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The Big Dig - Tour of the Arts & Heritage Resource Centre

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Touchstones Arts & Heritage Resource Centre

Fishwick Street


OL16 5NA

United Kingdom

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Event description
Don't miss this rare opportunity to visit Touchstones' resource centre! Book now to view the fabulous collections currently in storage.

About this event

The doors of the Touchstones Arts & Heritage Centre are being opened for you to visit!

In conjunction with The Big Dig at Rochdale Town Hall, YourTrust are holding a series of guided tours around the site, where the wonderful collections of the borough are stored.

As part of the tour, you'll get the chance to learn about how the different collections are being looked after to ensure they are here for future generations to enjoy. The team will also be able to tell you how the finds from The Big Dig will be handled, recorded and stored.

Places on the tours are limited, so book your tickets today to ensure you don't miss out!


If you or your family are not able to take part in the dig itself, perhaps due to mobility or sensory disorders, this tour is just one of the ways you can still get involved. Take a look at some of the related events taking place below or call the team on 01706 927046 to discuss.


This event has been designed to be Covid-secure and fully compliant with current Covid-19 regulations. This will include:

  • Temperature checks for all visitors on arrival
  • Hand sanitisers available on site
  • Maximum numbers per group and spacing between groups

We would also strongly advise that everyone attending takes a FAST test beforehand. We’re advising all residents to fast test around twice a week to keep covid rates down and reduce transmission. You can find out more about fast testing, which can also be done at home, here:

Please note: restrictions may change at short notice and this may mean we need to cancel this event. In this instance, we will aim to give participants as much notice as possible.


This event, part of the Rochdale Town Hall Restoration project, was made possible thanks to funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Related events

A number of related events will be taking place throughout the duration of the dig.

The Big Dig

You're invited! Join us and take part in a unique, once-in-a-lifetime archaeological dig along the historic Packer Street in Rochdale.

The Big Dig - Tour and Talk

Listen to specialist archaeologists and watch The Big Dig underway! Find out about the history of Packer Street and what they hope to find.

Event Information

Getting here

In order to maintain security of the store, full directions will be provided to visitors via email.

Please arrive promptly so that we can get everybody registered and begin the tour on time. If you arrive after this time and you may be unable to take part in the tour.

Food and drink

Food and drink is not provided, but why not book a table in one of the town centre's many fantastic places to eat? For inspiration, visit Rochdale Town Centre's website.

Why is The Big Dig important?

Packer Street was an important thoroughfare from at least the later medieval period, providing a direct route between the 13th-century Church of St Chads and the original bridge across the River Roch. Indeed, there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that the medieval town was focused in this area.

There are also documentary indications that Rochdale was occupied during the 7th and 8th centuries with the present St Chads occupying the site of an earlier church, but the presence and extent of an associated Anglo-Saxon settlement is unknown.

Rochdale was a regional centre for the woollen-cloth trade by the 18th century and became an important terminus for the associated cross-Pennine packhorse route. Cartographic evidence shows that a continuous row of buildings occupied this area by the mid-18th century, lining Packer Street and Water Side on the south bank of the River Roch. These are likely to have provided domestic accommodation in addition to a suite of commercial services such as warehousing, stabling, blacksmithing and inns to support the cross-Pennine trade route. An iron and brass foundry, amongst the first to be established in Rochdale, had been erected to the rear of the Packer Street frontage by the end of the 18th century, whilst a large villa residence with extensive gardens occupied a large swathe of ground. These buildings were all cleared by 1866, when the first foundation stone for the Town Hall was laid.

Results of 4 small test-pit surveys suggest remains of the buildings, outbuildings and yards survive along the western side of Packer Street. In undeveloped pockets of land and beneath the yard surfaces, survive layers of relict soil, potentially deriving from medieval and / or post-medieval occupation of the area. Furthermore, the absence of cellars beneath the Packer Street properties raises the possibility for the survival of a multiple phases of earlier occupation. No conclusive remains of the Roch Foundry were revealed during the works. It is concluded that the site, and especially the area around the southern end of Packer Street, has considerable potential for further archaeological investigation.


To book tickets, simply click to select a date above or call 01706 924797 to book over the phone.

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