Bishop of Durham’s 13th century castle rediscovered!
In May and June 2011, Altogether Archaeology volunteers, under the guidance of Mark ‘Trix’ Randerson of Durham University, completed an exceptionally interesting evaluation of the site of Westgate Castle. This work formed module 3 of the Altogether Archaeology pilot project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage.
History of Westgate Castle
From the mid 13th century (and possibly earlier), through until the early 17th century, Westgate Castle was one of the most important buildings in the North Pennines. It provided the ‘west gate’ into the Bishop of Durham’s great deer park of Stanhope, and functioned as the administrative headquarters for the Bishop’s extensive estate encompassing the old Forest of Weardale. By the mid 17th century it lay in ruins and its masonry was robbed and reused in various adjacent buildings.
Discovering the spiral staircase!
Using the results of detailed site survey, including geophysics, the team opened three trenches to search for remains of the castle. Although no sign of it could be seen on the surface, substantial buried remains of the castle were found, including a spectacular spiral staircase built into one corner. The main walls are seven feet thick, bound together with mortar containing lots of fluorspar, evidence of medieval lead and silver mining in the vicinity. Finds included 13th century pottery that ties in well with the castle’s presumed construction date of about 1250. On completion of the excavation, the remains were reburied to save them from erosion. It is unlikely that there will be further excavations here in the near future, but interested locals have formed a new community group, Historic Westgate, to consider future projects that will build on our knowledge of Westgate Castle and Stanhope Park.
A link to final report will soon be provided here.
For further information about this work, or any other aspect of the Altogether Archaeology project, please contact the Project Manager, Paul Frodsham: firstname.lastname@example.org