ARCHAEOLOGISTS are hoping to reveal the “fascinating” past of a medieval village.

The 12-day excavation by Northern Archaeological Associates [NAA] will explore the remains of what they believe is the shrunken medieval remains of Brignall, near Barnard Castle, County Durham

The modern village is made up of just a handful of homes but is believed to have been much bigger in medieval times.

Archaeologists believe they know where the former village was thanks to a modern surveying technique, known as LiDAR, which has provided a digital model of tiny changes in the height of the land surface, revealing property plots to the south of the former road alignment, boundary walls and the remains of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation.

NAA director Richard Fraser said: “For quite some time the location and extent of the medieval village has been quite uncertain.

“The modern village is just a collection of farms and buildings which are quite some distance from the medieval church. Historically there might be a number of reasons for that distance. It looks as though the medieval village was much bigger and more extensive than the current settlement which could explain it.”

The team hopes to dig up more evidence of the medieval remains to the south of the current settlement.

It starts on October 5 and finishes with an open day on October 17. It is part of a Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership project, which is looking for volunteers to get involved.

Project manager Penny Middleton said: “This is a great opportunity to get involved in local heritage and gain first-hand experience in archaeological excavation.

“From the preliminary work we have undertaken so far, it looks like Brignall is going to be a fascinating site, and will provide a real insight into what life might have been like in the village five to six hundred years ago".

The earliest reference to Brignall is in the Domesday Book, written around 1086, which records the village as a small settlement supporting sixteen villagers, six smallholders and three freemen.

By 1265 it had become important enough to be granted an annual and weekly market, and prospered during the reign of Henry VIII, when it was owned by Sir James Philip, the King’s Steward.

But over subsequent centuries changes to land ownership and agricultural practices meant people moved to industrial centres and the village shrank in size.

Anyone who wants to join the dig will be provided with full training and equipment and can contact Ms Middleton on or 0191 3750943 for more details.