Bid to protect Northumberland barn at heart of historic site

A PROTECTIVE steel “umbrella” is planned for a key building in one of the richest historical landscapes in the North East.

Yeavering Old Palace in 2008. Photo by Paul Frodsham
Yeavering Old Palace in 2008. Photo by Paul Frodsham

A PROTECTIVE steel “umbrella” is planned for a key building in one of the richest historical landscapes in the North East.

The Old Palace at Yeavering, near Kirknewton in Northumberland, is thought to have been a 16th or 17th-Century barn, which was converted into a cottage in the 19th Century.

It sits next to the Iron Age hill fort of Yeavering Bell, a Neolithic standing stone and the Anglo Saxon “Ad Gefrin” – the palace site of King Edwin which was described by the Venerable Bede.

The building was given the name of the Old Palace in the 19th Century because it was the only visible building of antiquity in the area which Bede identified as the home of King Edwin’s court.

Yeavering Old Palace in 1910

Now landowner Lord Hill, the Gefrin Trust, Northumberland National Park, archaeologist Paul Frodsham, Natural England, English Heritage and architect Robin Dower are working towards saving the Old Palace and eventually turning it into an interpretation centre telling the long history of the area for visitors. Mr Dower, of Northumberland architects Spence and Dower, has submitted a planning bid for the steel structure on behalf of Lord Hill’s Lilburn Hill Ltd.

It will go before the National Park’s development management committee tomorrow .

The building’s 1.6m (five feet) thick stone walls are bonded by clay and not mortar, and this makes it vulnerable to the elements.

Its slate roof has had to be removed because of the danger of collapse and to allow archaeologists to enter the building in safety to carry out investigations.

The 17m (56ft) long steel roof “umbrella” will rest on the sound north wall but will overarch the unstable south wall of the building and be supported by six steel posts.

Paul Fodsham said: “There are 5,000 years of archaeology in the area, including Yeavering Bell – the biggest hill fort in Northern England – and the only known inland royal palace site in Northumberland.

“Even without the archaeology it is a fantastic environment and the Old Palace is at the heart of it.”

It is believed that a prehistoric processional way, with several henge monuments, led to Yeavering Bell.

“It is a special place and all of the evidence suggests that Yeavering Bell was a sacred mountain for prehistoric people,” said Mr Frodsham, who is also working with pupils from nearby Wooler on the project.

“A lot of people go walking in the area and the Old Palace could be a focus for visitors,” said Mr Frodsham.

The committee will also be considering an application for two holiday lodges at Alwinton Farm – a traditional hill farm on the northern edge of Alwinton village.

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