New excavation begins at site of Dilston Castle

A DIG started yesterday in a bid to uncover more of the story behind the palatial home of a Northumberland nobleman executed for leading a rebellion.

dilston castle, Mandi Elwood, John Bowman

A DIG started yesterday in a bid to uncover more of the story behind the palatial home of a Northumberland nobleman executed for leading a rebellion.

Dilston Castle and Chapel, overlooking the Devil’s Water near Corbridge in Northumberland, was the seat of the Radcliffe family who held the title of Earl of Derwentwater. The 3rd Earl, James Radcliffe, was executed in 1716 for his part in leading the Jacobite rebellion in Northumberland.

He had built a magnificent Queen Anne mansion at Dilston, but after his death squatters moved in and the great house was home to up to 18 families. It was demolished in 1768.

Had it survived, Dilston Hall would have ranked amongst the finest stately homes in the country.

The two-week dig by North Pennines Archaeology Ltd will examine the southern end of the hall.

Digs have been taking place since 2003 and have uncovered a “huge amount” of information about the historic site, said dig leader Frank Giecco.

The archaeologists have helped piece together the evolution of the site, uncovering a 12th-Century timber structure which was followed in the 13th Century by a defensive tower.

This was demolished around 1420 and a new stone tower built – whose remains are now called Dilston Castle. A Great Hall was also built next to the tower. In the Tudor period the Great Hall was joined to the tower and the buildings were later enhanced as a Jacobean manor house.

Then in the first decade of the 1700s the 3rd Earl built his mansion.

The digs have also produced masses of finds, including 17th and 18th-Century pottery, moulded stones and plaster, lead window frames, musket balls, coins and roof tiles.

The items are now on display in the 17th-Century Dilston Chapel.

The site is normally open from Wednesday to Sunday but visitors can view the dig on any day in the next two weeks.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer