Tag Archives: Durham University

Developers “could buy County Durham Roman site”

Concerns have been raised that the site of a Roman settlement dubbed the Pompeii of the North could be sold to developers.

Binchester, just outside Bishop Auckland, County Durham, has some of Britain’s best-preserved Roman remains, including a bath house with seven-foot walls and painted plaster.

Last year a statue head, possibly of a local Roman god, was found by an archaeology student helping with the major excavation works that are being carried out.

The land where the settlement has stood for around 1,800 years is owned by the Church Commissioners. They are selling ten plots around Bishop Auckland, including two adjoining ones which cover the Binchester site.

The Auckland Castle Trust, financed by city philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer and which is aiming to reinvigorate the local area with tourism by tapping into its heritage, has made a £2 million bid for the plots.

Although the Roman settlement itself could not be developed, an old hall on one of the plots could be, affecting access to the site. Selling the plots off separately could also hamper archaeologists’ work.

 Mr Ruffer, chairman of the trust, said the £2 million bid was ten per cent higher than their own valuation of the site.

We have done this because there is no one else in a position to do it and Binchester must be secured by someone who has a heart for Bishop Auckland and a deep understanding of the site’s importance in a national and international context,” he said.

The trust has called for the public to back its bid by writing to the Church Commissioners.

David Ronn, chief executive of the Auckland Castle Trust, said: “We need to save the best of Bishop Auckland’s, County Durham’s, the North-East’s and indeed the UK’s past to take into the future.”

 Dr David Petts, lecturer in archaeology at Durham University who has been project co-ordinator on the Binchester excavation, said: “Binchester is one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in Britain and deserves to be protected for future generations to visit.”

Only a small percentage of the settlement, which surrounded a fort on the road north to Hadrian’s Wall, has been revealed so far.

Source –  Northern Echo, 29 Aug 2014

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Earth collapses to reveal 100ft sinkhole in County Durham

Earth has collapsed to reveal a 100ft-wide sinkhole in County Durham that is so deep the bottom cannot be seen.

The gaping void, thought to be the result of mine workings deep beneath the surface, is just a stone’s throw from a  farmhouse.

And it was three times smaller when it was first discovered on Thursday morning, at Cowshill, in the rural area of Weardale, by Durham University academic Sam Hillyard.

The 39-year-old had been out shooting rabbits with her black Labrador Jack and was returning to her home  when she noticed the 30ft hole.

Overnight, the hole sank further to reveal an abyss. And it is feared rain forecast for the weekend may see it become larger still.

Sam’s partner John Hensby  said: “Sam came back and she was looking quite shocked.

“She told me that a hole had appeared and I said I best go and have a look.

“At the time, it was about five metres round. Throughout Thursday night it got bigger and bigger until it was about three times that size on Friday morning.

“It is about 35 metres wide and you can’t see the bottom of it.

“The sound was phenomenal. We could hear rumbling and smashing and crashing from down below; all of these great lumps of earth were falling in and falling in.

“If one of the dogs or the sheep fell in we would never see them again.

“On Friday morning it looked to be about 100ft deep.”

The couple’s home is between two former mines, Sedling Pit and Burtree Pastures Pit. Today Sam and John live in the old pit master’s home and the house is surrounded by sheep farms.

But one of the old mine shafts remains just metres from where the ground has given way.

John informed Durham County Council and Durham Police of the hole as a precaution.

> At which point, if there was any comedic justice, a police spokesperson should have been quoted as saying: “We have received a report of a sinkhole, and we’re looking into it…”

Now, they will wait to see if it gets any deeper as downpours are expected for Monday.

John said: “With more rain coming tomorrow and on Monday we could see a lot more of the hole.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  24 Aug 2014

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