Meols: The Archaeology of the North Wirral Coast

David Griffiths, Robert Philpott, Geoff Egan, 2011 (updated 2020)

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David Griffiths, Robert Philpott, Geoff Egan (2020) Meols: The Archaeology of the North Wirral Coast [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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During the 19th century thousands of ancient finds were recovered from the north Wirral coast at Meols and were collected by antiquarians. The objects range in date from the mesolithic period to the 18th century AD, and include important Iron Age, sub-Roman and Viking material, while the substantial volume of later medieval finds is only second in importance to the collection from London. Over 3000 items survive today, dispersed between five museums, including National Museums Liverpool and the British Museum. The discoveries show that through successive periods, Meols was one of the most important sites in the North West.

In 1999 a collaborative project was initiated to study and publish the Meols finds, co-ordinated at National Museums Liverpool by Dr Robert Philpott, of the Archaeology Department, with Dr David Griffiths, at the University of Oxford and Dr Geoff Egan (Museum of London Archaeology Services). Over a dozen other specialists contributed to the cataloguing of the material. The published monograph contains the detailed catalogue of the finds, together with a survey of the past topographical and coastal changes at the site, and a re-evaluation by period specialists of the significance of the material assemblages. The final volume entitled Meols. The Archaeology of the North Wirral Coast:Discoveries and observations in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a catalogue of collections by David Griffiths, Robert A. Philpott, and Geoff Egan, was published by Oxford University School of Archaeology: Monograph 68, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. In the current ADS database the opportunity has been taken to correct a very small number of errors identified in the published concordance of archive, publication and collections (Griffiths et al. 2007, Appendix 3).

Geographical Scope

The Meols database is a computer-based Microsoft Access database which attempts to catalogue the archaeological material recovered from the north Wirral coast during the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 19th century the term 'Cheshire shore' was used rather loosely for to refer to the north Wirral coast, extending approximately from Hoylake to New Brighton. Sometimes the terms Meols or Hoylake are used and appear to be virtually synonymous. It is uncertain to what extent findspots described as from "Meols" or the "Meols shore" correspond precisely with the historic borders of the townships of Great Meols or Little Meols; the latter in modern terms corresponding more to Hoylake.

Collections Scope

The compilers of the database have attempted to catalogue all the extant material known to come from Meols. The material from the following institutional collections has been examined:

The Grosvenor Museum, Chester
Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead
Liverpool Museum Department of Archaeology and Ethnology (now National Museums Liverpool, Museum of Liverpool, Regional Archaeology Collection)
Warrington Museum and Art Gallery
The British Museum, London

The database also contains information from the following sources:

Published finds (Abraham Hume's Ancient Meols, 1863; articles written by Henry Ecroyd Smith, Charles Potter, Edward Cox and others)
Unpublished museum records (e.g. the Gatty slips in National Museums Liverpool; British Museum accessions registers)
Unpublished metal detector finds notified to National Museums Liverpool

The present database does not include the coins and tokens.


The database was compiled from 2000 onwards by the following:

DG David Griffiths, Reader in Archaeology, University of Oxford OUDCE
RP Robert Philpott, Head of Archaeology at National Museums Liverpool
EC Liz Callander, former temporary Archaeological Assistant in the Field Archaeology Unit, National Museums Liverpool
GE Geoff Egan, formerly of the Museum of London Archaeology Service.

Database Fields

  1. Publication number: Number in published catalogue (Griffiths et al. 2007), allocated 2006-7. NB: for the publication, all the finds were allocated a publication number in a strict sequence, corresponding to the order of the published catalogue. This is not the same as the archive number
  2. Archive Number: A number allocated to each individual find, in an arbitrary sequence as the find was encountered in the collections; the archive number appears on the finds bags in Museum collections, in original digital scan filenames, and referred to in fields Description1 and Description2. So object no 141 will have a database entry under 141, a scan file called Meols 141.tif and a drawing number (if drawn). Extant objects have archive numbers from 1-2999; objects catalogued from illustrations, such as those in Hume 1863, were allocated numbers from 3000 onwards; 4000-4509, including ironwork and clay tobacco pipes in National Museum Liverpool's collections.
  3. Material: Material or materials (for composite items) from which the item is made. A restricted number of entry terms is allowed for material.
  4. Type: Broader classification (see validation list)
  5. Class: Narrower classification
  6. Description1: Free text description; find numbers in this field are archive numbers; extended into Description2 if necessary.
  7. Description2: Free text description, find numbers in this field are archive numbers
  8. Length: all measurements in millimetres. NB: Measurements for non-extant pieces will be taken from illustrations such as the plates from Hume (1863) or museum register cards.
  9. Width
  10. Thickness
  11. Diameter
  12. Weight: in grammes
  13. Notes: free text field. This field contains any other information, such as information from the original mounted card from which the finds were removed.
  14. Period E.g. Roman, early medieval, unknown.; see Period table for entry terms. This field can be used for sorting finds into broad date categories.
  15. Date: date of manufacture
  16. Original references: Source of the first published reference (e.g. Hume 1863), these are primary references to the discovery of an item
  17. Secondary references: largely of modern publications of antiquarian finds; e.g. Bu'Lock 1960, Griffiths 1991; or publications of types of artefact which refer to Meols
  18. Findspot: National grid reference if available; this is in practice rarely known
  19. Date found: rarely known
  20. Collection: Museum, private collection or non-extant if the current whereabouts of the find is not known
  21. Accession number: Museum accession number. NB: Many objects do not have individual accession numbers.
  22. Drawn: file name and drawing number
  23. Box no: Current Museum box number


The Meols project was funded by grants from a variety of sources, including The British Academy, The Society of Antiquaries of London, Marc Fitch Fund/Aurelius Trust Grant, Millennium Award Sharing Museum Skills, the Roman Research Trust, P. H. Holt Charitable Trust, Robert Kiln Charitable Trust, Merseyside Archaeological Society, Wirral Borough Council, the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, and the Liverpool Museum research fund.


Bu'Lock J. D 1960 'The Celtic, Saxon and Scandinavian Settlement of Meols in Wirral' Trans Hist Soc Lancashire Cheshire 112, 1-28.
Grifiths D. W. 1991 Anglo-Saxon England and the Irish Sea region AD 800-100: an Archaeological Study of the Lower Dee and Mersey as a Border Area, Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Durham. Griffiths D., Philpott R. A. and Egan G. 2007 Meols, The Archaeology of the North Wirral Coast. Discoveries and observations in the 19th and 20th centuries with a catalogue of collections, Oxford University School of Archaeology Monograph Series 68, Oxford.
Hume A. 1863 Ancient Meols: Some Account of the Antiquities near Dove Point on the Sea Coast of Cheshire, John Russell Smith, London.

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