Meols, Wirral

aerial view of the coastline

Erosion of the north Wirral shore before the construction of the embankment revealed thousands of archaeological objects

Meols (pronounced Mells) is located on the north coast of Wirral. The place-name Meols derives from Melr - an Old Norse topographical name, meaning ‘sand-hills’ or ‘sand-dunes’. The north  Wirral shoreline has suffered significant coastal change and erosion in the past 200 years, and thousands of archaeological discoveries have resulted from this process. Local people were probably picking up artefacts in and around ancient tree stumps preserved in the sands for a number of years or even decades before any systematic attempt was made to collect them, but from the early 1800s collectors including Philip Barrington Ainslie and Revd Canon Abraham Hume, who also exhibited finds from Meols at the Congress of the Archaeological Institute at York in July 1846.

The Museum of Liverpool archaeology department worked in partnership with colleagues from the University of Oxford and the British Museum to publish a catalogue of finds from this site in 2007.  The finds range in date from prehistoric to post medieval, and include Romano-British brooches, Viking weaponry, medieval buckles and dress fittings, and post medieval clay tobacco pipes.  Some are part of the regional archaeology collection at the Museum of Liverpool, others are in the collections of the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, Warrington Museum, the Williamson Museum, Birkenhead and the British Museum. 

Select the images below to see some of the finds discovered at Meols:

Early medieval buckle with animal decoration.  This Viking-style object was probably made locally in the early 11th century. Roman military belt buckle Medieval necklace, probably a combination of elements found in the 19th century, but stylistic parallels are known from the late 14th century and 15th century Medieval copper alloy buckle. More than 200 buckles were found on the shore at Meols in the 19th century. Medieval purse suspender. The leather or fabric purse has decayed, leaving this metal part of the object. Medieval spindle-whorl used to weight the spindle when spinning wool. Medieval mount which would have decorated a larger object Medieval fish hook The first catalogue of finds from Meols was published by Abraham Hume in 1863. It included drawings of many of the finds, including these buckles. Hume's drawings of Romano-British brooches, then known as fibulae.

Finds from Meols have been published in a monograph: Griffiths, D et al. 2007. 'Meols: The Archaeology of the North Wirral Coast'. Oxford University School of Archaeology: monograph 68.