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Dig’s Fascinating Finds

9 June 2017

An archaeological dig has unearthed a number of rare and unexpected artefacts, and revealed the previously unknown scale of Auckland Castle, which appears to have a much larger footprint than the Castle that stands today.

The five-month dig, led by experts from Durham University’s Archaeological Services and more than 70 volunteers, centred on the site of the Castle’s Scotland Wing.

One of its key discoveries was the original location of the Western and Southern sides of the medieval Castle’s curtain wall, revealing the imprint of a network of impressive buildings and pointing to a significantly larger original castle than the present one.

This suggests that Auckland Castle was not created as a Manor House for the Prince Bishops of Durham as previously thought, but that it has always stood as a large castle complex – a theory supported by the unearthing of a pillared gatehouse area and majestic staircase, thought to date back to the 13th or 14th century, as well as an additional long room, dating between the 15th and 17th century.

A trove of rare artefacts has also been discovered during the dig, including a Roman coin and  copper figurine, pottery and bone dating from the medieval period onwards, a collection of pins, window glass, medieval silver pennies, an iron key and even a thimble.

These findings will help the Curatorial team piece together the story of Auckland Castle and form the basis of a five year research programme led by Auckland Castle Trust’s Curatorial Director, Dr Chris Ferguson, and Professor Chris Gerrard at Durham University, which hopes to uncover the lost major chapel of Bishop Bek (1283-1311), and other structures from his palace.

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