THE ruins of a forgotten castle that once provided the gateway to the Bishop of Durham's park have been uncovered by a team of archaeologists.

Fifty volunteers from the North Pennines AONB Partnership's Altogether Archaeology project discovered the remains of Westgate Castle, in Weardale, County Durham, which was used as offices for the Bishop's extensive estate from the 13th Century through to the early 17th Century.

Several decades later, the disused castle had fallen into a state of disrepair and its masonry was quarried for new buildings.

None of its masonry remains above the ground but a recent geophysical survey indicated that substantial walls are buried below the surface.

The archaeology project, which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage, aimed to uncover a sample of what was underground in order to help plans for the site's future.

It finished on Saturday and the ruins were reburied.

Paul Frodsham, the North Pennines AONB Partnership's Historic Environment Officer said, Paul Frodsham said: "It's always shame when ruins have to be reburied after so much hard work has gone into their excavation, but this project is teaching us a great deal about this very important site.

"Hopefully we will be able to do more work here in future.

"The enthusiasm and commitment of local volunteers has been wonderful and we hope to complete many more interesting projects in addition to Westgate Castle."

Among the volunteers was American student, Samantha Angel, who is studying Archaeology at the University of Central Florida, and visited the North-East especially to take part in the excavation.

She said: "I heard about the Altogether Archaeology project from a relative and as I was in England this week I just had to sign up for the Westgate dig.

"Wherever in the world my archaeological career takes me in future I will always remember that my first dig was at Westgate Castle in England's North Pennines."

For information about Altogether Archaeology and the Westgate Castle project visit or to become a volunteer, email: