LIPCAP Archaeological Garden Investigations: about participating


This information will be updated ASAP, and for the moment provides background details to the pilot study.

Participation Guide [1]

LIP aims to collaborate with households and communities in collecting and sharing information that relates to domestic life (primarily urban working-class housing within the study region, but also including and lower middle-class households) during the Victorian period to the end of the Second World War in Britain.

Common Victorian – early 20th century domestic artefacts

Surveys may be able to determine the different ways in which past generations lived during this time, by comparing evidence between other households (both different and similar) nearby and in different locations, and to examine this evidence alongside a range of other sources. Garden (and / or yard) investigations provide another way of looking at life in the past: until the early 20th century, waste was often disposed of within or near to gardens or back yards. Material (such as scraps of pottery) found within the gardens of older houses is potentially very informative, contributing to the evidence from building investigations.

Project-specific guidelines will be available in due course (also see the Archaeological Resources Page, where external guides to building investigations are now available); but the sort of information that is useful will now be briefly outlined.

What area does the project currently cover, and what gardens are of interest?

So that Team Members might more easily support householders in undertaking Garden Investigations and Surveys (taking into consideration limited funding and time), for the moment at least, residents who may require support should be located within the Catchment Area.

The project investigates housing that dates to before c.1945; therefore, the gardens of houses of this date, of the following type, are of interest (guidance on how to estimate the age of domestic buildings will be available through the resources pages of this website, or by contacting the project).

Most garden analysis relies upon residents notifying the project when they find features and artefacts in their garden (e.g. during gardening at this point, not excavation). Project Team Members will try to find out the date and function of reported material; if they so wish, residents are encouraged to take part in this process, with guidance. Collectors in particular may be able to contribute very useful knowledge and experience to such investigations.

Terraced Housing

Due to the continued occupation of late Victorian and Edwardian small terraced houses, gardens and yards associated with this form of housing are likely to yield the majority of evidence for the project. This form of building is recognisable without specialist knowledge (see photo, below).[2]

Garden of late Victorian terraced house (LIP Case Study ‘No. 8’)

Social Housing

Modern housing on the site of earlier housingGardens and yards associated with housing built by Local Authorities (‘Council Housing’) and Charitable Trusts before the end of WWII in Britain (1945) are also of interest; however, it often not as easy to be sure of their approximate date of construction. More information on identifying period housing will be provided; but the section below on ‘Dating your home’ provides links to mapping resources; alternatively, contact the project for advice or information, with a post-code and house number, and preferably an exterior photo of the property.

If you live in a newer building, it may still be possible to participate through garden and / or yard investigations. Local authorities had demolished many smaller urban houses (particularly that known as ‘slum’ housing) by the end of the 1970s; private and council housing was often built upon this land. Gardens or other open spaces associated with such housing potentially provide scope for the discovery of earlier domestic features and their associated artefacts.

Dating your home, or determining whether it was built on the site of earlier housing

Historic maps can be accessed at Local Studies Libraries or online (e.g., or enter your postcode to see changes to your local area). Some online census records are searchable by address (e.g., and may also be accessible through local studies libraries. If accessed from home, there is a charge to view records; however, it is usually free to search: this should indicate the presence of housing 1841 – 1911 (but be aware that streets names may change over time, and that the census only records occupied buildings).

LIP archaeological garden surveys: preliminary information

Procedures for recording ‘finds’

Sherd of Victorian – early 20th century blue and white transfer printed (‘Willow Pattern’ type) deep plate or shallow dish

What will happen to this information?

Guidelines for participants to self-record and identify Victorian and early 20th century artefacts (such as ceramic ‘sherds’: pottery fragments, including parts of clay pipe) found in their garden will soon be available. In the mean time, or if you would feel more comfortable with further support in this task, please notify the project directly, through the website, providing your house number or name and postcode. It will be helpful if you also provide a photo (both sides of the object, and if possible profile views, with some form of scale (see image, below); a brief description of what you have found (e.g. pottery with blue and white pattern), and of the type of house that is associated with the garden (e.g. old small terraced house). It will be especially helpful if you could provide a simple sketch of your garden, with the find spot(s) marked.

‘Finds’ will be recorded on a public database (personal data, such as names, will be omitted) and project map. If you are happy for them to do so, a Project Team Member may come and look at what you have found (and perhaps describe, draw, and photograph finds). In some cases (again if permission is granted), it may be useful if finds can be temporarily removed, in order to undertake more detailed analyses (e.g. to look at them under a microscope). It will also be useful if the Team Member(s) can look at and take a photo of the place(s) in the garden that the artefact(s) was/were found.

The historical background of the object may be investigated, perhaps examining census (late 19th century – 1911) and other information (such as historic maps), to consider how this material may relate to the household and beyond; this information will be presented alongside photos of the finds, on the project website(s). In some cases, it may be very informative to also carry out an archaeological survey of the house and garden features, or even a small excavation, although this is at the discretion of the householder / property owner, local Historic Environment Officers, and Project Director.

Wide public participation will create an extensive record of working class life in the Victorian period and early 20th century, adopting new approaches that may enable greater insight into ‘hidden histories’. By considering the evidence for everyday practices within and across neighbourhoods, towns and cities, regions, and beyond, it may be possible to broaden understanding of how the experiences of ‘ordinary’ people were influenced by, and influenced, wider forces of social change.


There are other ways to participate within the project – including archaeological garden surveys, and oral history interviews; the contribution of reminiscences and family histories, photos, and other sources provide additional routes for taking part. For any further information, please see the project website, or contact the project.


[1] Participants and contributors do so on the understanding that they have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions of participation and contribution (available on the LIP Project webpage, or by contacting the project. See the webpage on privacy and data protection policiesfor further information, or contact the project.

[2] Much of the high-occupancy and smaller ‘slum’ housing in and around many towns and cities occupied during and after the late 19th century was demolished before the end of the 20th century, but any such remaining housing stock (for example, ‘back-to-back’ housing) is of particular interest to the project.

Downloadable copy of this page:


Downloadable short version:


Leave a Reply