TAS NEWSFLASH | Roman Binchester at risk – please sign this e-petition


Dear TAS Members and Friends,

As many of you may already know from regional and national media coverage, the Church Commissioners are selling a number of plots in the Bishop Auckland area. Two of these, being sold separately, include the archaeological remains associated with the Roman fort and civilian settlement – now renowned for the spectacular discoveries made by the ongoing research project. Dr David Petts, Durham University, has distributed a call-to-action which follows.

The Auckland Castle Trust have not only placed a wholly reasonable bid of £2M but have also set up an online petition which takes a few seconds to complete using the link, below. Once you have signed, and you can add an optional comment too, please take a moment to share on Facebook and Twitter if you have an account. It’s easy using the share buttons on the Change.org petition page. Also feel free to forward this email far and wide. Many thanks.

Save Binchester Roman Fort

A message from Dr David Petts, Durham University

As many of you know, the Roman fort at Binchester, site of our fieldschool, has been put up for sale by its owners, the Church Commissioners. Worryingly, the site has been divided into separate lots. They owners are selling 10 lots of land (remains of the Bishop Auckland Estate) to the North and East of the town. These include Toft Hill Farm, Binchester Hall Farm, and the Bishop Auckland Golf Course (the old High Park). Two lots, Binchester Hall and Binchester Hall Farm bisect the Roman town more-or-less along the alignment of Dere Street. One lot includes Binchester Hall, the visitor car park, centre, and bath house. The other lot includes the remainder of the fort and is associated with the adjacent farm.

Worryingly, Binchester Hall has planning permission for development, which could affect public access to the Roman site. Additionally, if both lots fall to separate owners, any future access to the site, and research, would be at jeopardy.

Auckland Castle Trust have raised substantial funds to help save the fort for the nation, and work with Durham University and Durham County Council to alleviate the risk of development. However, we need for the offer to be accepted by the Church Commissioners. To help emphasise the level of local, regional and national support for this initiative, it would be great if you could raise your concerns with the Church Commissioners through our change.org petition, and helping us circulate this call via email and social media:

Images above | David Petts in the vicus bath house © Northern Echo; Pre-Constantinian Christian finger ring from 2014 Binchester excavations © Durham University.

Press and Media coverage

An assessment of the issues at stake can be read on this blog post, and in the media:

About the Binchester research programme

Information on the recent excavations led by Durham University, which are jeopardised by the proposed sale, can be found here:

Kind Regards,

Spencer Carter | TAS Chair & eCommunications

Header and footer images | Binchester excavations 2014 © S Carter.

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TAS Volunteer Request : Tees Heritage at Risk

The Teesside Archaeological Society seeks volunteer on Middlesbrough electoral register to contact Council’s Planning Department for fact-finding

AcklamHallDear TAS Members and Friends,

We are seeking a volunteer, preferably a TAS member, who is on the electoral register in the Borough of Middlesbrough and who would be willing to write/email to the Planning Department, under guidance from TAS and the Council for British Archaeology. A request can be made directly (a Council response is usually required within a stated timeline) or under the Freedom Of Information Act (requiring a 20-day response).

  • See the video, below, about buildings already lost to development in Middlesbrough since the 1960s – it makes for depressing viewing. One could add medieval Eston Church in Redcar & Cleveland which was moved to Beamish Museum after years of stone theft (the vestry was stolen!), arson and unchecked vandalism.

The purpose is to request purely factual information about the nature of archaeological evaluations (and their results) that have taken place, or which are planned, in relation to development activities that are either approved/underway or in the application/appeals process. We note that where English Heritage have been involved, they tend to focus on the built heritage structures and not the archaeological landscape (pers comm).

The four focus areas are:

  • St Hilda’s, Middlesbrough
    MbroVulcanThe original location ‘over the border’ for Middlesbrough’s 19th century origins but with Early Medieval monastic forebears and evidence for prehistoric activity – noting the church was demolished and the whole area subject to development and social failure for many 20th-century generations (TAS Bulletin 11, 2006). A linear park development proposal along Vulcan Street is in an area where previous assessments have indicated that important archaeological assets remain (pers comm);
    Development plans include at least 8.1 hectares.
  • Acklam Hall
    Grade I Listed (header image) and cited in the Domesday book, Medieval landscape and natural environment assets all with a troubled recent history;
    56 executive homes and health hub, planning permissions granted early in 2013;
    Removal of 200 mature trees has already taken place (2014, pers comm and see videos, below);

    “A land’s worth should not always be measured in terms of commercial value, but by its value to communities.”

  • Coulby Newham, off Stainton Way
    Housing development almost complete to the west of Dixon’s Bank and Nunthorpe;
    There is (or was) an Iron Age/Romano-British settlement on Dixon’s Bank* very close to this development (Durham Archaeological Journal 12, 1996) and recent investigations at Fairy Dell (this year) have proven Medieval activity on ancient trods (tracks) through this landscape;
    Original residents’ campaign and petition against green-belt development was unsuccessful.
    *Similar Iron Age and Romano-British evidence seems to exist all around this area, largely obliterated by post-WWII and late 20th-century housing developments such as near Gypsy Lane, Nunthorpe and St Mary’s Church (1926, see below).
  • Grey Towers, Nunthorpe
    StMarysNunthorpe“New village” (295 executive homes) at Nunthorpe near Poole Hospital site;
    There is an Iron Age/Romano-British site under and around St Mary’s Church, literally across the Stokesley Road, and a Medieval landscape (monastic, perhaps a deserted medieval village) at Nunthorpe Village to the south, plus earlier prehistoric flint finds in the vicinity (NE Yorks Mesolithic Project & pers comms).

“The David Wilson homes project at Grey Towers Farm, Nunthorpe, was opposed by local campaigners but the scheme was given planning consent by Middlesbrough Council’s planning committee. A 3,000 signature petition was raised against the plan. Campaigners objected to greenfield land being used for housing instead of brownfield sites. They also feared it would have an adverse impact on infrastructure, such as congestion.”
Evening Gazette 06-Mar-2013 »

Image | © Copyright Mick Garratt and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

  • Are there more developments that you would include?


Since the Council’s withdrawal of funding from Tees Archaeology (the regional professional archaeology advisory and HER service), Middlesbrough Council’s planning process (in relation to the National Planning & Policy Framework − NPPF, and Historic Environment Record − HER maintenance) has not been publicly visible. By writing to the Council we aim to learn what archaeological and heritage-related activities they have been undertaking in areas of commercial and residential development. This is not about positioning, only about fact-gathering.

“In these very challenging times of austerity I think we all empathise with the many organisations − governmental or otherwise – who must make extremely difficult choices in the face of present and future constraints on their funding. However, heritage is a fragile and irreplaceable component of our shared environment, our sense of place, social well-being and economic success. It’s the role of organisations, such as TAS, regional and national, to persuade the decision-makers that Heritage and Archaeology can contribute real, tangible value across communities through footfall, tourism, inclusive participation and education. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.” — TAS Chair

Respect Middlesbrough’s Heritage | YouTube video 2:39 | Published 28-May-2014RespectMbroHer_Video

“Over the years Middlesbrough has lost some fantastic buildings. Everyone is in agreement that Local Government has been hit hard with cuts to their budget. However, I believe these buildings and conservation areas are regarded as a liability not an asset and are demolished or sold off when alternatives should be sought after to ensure these places are protected for future generations to enjoy. This collection of photographs shows buildings still very much talked about and missed by residents of Middlesbrough.”

Get in touch

If you are interested in writing to the Council, with support, please email teesarchsoc.news@gmail.com or telephone the Chair on zero-two-zero-eight 962 02 one-one.

TAS is an affiliate member of the Council for British Archaeology, CBA North and CBA Yorkshire.

Kind Regards,

Spencer Carter | TAS Chair & eCommunications

Disclaimer | While every effort has been made to provide accurate information, neither the writer nor TAS shall be responsible for any errors or consequential damages.