Sunderland schoolchildren take part in dig at historic Hylton Castle

Representing the Friends of Hylton Castle and Dene and Sunderland City Council, Cllr Denny Wilson, joins project manager of the archaeological dig at Hylton Castle, Penny Middleton, with (l-r) Melek Thatcher (5), John Askew (5), Tobi Logan (5), Frankie Jackson (5), Riley Keithley (6) and Lola Cairns (5) from the local Hylton Castle Primary school to see history being uncovered as part of the HLF funded community led cultural heritage project
Representing the Friends of Hylton Castle and Dene and Sunderland City Council, Cllr Denny Wilson, joins project manager of the archaeological dig at Hylton Castle, Penny Middleton, with (l-r) Melek Thatcher (5), John Askew (5), Tobi Logan (5), Frankie Jackson (5), Riley Keithley (6) and Lola Cairns (5) from the local Hylton Castle Primary school to see history being uncovered as part of the HLF funded community led cultural heritage project
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Children at two Wearside schools dug deep to discover more about the history of Sunderland’s only castle.

Pupils from both Hylton Castle and St Benet’s Primary schools were among visitors to a two-week archaeological dig in the grounds of Hylton Castle.

The dig, led by professional archaeologists from Northern Archaeological Associates (NAA) Ltd working together with volunteers, was the latest stage in the restoration of this historic landmark and its grounds.

Funding of £2.9million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) supported by an additional £1.5million from Sunderland City Council, the community led cultural heritage project will create a new education centre and visitor attraction at the site.

Ward councillor Denny Wilson, who is one of the founding members of the Friends of Hylton Castle and Dene who have been campaigning for more than 20 years to return the castle to the centre of community life, said: “It’s taken a long time to get the project to the stage where it is today, but it just shows what can be achieved with persistence and determination.

“As a community we’ve been trying to restore the castle for a long time, and kept on going.

“With the support of Sunderland City Council we’ve attracted Heritage Lottery Fund funding to help achieve our dream.

“This innovative project is great news not only for people in Hylton Castle, but from across the city.

“Along with the Tall Ships, City of Culture bid and work on the old Fire Station to create a new city centre arts and leisure venue, it’s further demonstration of Sunderland’s commitment to celebrating its past and looking forward to its future.”

The new cultural heritage centre which is scheduled to open in 2018.

The Castle Gatehouse will feature classrooms, a café, exhibition and flexible community spaces for meetings and events.

During their visit children from the schools learned all about the castle’s 600-year history, and had a chance to handle finds from the excavations.

Uncovered was a stretch of a cobbled road, thought to date back about 200 years along with remains of paths, surfaces and a possible wall.

NAA Ltd project manager on the site, Penny Middleton said: “We are particularly excited about the cobbled surface which is part of a circular path known as a carriage turn and probably dates to the 18th century.

Children who attended the dig from Hylton Caste Primary included Layla Latimer, 10, who said: ”It’s amazing because the way it has been built, how long it’s been up for and the things you can find inside it.”

Classmate Bradley Aslett, 10, added: “It’s good. It makes Hylton Castle a special place because it’s the only castle in Sunderland.”