John Castling

Name: John Castling

Institution: Department of Archaeology, Durham University


Project Details: PhD (2019-2024) The Landscape of First Millennium A.D. Aucklandshire (working title).

Supervisors: Professor Chris Gerrard and Dr David Petts

The issue of defining and identifying the administrative landscape units known variously as multiple-estates or small shires (amongst many other terms) has long been a preoccupation of landscape archaeologists, settlement historians and historical geographers. One of the examples often referred to is Aucklandshire in County Durham. Early documentary records refer to the historical landscape unit of Aucklandshire, but the archaeology of the lands it incorporated remain little understood and the detail of the development of the northern end of Bishop Auckland, beyond Auckland Castle, is comparatively unknown for the period before the Norman Bishops of Durham.

The landscape surrounding Auckland Castle and Binchester Roman Fort, as well as the town of Bishop Auckland more widely, has received relatively little archaeological study beyond these key sites. The area around the confluence of the River Gaunless and the River Wear is rich in archaeology, but has been largely undeveloped since the late seventeenth century, and therefore presents an excellent opportunity for research. Conversely, development of the town in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been extensive, but has yielded little archaeological understanding before the medieval period. The main street, Newgate Street, is understood to have been part of the Roman route of Dere Street, while the northern end of the town around the market place has been heavily influenced by Auckland Castle.

My doctoral research, which I am undertaking part-time alongside my role as the curator for archaeology at The Auckland Project (which is the landowner of both Auckland Castle and Binchester), will contextualise the castle, Binchester and Bishop Auckland town within their cultural landscapes. I will use a combination of techniques to illuminate more of the archaeological evidence of the development of the landscape of Aucklandshire in the first millennium AD, with a particular focus on how culture and identity may have been enacted within the landscape. Community archaeology is a key part of my work – and my PhD project proposes community test-pit excavations across the area of Aucklandshire.

Further information can be found at and