Bishop Middleham Quarry Excavation

Ana working on the Roman Iron Age palisade construction trench. © Copyright ARS Ltd
Three rock-cut graves which formed part of an early medieval cemetery (scales = 2 x 2m). © Copyright ARS Ltd
Two probable stock enclosures bordered to the south by the sweeping arc of a Roman field boundary ditch (scales = 2 x 2m). © Copyright ARS Ltd

In July 2018 ARS Ltd began archaeological excavation work on the site of Bishop Middleham Quarry on behalf of W&M Thompson (Quarries) Ltd. The site lies to the north of the village of Bishop Middleham, approximately 4km to the north-west of Sedgefield and 12km to the south of Durham. The area is known to contain evidence for later prehistoric and Roman activity including the course of a Roman road – Cades Road. A previous Desk-Based Assessment and subsequent geophysical survey confirmed the presence of archaeological features on the site and prompted a trenching exercise which revealed the presence of significant remains.

The discoveries so far include a very early Christian cemetery consisting of 11 burials within rock-cut graves. Although the graves are aligned east-west, indicating that the people held Christian beliefs, some of the bodies had been arranged in crouched positions which may represent continuing pagan mortuary practices alongside the adoption of Christian beliefs by rural populations in north-east England.

Also uncovered during the course of the excavation were two probable stock enclosures which were bordered to the south by a Roman period field boundary ditch. Bovine (cow) bone found within this ditch suggests that it may have functioned as a field boundary for livestock control.

Excavations are still on-going, but make sure to check back here regularly as we progress to the post-excavation stage as we will keep these pages updated with information on the results of our analyses and the unfolding story.

To find out more about Bishop Middleham Quarry and the aggregates available, please use this link.

Dave carefully excavating one of the medieval burials. © Copyright ARS Ltd
Five of the eleven early medieval graves. Note the preservation of the rock-cut graves in the foreground compared to those that had been cut into sand, in the background, and had therefore suffered more damage due to ploughing (scale = 2 x 2m). © Copyright ARS Ltd
Archaeological Research Services Ltd