ARCHAEOLOGISTS have found ‘substantial remains’ during a painstaking investigation of the site where an office block for 400 public sector workers will be built.
A seven-strong team from Durham University has spent weeks excavating the site at the back of Darlington Town Hall.
Work to build an office block for Department for Education (DfE) staff, whose jobs are being moved from the crumbling Mowden Hall premises in the town, will not begin until the excavation has been completed.
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A series of stone walls has been uncovered, which seem to form the footprint of a building thought to be an early 19th Century poorhouse.
Other finds include fragments of cooking pots and animal bones.
The remains of a series of columns can also be seen. These are the pile drives from the 1960s extension to the Town Hall that did not materialise.
It is hoped that the general public and schools will be able to get involved and find out more about the excavations through open days, viewing areas and a website.
Peter Carne, from the university, is leading the excavation work, which is expected to conclude early next month.
He said: “We have found quite substantial remains of the 19th Century poorhouse [which once occupied the site] and incorporated within that are a lot of fragments of the medieval manor house, which sit underneath the floor of the former poorhouse.”
Mr Carne said the finds are interesting, but not so significant as to stop the development in its tracks.
He added that more extensive remains from the manor house are likely to lie underneath an undisturbed section of the site that is ultimately destined to be landscaped.
Mr Carne said it was possible to preserve buried items of archaeological interest for discovery by future generations.
A 94-page assessment of the site’s heritage credentials has been produced on behalf of Darlington Borough Council and building contractor Willmott-Dixon.
Report author Niall Hammond, of consultants Archaeo-Environment Ltd, concluded that the office development would not result in the total loss of, or substantial harm to, any archaeological assets.
When planning permission for the development was granted last month, it was on the proviso that the excavations currently taking place were carried out.