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Owners hoping County Durham site will become world-class visitor attraction
One of the most important Roman sites in the North of England is up for sale and there are fears that when it is sold it may be at risk from developers.
Binchester Roman fort near Bishop Auckland is being sold by the Church Commissioners, who manage the assets of the Church of England.
Derek Proud reports:
One of the most important archaeological sites in the North East is up for sale.
Binchester Roman town near Bishop Auckland is being sold by the Church Commissioners. Auckland Castle Trust say they fear it may fall into the hands of developers and have put in a £2m bid to buy the site.
But the Church Commissioners say fears of development on the site are "a scare story" and it is protected not just by the landowner but by the County Council, English Heritage and the Secretary of State.
Binchester, just outside Bishop Auckland, 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 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 10 plots around Bishop Auckland, including two adjoining ones which cover the Binchester site.
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.
Black smoke from a large tyre fire near Bishop Auckland could be seen from the A1 this afternoon.
An ITV Tyne Tees viewer filmed the fire at a farm in Lands Bank, Cockfield, before Durham Fire Service brought it under control.
Eight fire engines and almost 40 fire fighters were at the scene for hours after being called at around 1pm.
Five hundred tyres have been destroyed at a cost of £200,000. Fire crews managed to save the farmhouse.
500 tyres, with an estimated value of £200,000, have been burning at a County Durham farm today.
Seven fire engines were called to Little Gordon Farm near the village of Cockfield at 12.53pm today (Wednesday 9th July).
Durham fire service have brought a tyre fire under control in Bishop Auckland.
Eight fire engines were called to a farm near Bishop Auckland at around 1pm.
Stuart Errington, deputy chief fire officer for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said: "Crews and control staff have done a fantastic job. The crews have worked hard to save the farm house from the fire.
"Their response was made very challenging due to water supplies in this very rural location, which is a long way from the hydrant.
"The crews have worked hard to overcome this initial difficulty and have worked quickly and effectively to bring this large fire under control."
Firefighters are battling a large fire at a farm near Bishop Auckland.
They were called to the scene at 12.53pm this afternoon (Wednesday 9th July). On arrival at Little Gordon Farm near the village of Cockfield, they found several tractor tyres alight.
38 firefighters and seven fire engines are currently battling the blaze. People in the vicinity have been warned to stop smoke entering buildings by keeping windows and doors shut.
An archaeologist explores a trench at Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland. The team have found fragments of a stained glass window, pottery, and charred bricks which could have come from an explosion during the Civil Qar era.
A team from Durham University is digging in the grounds of Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland before work to turn the historic site into a tourist destination begins. It has revealed new information about the site's 900 year history.
Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a building near the castle's Scotland Wing, alongside evidence of burning.
The castle's head curator, Dr Chris Ferguson, believes the volume of debris could suggest a 'very dramatic end' to what looks to have been a substantial structure.
– The castle's head curator, Dr Chris Ferguson
"Sir Arthur Hazlerigg, was one of the five MPs who led the rebellion against Charles I in 1642, he was appointed Oliver Cromwell's general in the North East,"
"In 1650 he bought Auckland Castle after the then Bishop of Durham had fled at the height of the civil war.
"We know he set about what was later described as the 'ravenous sacrilege' of the building and that he proceeded to blow up the 350-year-old chapel with gunpowder with the intention of reusing the stone in a new mansion.
"If gunpowder was indeed used then that could account for the astounding amount of wreckage that has been found."
– Natalie Swann, project archaeologist at Durham University
"Whatever happened here is from a time when records were either vague or non-existent, so anything we find will help add to the overall picture of the castle."
A dig in Bishop Auckland may have uncovered evidence of a dramatic English Civil War episode. A team from Durham University is digging in the grounds of Auckland Castle before work to turn the historic site into a tourist destination begins.