Binchester Roman Fort: Save ‘the Pompeii of the North’, campaigners urge
Worries that Roman fort site may fall into developers’ hands after Church puts it up for sale
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Friday 29 August 2014
A Roman settlement known as the “Pompeii of the North” because of the number of archaeological treasures unearthed there could be put at risk if the land falls into the hands of developers, local campaigners have warned.
Binchester Roman Fort in County Durham has been put up for sale by the Church Commissioners, which manages the Church of England’s investments. Auckland Castle Trust, a local heritage trust, has lodged a bid to buy the land, and said that research at the dig site may be hindered if it ends up in private hands.
Although the Roman settlement could not be developed, an old hall also located on the land up for sale could be, affecting access to the site. Selling the plots off separately could also hamper archaeologists’ work, it is feared.
But the Church of England denied the Roman settlement would be affected, saying the trust “seem to be seeking to manipulate an open and transparent” sale process.
The “hugely significant” finds at the site in July included a bath house with 7ft painted and plaster-covered walls.
The Roman settlement dubbed the 'Pompeii of the North' (PA)
David Petts, an archaeology lecturer at Durham University, said at the time that the excavations “uncovered parts of one of the best preserved Roman buildings in Britain”.
An earlier discovery of a third-century silver ring with two fish and an anchor could also signify the earliest Christian life in Roman Britain. Chris Ferguson, head curator at Auckland Castle, said: “It’s remarkable. The bath house is something you’d expect to find in the Mediterranean not Roman Britain. Beyond this very little is excavated, we know from surveys that the site is enormous. Further research and public access could be at risk.”
The trust has put in a £2m offer, and chairman Jonathan Ruffer said it should be secured by “someone who has a heart for Bishop Auckland and a deep understanding of the site’s importance in a national and international context”.
The Commissioners released a statement saying they were “disappointed” that the Trust “do not recognise the statutory protections in operation for Binchester Fort”.
The Fort is a scheduled ancient monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act from 1979. The Church said there were protections against work that would demolish or damage the site without Government permission.
Durham County Council retains a deed of guardianship for the site, which ensures public access, the statement added. “Consequently any suggestion about the fort falling into the hands of developers is very wide of the mark.”
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is shot dead
Leonard Nimoy dead: Star Trek actor dies after suffering lung disease
PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin, says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...