Developers "could buy County Durham Roman site"

Archaeologists recently discovered a Roman bath house at the site

Archaeologists recently discovered a Roman bath house at the site

First published in News
Last updated

CONCERNS have been raised that the site of a Roman settlement dubbed the Pompeii of the North could be sold to developers.

Binchester, just outside Bishop Auckland, County Durham, has some of Britain's best-preserved Roman remains, including a bath house with seven-foot walls and painted plaster.

Last year a statue head, possibly of a Geordie Roman god, was found by an archaeology student helping with the major excavation works that are being carried out.

The land where the settlement has stood for around 1,800 years is owned by the Church Commissioners. They are selling ten plots around Bishop Auckland, including two adjoining ones which cover the Binchester site.

The Auckland Castle Trust, financed by city philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer and which is aiming to reinvigorate the local area with tourism by tapping into its heritage, has made a £2 million bid for the plots.

Although the Roman settlement itself could not be developed, an old hall on one of the plots could be, affecting access to the site. Selling the plots off separately could also hamper archaeologists' work.

Mr Ruffer, chairman of the trust, said the £2 million bid was ten per cent higher than their own valuation of the site.

"We have done this because there is no one else in a position to do it and Binchester must 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," he said.

The trust has called for the public to back its bid by writing to the Church Commissioners.

David Ronn, chief executive of the Auckland Castle Trust, said: "We need to save the best of Bishop Auckland's, County Durham's, the North-East's and indeed the UK's past to take into the future."

Dr David Petts, lecturer in archaeology at Durham University who has been project co-ordinator on the Binchester excavation, said: "Binchester is one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in Britain and deserves to be protected for future generations to visit."

Only a small percentage of the settlement, which surrounded a fort on the road north to Hadrian's Wall, has been revealed so far.

Comments (11)

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11:19am Fri 29 Aug 14

Counterview says...

Good on you, Jonathan
Good on you, Jonathan Counterview
  • Score: -20

12:51pm Fri 29 Aug 14

Seggie Slave says...

Never have i wished more that I was wealthy than when I read this article. I literally stopped breathing when I saw the headline. Can't believe the C. of E. are so lacking in funds that they have to sell off our history. Now the shock has abated somewhat, I am disgusted about the whole thing.
Never have i wished more that I was wealthy than when I read this article. I literally stopped breathing when I saw the headline. Can't believe the C. of E. are so lacking in funds that they have to sell off our history. Now the shock has abated somewhat, I am disgusted about the whole thing. Seggie Slave
  • Score: -12

1:27pm Fri 29 Aug 14

Voice-of-reality says...

The Church of England is not poor - it is just an incompetent organisation that seeks to feather its own nest. Take the religion out and it is a massive corporate body with, arguably, even less of a social conscience than the 'usually hated' big businesses. It gets away with it because people still hold an out dated view of its ethics, purpose, and relevance. if 50% of the churches were closed in the county the average congregation would still be under 100 in number - there simply are not enough 'customers' - time for the Church to cut its garment according to its income - rather than seeking to fleece money out of others.
The Church of England is not poor - it is just an incompetent organisation that seeks to feather its own nest. Take the religion out and it is a massive corporate body with, arguably, even less of a social conscience than the 'usually hated' big businesses. It gets away with it because people still hold an out dated view of its ethics, purpose, and relevance. if 50% of the churches were closed in the county the average congregation would still be under 100 in number - there simply are not enough 'customers' - time for the Church to cut its garment according to its income - rather than seeking to fleece money out of others. Voice-of-reality
  • Score: -40

3:29pm Fri 29 Aug 14

viking1975 says...

I have worked on this site for a number of years and it has the potential to be huge. It could be a massive feather in the cap for County Durham and a massive tourist draw. The thought that developers could be let loose on the area surrounding the scheduled monument restricting access etc. fills me with dread
I have worked on this site for a number of years and it has the potential to be huge. It could be a massive feather in the cap for County Durham and a massive tourist draw. The thought that developers could be let loose on the area surrounding the scheduled monument restricting access etc. fills me with dread viking1975
  • Score: 9

12:00am Sat 30 Aug 14

hippyjohn says...

Witton Park had one of the biggest ironworks in beitain at the time. It is now buried under a vast tip . why preserve nonactive bits of land because of what they were
Witton Park had one of the biggest ironworks in beitain at the time. It is now buried under a vast tip . why preserve nonactive bits of land because of what they were hippyjohn
  • Score: -4

1:01am Sat 30 Aug 14

Darkroom Devil says...

On a plus though digging all those foundations will unearth loads of good stuff.
On a plus though digging all those foundations will unearth loads of good stuff. Darkroom Devil
  • Score: 0

10:40am Sat 30 Aug 14

Familyman10000 says...

Just read the other post relating to this which includes comments on behalf of the Church which makes it clear that the land is not being sold to a developer. Viking1975 I agree with your comments and reading between the lines it looks as though the land is so well protected that it may only be sold and used for the purposes that you suggest, which is excellent. The comments on behalf of the Church also worryingly suggests that Auckland Castle Trust (Mr Ruffer) May be trying to secure the purchase of this area by scare tactics. It will take a very rich individual/organisat
ion to buy this land and I do think that his intentions are probably good, but I also believe that he should follow the fair process that will probably be in place to make the purchase, other people with similar intentions and money may also want to be considered as potential purchasers........ Just a thought!
Just read the other post relating to this which includes comments on behalf of the Church which makes it clear that the land is not being sold to a developer. Viking1975 I agree with your comments and reading between the lines it looks as though the land is so well protected that it may only be sold and used for the purposes that you suggest, which is excellent. The comments on behalf of the Church also worryingly suggests that Auckland Castle Trust (Mr Ruffer) May be trying to secure the purchase of this area by scare tactics. It will take a very rich individual/organisat ion to buy this land and I do think that his intentions are probably good, but I also believe that he should follow the fair process that will probably be in place to make the purchase, other people with similar intentions and money may also want to be considered as potential purchasers........ Just a thought! Familyman10000
  • Score: 25

11:22am Sat 30 Aug 14

theWorkerScum says...

The building next to binchester fort could do with being redeveloped as a hotel, think that's what it used to be anyway.
The building next to binchester fort could do with being redeveloped as a hotel, think that's what it used to be anyway. theWorkerScum
  • Score: 8

1:04pm Sat 30 Aug 14

Familyman10000 says...

I walk my dog around there regularly. It is a bit of an eyesore. I would be happy to sign any petition that would prevent the area being developed in the wrong way. It would be useful for Auckland Castle Trust to give a little bit of insight into what their intentions are. If their intentions are good, then they would quite rightly have public support. I only see two options for it, it is either developed or it isn't. Unfortunately if ACT are not going to be 'developers', then it will stay as it is (not in the best interests of anyone really!). Or is that a little too simplistic?
I walk my dog around there regularly. It is a bit of an eyesore. I would be happy to sign any petition that would prevent the area being developed in the wrong way. It would be useful for Auckland Castle Trust to give a little bit of insight into what their intentions are. If their intentions are good, then they would quite rightly have public support. I only see two options for it, it is either developed or it isn't. Unfortunately if ACT are not going to be 'developers', then it will stay as it is (not in the best interests of anyone really!). Or is that a little too simplistic? Familyman10000
  • Score: 3

5:09pm Sat 30 Aug 14

Voice-of-reality says...

If a good 50 per cent of the churches in the county were closed and the priests made redundant, and the rest of the clergy charged a decent rent - there would be enough money in the Church's coffers to donate this site to the people of the country. No doubt 'the god squad' will also vote this down. The problem is they see the Church as a series of buildings and chalices - when in reality it costs nothing to worhsip - though it does seem to cost an awful lot to keep a Bishop and a Dean in residential finery. Very important also, of course, to make sure that the Diocese has a nice set of new shiny offices on a business park - just think of the wasteful ways that money could have been spent - helping the poor for instance.
If a good 50 per cent of the churches in the county were closed and the priests made redundant, and the rest of the clergy charged a decent rent - there would be enough money in the Church's coffers to donate this site to the people of the country. No doubt 'the god squad' will also vote this down. The problem is they see the Church as a series of buildings and chalices - when in reality it costs nothing to worhsip - though it does seem to cost an awful lot to keep a Bishop and a Dean in residential finery. Very important also, of course, to make sure that the Diocese has a nice set of new shiny offices on a business park - just think of the wasteful ways that money could have been spent - helping the poor for instance. Voice-of-reality
  • Score: -24

9:01pm Sat 30 Aug 14

SoundTrax says...

This article contradicts itself...!!

Headline...
Developers "could buy County Durham Roman site"

Jonathon Ruffer's comment...
"We have done this because there is no one else in a position to do it..."

Who are the developers that are interested..? What are their plans..? Is this information in the public domain and how do the Northern Echo or Auckland Castle Trust have access to this information..?
This article contradicts itself...!! Headline... Developers "could buy County Durham Roman site" Jonathon Ruffer's comment... "We have done this because there is no one else in a position to do it..." Who are the developers that are interested..? What are their plans..? Is this information in the public domain and how do the Northern Echo or Auckland Castle Trust have access to this information..? SoundTrax
  • Score: 3

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