Experts are to investigate an at risk castle site hidden between two of Tyneside’s busiest locations.
The privately-owned Ravensworth Castle is concealed by woodland from the A1 and the Team Valley trading estate.
It contains the remains of a 14th-century castle, including two towers and part of the curtain wall, which are listed Grade II-star, putting them in the top 5% of historic assets in the country. They are also a scheduled monument.
Other remains, also listed Grade II-star, include those of an elaborate castle-style mansion designed by the architect John Nash in 1808 and completed in 1846.
Also listed is a stable block and gatehouse from around 1840.
All are on English Heritage’s At Risk Register and are in the North East top 10 for priority action because of their “immediate risk of further rapid deterioration”.
Yesterday, Gateshead Council’s cabinet backed the appointment of a team of experts for a two-year exercise, with grant funding from English Heritage.
The team’s brief is to “provide a clear picture of the current repair needs, priorities and associated costs to develop and deliver a project to safeguard the future of the historic buidlings at Ravesnworth Castle.”
The site is described as containing nationally-significant historic assets.
A report to the council cabinet says: “The council and English Heritage have worked closely with the site owners and other partners over an extended period to try to build a sustainable solution for the site.
“These discussions are ongoing and the hope is that the repair and sustainable reuse of the stuctures will take place with the permission and particpation of the owner.
“However, the possibility remains that statutory powers may be required to secure immediate and long-term repairs.” Kate Wilson, English Heritage At Risk principal in the North East, said: “All of these important historic structures and buried archaeology at Ravensworth are on our Heritage at Risk register, and we consider them to be at the highest risk possible because at the moment we have no agreed solution in place to repair them.
“Together with Gateshead Council, we continue to work tirelessly with the owners to find a way forward that will see the site rescued.”
The site was bought in 1607 by wealthy Newcastle merchant T homas Liddell. The coal-owning family later became the Lords Ravesnworth, and among those who stayed at their home was the Duke of Wellington in 1827.
Gateshead Council cabinet member for historic environment, Linda Green, said: “Ravensworth Castle played a pivotal role in the history of Gateshead.
“The Liddells, who lived there, were one of Tyneside’s most important families, particularly in the evolution of the coal industry.
“The survival of the already depleted remains of Ravensworth Castle, to help future generations understand how Gateshead evolved, is vital.
“The importance of finding a solution to secure these buildings for the long term cannot be over-estimated.”
The castle-style mansion was later used as a girls’ school and the grounds hosted military-style tattoos.
Ravensworth featured in the TV series Restoration, in which at risk historic sites competed for rescue funds.