayne, Alan and Lawrence, Susan 1999 ‘Ethnographies of place: a new urban research agenda’, Urban History 26:3, pp. 325-48

Mayne, Alan and Murray, Tim (eds.) 2001 The archaeology of urban landscapes. Explorations in Slumland

Murray and Mayne 2003 ‘(Re) Constructing a Lost Community: “Little Lon,” Melbourne, Australia, Historical Archaeology 37:1, 87–101

Nevell, M. 2011 ‘Living in the Industrial City: Housing Quality, Land Ownership and the archaeological Evidence from Industrial Manchester, 1740–1850’, International Journal of Historical Archaeology 15, pp. 594-606.

Owens, Alistair, Jeffries, Nigel, Wehner, Karen, Featherby, Rupert 2010 ‘Fragments of the Modern City: Material Culture and the Rhythms of Everyday Life in Victorian London’, Journal of Victorian Culture 15:2, pp. 212-225

Praetzellis, M., and Praetzellis, A. (eds.) 2009 South Market: Historical Archaeology of 3 San Francisco Neighborhoods. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge West Approach Project. Volume I,

Rimmer, Jayne 2011 ‘People and Their Buildings in the Working-Class Neighborhood of Hungate, York’, International Journal of Historical Archaeology 15: pp. 617–628

Rimmer, Jayne, Connelly, Peter, Rees Jones, Sarah, and Walker, John (eds.) 2011 International Journal of Historical Archaeology: Poverty In Depth: New International Perspectives 15:4

Symonds, James 2011 ‘The Poverty Trap: Or, Why Poverty is Not About the Individual’, International Journal of Historical Archaeology 15:4, pp. 563–571

Wheeler, Kathleen L. (ed.) 2000 Historical Archaeology 34:1 View From the Outhouse: What We Can Learn from the Excavation of Privies

Yamin 2001 Yamin, R. 2001 ‘Introduction: Becoming New York: The Five Points Neighborhood’, Historical Archaeology 35:3, pp. 1-5


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