What do we have here? Archaeologists find ancient tower at Auckland Castle

The remains of a medieval tower have been discovered under Auckland Castle.

Archaeologists at Durham University have also found pieces from the reign of Henry VIII and supports for a bridge and entrance to an older castle, dating back over a thousand years.

The “exceptional” finds on the lawns of the castle have been re-buried to keep them preserved.

Photograph showing the steps and the central wall of the tower after the excavation Credit: Durham University

Professor Chris Gerrard from the Department of Archeology at Durham University said: “We were delighted to find the striking steps of the tower, which have been remarkably well preserved. We also discovered the cellar walls, which include the remains of a ceiling, a barrel vault that is said to have curved over the heads of those on the medieval floor below.“We conducted extensive research on the sections found and were able to discover that the tower suffered a series of structural failures when the building had to be repaired due to collapse or subsidence. The fascinating thing about the Auckland Castle is that, until recent excavations, we knew little about its medieval layout. “

The university says it is one of the largest excavations of an episcopal house in Europe.

According to historians, the tower would have dominated the surrounding countryside and “could be seen for several kilometers”. This would have given the house a grandstand view of the bishop’s park landscape with its animals, fish ponds, woods and rivers.

What other artifacts have excavations uncovered?

A token, or “count counter,” dating from 1350-80, was found in one of the tower’s basement rooms. It would have been used as a counter on a large board to help with addition and subtraction, like an abacus.

Jetton, or ‘counter’, dating from 1350 – 1380 Credit: Durham University

The team also discovered a silver penny dating from the reign of Henry VI, which was minted by the bishops of Durham between 1427-30. Back then, that would have been worth a gallon of beer or a few dozen eggs.

Henry VI silver penny, minted at Durham 1427-30. One side shows the crowned frontal bust, the other a cross with three pastilles. Credit: Durham University

The excavations carried out by the team this year are part of a larger project that previously exposed Bishop Bec’s late 13th-century lost chapel.