Before visiting Binchester Roman Fort, we headed north up the A1 to Durham and the Durham Light Infantry Museum.
The modern building housing the museum is set in lovely parkland on the northern outskirts of the city; a setting which few visitors would guess was previously the site of the last colliery of Durham City.
The DLI Museum remains one of the North of England’s finest military museums. It tells the story of one of the most famous County Regiments in the British Army. More importantly, it tells the story of ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives.
With its well laid out displays, and the stories it has to tell, the DLI Museum is well worth a visit. We then made a slight detour to Durham Prison to see evidence on its front facade of the site of public executions from days gone by, such as the square holes in the walls for mounting the scaffolding and the hanging balcony where the mayor of the city used to sit to witness the executions. Gruesome.
On to Binchester Roman Fort. The fort is still under excavation, but the commandant’s quarters and the bath house have been exposed with the later now covered by a protective building.
We were lucky to be visiting at the time a locally archaeological group were being shown around the current excavations and who kindly allowed us to tag along. There were two large trenches opened, one was in the vicus, with shops aligned along the roman road known as Dere Street and the second was within the fort and appeared to be in the area of the kitchens.
Time Team have excavated mausoleums on this site and extensive geophysics show evidence of an earlier fort almost exactly underneath the later one now being excavated. There is clearly a lot of work still to be done at this now Scheduled Monument and each year the excavation team takes on amateur archaeologists to help dig at this site. This would be an ideal site on which to learn some new skills or hone those that have gone rusty over the winter months.