Be An Archaeologist: Medieval Dig at Bishop Middleham Castle (Brightwater)

Event Information

Share this event

Date and Time



Meet at car park next to St Michael's Church

St Michael's Church

Bishop Middleham

DL17 9AF

United Kingdom

View Map

Event description


Join archaeologists on an excavation to investigate Bishop Middleham Castle, and help the team figure out who built it and why it was abandoned

Oh no! This dig is now fully booked. But don't worry - you can click here to join the waitlist. If a place becomes available, we'll get in touch.

In 1075, Durham was a buffer state between England and Scotland. Unable to govern this region, the English king came up with a simple solution – give the local bishops secular powers and let them deal with it!

For several centuries, these newly created ‘Prince Bishops’ effectively became autonomous rulers. They had the right to raise armies, mint coins and levy taxes – so long as they used them to protect the northern border.

Unlike other medieval buildings, very few homes belonging to these northern rulers have been investigated archaeologically, and they remain an untapped source of history. Who built them? What were they like? And might these residences hold previously unknown details about the all-powerful Prince Bishops?

DigVentures is running a three-week excavation to investigate, and this is your chance to help us find the answers!

Together, we'll unearth the remains of Bishop Middleham Castle – one of their key residences. And whether you've dug with us before, or never even touched a trowel, we're inviting YOU to join us.

Sign up to join the team, and we'll teach you everything you need to know to be part of the excavation. You'll be able to try different archaeological activities, such as finds processing, excavation techniques, or recording, as and when they happen.

It's all part of 'Discover Brightwater', a huge project aiming to reveal, restore and celebrate life around the River Skerne.

The project includes a whole series of archaeological investigations that have been carefully designed and chosen by Durham County Council's Archaeology Section, and supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund, to give as many people as possible the chance to get hands-on with exploring and promoting their local heritage.

Love puzzles? Always wanted to try archaeology? Join us on this excavation and help us figure out what this incredible home at Bishop Middleham Castle would once have been like.


You can join the excavation for as many days as you like - whether you just want to try archaeology for a single day, or fancy getting stuck in for more (the longer you stay, the more you'll learn!)

But however long you decide to join us for, ++ YOUR FIRST DAY MUST BE A DATE MARKED WITH A DOUBLE PLUS ++. These are our 'new intake' days, when we provide training for new starters.

So, go ahead and book your dates, but make sure you start your experience with a double plus ++!

PS. This applies even if you have done archaeology before - every excavation is different, and we'll be teaching things you may not have done before... Exciting!


You can only book one person in at a time. If you want to book for multiple people, just repeat the process!


There is a *very small* chance that some start dates may be affected by severe weather or other issues to do with safe access to the site. If anything does happen that affects your chosen start dates, we will inform you in advance by email - so please do check ALL emails you receive relating to the dig.

Who can join the excavation?

Anyone aged 12+ can join the excavation (children must be accompanied by a participating adult). No previous experience is required - everyone is welcome!

If you have any health or mobility issues, our team will do everything we can to help you have the best archaeological experience possible - just email us in advance to find out how we can help.

How many days can I join you for?

You can register to join the dig for as many days as you like. However, we do ask that if you intend to join us for more than ten days that you email us first - we only have a limited number of places available, and we want as many people to enjoy them as possible!

What will I learn?

Once you're on site, you’ll be able to choose between a range of different archaeological activities, including:

- Excavation - You'll get to dig alongside archaeologists and help the team to unearth the remains of an impressive Medieval home. You’ll learn to excavate, identify different archaeological layers, and investigate features like hearths, pits and burials.

- Finds - Archaeology isn’t just about digging! You’ll also help the team to clean, sort, and identify the archaeological evidence, like pottery, bone, and other items, and piece them together to find out what they can tell us about the people who lived in the town.

- Recording - Once you’ve made an archaeological discovery, you need to record it! You’ll learn to take photos, draw archaeological plans (maps), and pick out the details that give archaeologists the biggest clues about how old things are, where they came from, and what they mean.

- And much, much more… Every day is different, and every day there’ll be a new archaeological puzzle to work on, a new archaeological skill to develop, and a whole load of history to help us unravel!

What's the schedule like?

Remember, this is a real excavation and every day is different - the exact activities available will vary depending on what's happening archaeologically. However, your first day will go something like this:

10:00 - Archaeological briefing and and choose your preferred activities from the ones available that day (excavation / finds / recording etc). Please arrive in plenty of time - this is especially important on your first day.

11:00 - Morning session begins

13:00 - Lunch

14:00 - Afternoon session begins

16:00 - Tools down for tea and an archaeological debrief

16:30 - End of day

What do I need to bring?

We'll provide all the archaeological tools and training you'll need, plus tea and biscuits. You just need to bring a pinch of curiosity and the following items:

- Packed lunch, snacks and plenty of drinks

- Sturdy boots (walking boots, Doc Martins or similar)

- Weather appropriate clothing (waterproofs/sunhat/suncream)

Where will I find you?

Our daily meeting point is the car park next to St Michael's Church, Bishop Middleham, Ferryhill, DL17 9AF

Please arrive in plenty of time! From there, we have a short and easy walk to the excavation site. Booking is essential.

Share with friends

Date and Time


Meet at car park next to St Michael's Church

St Michael's Church

Bishop Middleham

DL17 9AF

United Kingdom

View Map

Save This Event

Event Saved