Our rich and complex, but in many ways fragile, historic environment is a fundamental element of the natural beauty of the North Pennines.
This page provides a summary of our work in this area during the 2013-14 financial year.
Our Heritage Lottery funded community archaeology project, Altogether Archaeology (which now has more than 500 volunteers), continues to undertake important and exciting work that is adding to our understanding of the lives of local people over past millennia. All work contributes to our understanding of the historic environment, and thus to its improved management, as well as enabling volunteers to learn new skills and in several cases to develop projects of their own in their local areas.
- Our Altogether Archaeology project continues inspire local people to get involved in discovering their historic environment. Once again, it wasn’t just the finds this year, but the people who made them and the unforgettable experiences this created.
- Developing the historic environment content of our Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme that will lead to a collaborative approach to practical conservation work on some of our most important historic structures.
Some of our achievements this year:
Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme
- The planning for the historic environment elements of this project have progressed this year.
- The project successfully progressed to its delivery phase at the end of the financial year.
- A major element of this scheme will be the consolidation and interpretation of several key heritage sites of the East and West Allen Valleys.
- We are looking forward to working with partners to conserve and better understand Barney Craig Mineshop and Ninebanks Hearse House in the West Allen and to consolidating key features of both Allen Mill ore hearths and the Mine Yard (Allenheads) in the East Allen.
Some recent highlights of the Altogether Archaeology project include the following:
St Botolph’s Chapel, Frosterley
- The site of this medieval chapel has always been known, but no-one knew how much survived within the ground.
- AONB Partnership volunteers, as part of the Altogether Archaeology project, together with Durham University, uncovered substantial remains and made many fascinating finds, the most dramatic of which was a large fragment of a stone cross dating back to the Northumbrian ‘Golden Age’ – about 700AD.
- The dig caused great interest within the local community, and children from the village school took part. It is hoped to return to the site and uncover more of the chapel in 2014.
Epiacum (Whitley Castle) Roman Fort, South Tyne Valley
- The AONB Partnership’s Historic Environment Officer continues to work closely with Epiacum Heritage Ltd, set up by site owner Elaine Edgar to manage the future development of this iconic site.
- Highlights during the year included another ‘molehill survey’, featured on Radio 4’s Today Programme and the One Show on BBC1, during which several interesting Roman finds were made by volunteers.
Allen Valleys lidar landscapes survey
- Working in partnership with Stewart Ainsworth (of Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’) a group of volunteers have been examining lidar maps of the Allen Valleys in the search for previously unrecognised archaeological sites.
- Many fascinating discoveries have been made, including Roman period farmsteads and medieval settlements and field systems.
- The result of this work is that the historic environment of the Allen Valleys now includes a fascinating range of sites extending back into prehistoric times. Work is now planned to survey some of these sites in more detail.
Killhope Buddle House
- Following an earlier phase of excavation in 2012, AONB Partnership volunteers returned to the Buddle House at Killhope Museum to complete an excavation, supervised by The Archaeological Practice Ltd (Newcastle upon Tyne), of its interior prior to the installation of a new floor that will enable the building to be used as an education room.
- Substantial remains of two buddles were uncovered, one of which was lifted for conservation and later display within the building, while the other was accurately recorded and carefully reburied in situ.
- The results are crucial to the development of detailed plans for the building’s future, and will also be used in future interpretation within the museum.
Brackenber Bronze Age barrows
- AONB Partnership volunteers, supervised by Wardell Armstrong Archaeology, returned to Appleby Golf Course (Brackenber Moor) to examine what was thought to be a Bronze Age burial mound.
- No burial was discovered, but ancient flint tools dating back to the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), perhaps 7,000 years old, were found beneath the mound.
- This discovery adds to the important results of the previous project at Brackenber, where a supposed 2,000 year-old Roman signal tower was actually demonstrated to be a 4,000 year-old Bronze Age burial mound.
- Each time we work at Brackenber we seem to find something twice as old as we expect! Clearly, this is an important prehistoric landscape that demands further work.
In addition to the above fieldwork, the year saw several well-attended events to discuss and celebrate aspects of the North Pennines historic environment, including a day conference in Hexham, organised as part of the AONB Partnership’s 25th anniversary celebrations, attended by nearly 200 people.