Bamburgh Research Project

The Bamburgh Research Project was formed in 1996 by professional field archaeologists who live and work in the North East.

archaeologistsBamburgh has always been known as a great fortress and iconic landmark of the North East coast, but very little was known about its archaeology. When the project began, it was born out of the Project Directors’ fascination with the enigma of this famous and yet unexplored fortress. Having secured permission to excavate the Castle from Lady Armstrong, Graeme Young and his colleagues began their investigations within the Castle with small test pits, geophysics and documentary research.

A particular goal was to attempt to re-discover the burial ground that Hope-Taylor had been unable to locate in the 1960s. Conveniently, marked on the earliest Ordnance Survey map was ‘Danish burial ground’. Storms must have exposed some of the skeletons at the time as the location proved to be broadly accurate. The first test pits revealed human remains. The success of this initial evaluation led to many years of further study, revealing an Anglo Saxon cemetery of enormous complexity and importance. The results of this excavation will soon be published.

The burial ground was only the beginning. As the project grew, excavations were undertaken within the castle walls to answer a number of research questions. The project began with two small trenches at the northern end of the west ward, near St. Oswald’s Gate, which have now been amalgamated together as Trench 1. The gate steps and outworks were cleared and recorded and the post-medieval steps were lifted, revealing an earlier set of steps, of probable medieval date, and beneath them the worn rock surface that may have been the ground surface during the Anglo-Saxon period and earlier.

In addition to the West Ward and Bowl Hole cemetery, the project has excavated in the village of Bamburgh and also within the Chapel of St. Peter in the Inner Ward of the castle, which revealed pre-Norman stone buildings.

Why is Bamburgh Castle so significant?

The KeepBamburgh was the fortress palace of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Northumbria, and has been in continual use for over 3000 years. We have a wonderful state of preservation in our trenches, including over 4 metres of stratified deposits. This means we are able to get excellent data from our work and contribute to the archaeological record. In the castle we have discovered large and small buildings domestic and industrial buildings, and evidence of large scale industrial practices. While uncovering defences of the early palace we have also found evidence for what we believe to be a large arched gatehouse. This would have been an impressive site in its heyday and is still thrilling to note in the archaeology.

Bamburgh was the early seat of the Northumbrian Kings Oswald and Oswy, who are credited with introducing Christianity to the English royals. After being left in a ruinous state, the 18th Century Dr John Sharpe began the restoration, and the 1st Lord Armstrong renovated the living quarters of the castle, creating the beautiful state rooms and private apartments you see today.

Who can join in?

The Bamburgh Research Project carries out archaeological digs that everyone can get involved in! These take place throughout the year and are great fun for adults and children alike. The Project welcomes anyone who has an interest in heritage and archaeology. If you’re under 16 you must have a responsible adult dig with you, and if you’re under 18 you need to have parental consent. BRP have a wide mix of people of all experience levels, and everyone is welcome.

Visit the Bamburgh Research Project website for full information, dig dates and info on what to bring.

Visit Bamburgh Research Project Website

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