Venture inside Manchester University’s Old Quad via the archway on Oxford Road and you’ll find the beautifully ivy-covered Beyer Laboratories Building to your right. In front of this you’ll see a giant boulder resting on a stone plinth.
Now I have to admit that for duration of the time I spent as a student at Manchester University, this boulder, huge though it is, passed me by. Luckily for me, the quad is accessible to the public. I finally noticed the magnificent lump of rock one day when taking a wander around my old uni haunts and was struck by what an odd phenomenon it is.
The boulder was discovered in February 1888, buried eight or nine metres beneath Oxford Road, during the construction of new sewers. Due to the rock’s composition, it was clear that it didn’t originate from the area. This caused much initial mystery and speculation about how it came to be located underneath Manchester’s Oxford Road.
It is now understood that the hunk of prehistoric lava was transported 80 miles South on a glacier (wouldn’t we all like to travel that way?) from the Borrowdale area in The Lake District during the last Ice Age. That’s around 20,000 years ago. An adventurous piece of rock like this (one that has experienced travel by glacier) is called an ‘erratic’.
The boulder has been on display ever since its excavation and is part of the Manchester Museum’s collection.