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.”
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 The top 50 cities for young people to live in
General Election 2015: Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind as he casts a line to the disaffected of Grimsby
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
Russian warships accused of 'chasing away' Swedish vessel to prevent Baltic States from achieving energy independence
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...