Morris Birkbeck was an influential farmer in Surrey England duing the late 18th century, where his family is remembered to have first introduced Merino sheep to England. In 1817, Birkbeck and his business partner George Flower emigrated from England to the Illinois Territory, to establish an agricultural community for other English immigrants. Initially consisting of over 20,000 acres of land located near the Wabash Valley in southeastern Illinois, this "English Settlement" is considered an important example of an experimental frontier community of the Old Northwest. 

Birkbeck platted the town of Wanborough (after the town in Surrey) in 1819, and settled nearby on a several-hundred acre farm. Within just a few years his town included a mill, brewery, blacksmith, pottery, tavern, retail stores, and several worker's cabins and farmsteads. Birkbeck drowned in 1825, however, and his community soon faded. His estate, and much of the surrounding community, was largely abandoned by the mid -1830s.

While a number of studies and publications prior to 2005 focused on Birkbeck and Flower's English Settlement, no archaeological investigations had been conducted at the site of Wanborough. In 2005, the Sangamo Archaeological Center began a survey of the area, and immediately discovered well-preserved remains of several sites associated with the town. The survey also discovered the site of Morris Birkbeck's 1819 estate. The project is sponsored by the Illinois Foundation for Frontier Studies.

In September of 2005, the Center began test excavations at the site of the Birkbeck estate. The investigations immediately encountered a very large subsurface feature that is believed to have been the principal storage cellar associated with the Birkbeck residence. Within the fill of the abandoned cellar is a large and diverse sample of household debris associated with Morris Birkbeck and his family during the 1810s and 1820s. This material offers a direct glimpse into the personal activities and habits of these English immigrants during the frontier period of Illinois.
Portrait of Morris Birkbeck at Wanborough THE MORRIS BIRKBECK ESTATE 
Excavations at the English Settlement of Wanborough The results of the 2005 fieldwork will be reported in a forthcoming Research Bulletin, due out in 2009.  1826 drawing of the Birkbeck estate. A Cronebane Half Penny was found in the cellar feature. These were tokens used by Irish mining companies during the 1700s and early 1800s. The site of the estate as it appears today. Early 19th century English buttons. Cantonese porcelain plates from the cellar. Such porcelain is rare in frontier contexts in Illinois, and the Birkbeck site has yielded as many Cantonese plates as all other period sites in Illinois combined.