As part of Blackpool Council’s wider commemoration of the centenary of World War One it has brought together a number of partners to create a community archaeology project to uncover sections of the buried training trenches under Watson Road Park, dug in 1915 and 1916. These were used for just eight months by the army.
An integral aspect of the project is the involvement of local volunteers who will be working with professional archaeologists from the University of Salford and Neil Archaeological Services to help understand how the trenches were constructed, and what evidence remains for their probably unique use as a visitor attraction later in the war.
There are very few images of the trenches even after construction and many of these come from newspapers or postcards and so are rather dark and unclear. However, we have been lucky enough to find aerial photographs that show the filled-in lines of those very trenches.
The star find of day one was the remains of a shot gun cartridge, whilst several dark linear stains in our two trenches suggest that we have already hit the line of the WW1 trenches. Although the weather over the first two days was damp the rain has helped keep the sandy soil moist enough to see these features and has not dampened the enthusiasm of the volunteers. We even have our own war artist, Ria Teunisse, one of our volunteers, who has been recording all the hard work do so far.
The Watson Road project will allow the people of Blackpool to confirm the accuracy of the contemporary trench maps and enable the archaeologists to give more detailed information on the depth, construction and ground conditions of the site. There will be open days on the 20th July and the 4th August and then the excavation will have to be back-filled. However, a permanent exhibition has already been set up in the Watson Park Pavilion, kindly managed by the Friends of the park and our dig HQ for the next two weeks and there will be an interpretation panel at the main entrance to the park allowing people to understand the important part Blackpool played during the First World War.