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Excavation of Auckland Castle

A team from our Department of Archaeology, in partnership with archaeologists and volunteers from The Auckland Project, has been uncovering the secrets beneath the lawns of County Durham's Auckland Castle.

The remains of a three-or-four-storey tower and the supports for a bridge and entrance from a medieval castle, which has not been seen for 450 years, have been uncovered. 

Secrets uncovered 

The team uncovered the steps to the tower, which dates from the mid-1300s, and the walls of the cellar, which includes the remains of a ceiling – a barrel vault which would have curved over the heads of those standing on the medieval floor beneath. 

Amongst the stone foundations, the dig also uncovered a jetton, or ‘reckoning counter’, dating from 1350-80 which was found in one of the basement rooms of the tower. It would have been used as a counter on a large board to help with addition and subtraction, like an abacus.

The team also discovered a silver penny dating from the reign of Henry VI, which was minted by the Bishops of Durham between 1427-30. At the time, it would have been worth a gallon of ale or a couple of dozen eggs. 

History of Auckland Castle 

During the excavation, the team conducted substantial research on the sections found, and were able to discover that the tower suffered a series of structural failures when the building had to be repaired due to collapse or subsidence. 

Through this excavation, which is one of the largest excavations of a bishop’s house anywhere in Europe, the team were able to gain a huge amount of knowledge about the layout and extent of the medieval complex. 

The tower and bridge have now been covered over with soil in order to preserve their features but work is ongoing to display information and objects discovered so that visitors to the site will be able to see the findings for years to come. 

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