In 1953 the schoolboy Alan Garner, who was born and grew up in the village, rediscovered an old wooden shovel originally found in the Alderley copper mines in 1875. In 1991, by now a world-famous author, he presented it to the Manchester Museum in the University of Manchester, thereby inspiring the creation of the Alderley Edge Landscape Project, a multi-disciplinary research programme carried out by Manchester Museum and the National Trust.
The project started off with a lively public meeting in February 1997 at St Hilary's School (as it then was) at which the objectives were explained, this was followed with a series of lectures.
As a result of the project, which aimed to cover the entire history of Alderley - from geology to entomology, mining to oral history - is The Story of Alderley: Living With The Edge which has been published today by Manchester University Press.
The book, which contains over thousand pages and weighs in at 2.66kg, is edited by John Prag, formerly Professor of Archaeological Studies and Keeper of Archaeology at Manchester Museum. It covers everything from the natural world, the story of the mines, social history and conservation. "The Story of Alderley" includes the discovery of two new species of bramble and a retelling of the legend by Alan Garner, which takes the story back into prehistory, and the full story his shovel, now securely dated to about 1750 BC in the Bronze Age by radiocarbon analysis.
Speaking about the project Professor Prag said "Alderley Edge has a rich, complex history of geology, archaeology, early mining and social and natural history. Parts of the Edge have been designated as RIGGS, SSSI and SAM, while the character of the village changed radically when the railway came in 1842, creating Britain's first commuter dormitory while at the same time making it accessible as a honey-pot for Manchester's city- dwellers. For many people it remains a special place, and its legend of a sleeping king is still very much alive. Much of the Edge now belongs to the National Trust, while the mines are leased by the Derbyshire Caving Club.
"The Edge has long been the focus of intermittent and generally undisciplined investigation, although the first University investigations were those of Boyd Dawkins in the 1870s. The Alderley Edge Landscape Project (AELP) was established in 1996 as a joint project of the Manchester Museum and the National Trust (the principal landowner).
"Though inspired by the archaeology, the project's aim has been to see the physical and human landscape of Alderley in its entirety, exploiting the many disciplines represented at the Museum. It was conceived as the Museum's first truly interdisciplinary project: at one stage almost every keeper was involved, as well as other University departments and specialists from outside.
"The project could not have functioned without the support and involvement of the local community, cutting across its social strata: aside from practical help, the Village have contributed an archive of 300-odd hours of recorded interviews of oral history along with the more conventional paper archive of photographs, letters, account books and the like."
Local people were well represented on the steering group which oversaw the project, including representatives from the parish councils, various local residents who had an interest in the project (including Alan and Griselda Garner) and the Derbyshire Caving Club amongst others.
Visitor surveys were carried out during the project to learn why people came to the Edge, whether they were local or from further afield, and what the Edge meant to them. A very important and interesting part of the project's work was to record interviews with older people: extracts from some of these feature in the book.
Additionally, on 'National Archaeology Days' during the project open sessions in practical and experimental archaeology were held on the Edge in which the public were encouraged to participate.
John Prag added "No other project or book has covered the entire, complex story of a single village and its landscape in such detail. It will be read not just by landscape historians but by students and scholars in all those disciplines and at all levels, and by anyone interested in any aspect of history and of the countryside, whether out on the Edge or in the comfort of an armchair."
The book will be launched at Alderley Edge Festival Hall on Friday 26th February where Lord Stanley of Alderley has agreed to speak. The event will take place from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, everyone is welcome to attend.
The Story of Alderley: Living with the Edge is published by Manchester University Press in hardcover priced £50.00. It will be available in bookshops from the end of January and there is a special 20% discount for local people who will be able to purchase the book for £40 plus p&p - copies should be ordered directly from MUP's website or via email [email protected], quoting the discount code OTH574.
1. Introduction - John Prag
2. Approach to the Edge - Alan Garner
Part II. The bedrock of the Edge
3. Introduction: the geological story of Alderley Edge - Simon Timberlake and David Thompson
4. Introductory survey: rocks, minerals and landforms - Simon Timberlake
5. The solid geology - John Nudds, John Pollard, David Thompson and Geoffrey Warrington
Appendix on Rhyncosaurides - John Pollard
6. The minerals of the Edge - David Green, Richard Braithwaite, David Thompson and Geoffrey Warrington
7. Geomorphology - The evolution of the landscape -R.H. Johnson and David Thompson
Part III. Natural history - the flora and fauna
8. The vegetation of the Edge - Sean Edwards, Simon Timberlake et al.
9. The familiar birds of Alderley Edge - John Adams and Edward Stanley
10. Amphibians and water beetles - Jill Smethurst and Jonathan Guest et al.
11. Invertebrates, insects & spiders - Dmitri Logunov et al.
12. Butterflies on Alderley Edge: resources, habitats and changes - Roger Dennis
Part IV. Human history
13. The archaeology of Alderley Edge - John Prag and Simon Timberlake
Underground - The mines
14. The evidence for mining before 1598 - Simon Timberlake
15. Mining in the Alderley district: the documented period - Geoffrey Warrington
16. The Alderley Edge Mines: working the mines - Nigel Dibben with Paul Deakin
17. The quarries of Alderley Edge with a note on the graffiti - Nigel Dibben with Carolanne King et al.
Overground - Social history
18. The history of Alderley Edge - Clare Pye
19. Living memory: the people of the Edge (the oral archive) - John Ecclestone
Appendix: the voice of Philip Jarvis - John Adams, John Prag
21. Alderley Edge: the villas and the village - Matthew Hyde
22. The Stanley Estate - Matthew Hyde
23. Nether Alderley water mill: an historical and architectural study - Mike Redfern
24. Tracks, paths, roads and rights of way on the Edge - Clare Pye, Simon Timberlake and Carolanne King
25. The stones of Alderley Edge - John Adams
26. Alderley: the names of street, house and field - John Adams
Part V. Looking back, looking forward
27. Close to the Edge: ensuring the future of the Edge for everyone - Chris Widger
28. By Seven Firs and Goldenstone: an account of the Legend of Alderley - Alan Garner
29. Envoi - John Prag
Part VI. End matter
30. Bibliography - John Prag
31. Glossary - John Prag
Index - Simon Timberlake