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A COMMUNITY WILL LEAD AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION of its past and the origins of Sunderland’s ‘ forgotten stones.’

The stone structures on the banks of the river Wear, are set to be rediscovered by local volunteer group Castletown Neighbourhood Action Group (CNAG) with the help of £93,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Volunteers and local schools, supported by Sunderland City Council and a team of professional archaeologists, will investigate interlinked sites around the city to try and identify the origin of an ancient stone structure that once spanned the River Wear between North and South Hylton.
A public meeting  is being held at 7pm on Wednesday 7 December at the Billy Hardy Centre in Castletown, where people will be able to learn more about the project with archaeologists from Wardell Armstrong and find out how to get involved through CNAG.

For centuries, historians have debated the origins of the mysterious stone structures but a definitive answer has yet to be found to questions such as;

  • Was it a bridge, dam, causeway or weir?
  • Why was it built?
  • When was it built?
  • Who would have had the motive, wealth, manpower and skill to construct such a massive piece of engineering?

Project Leader from the Castletown Neighbourhood Action Group, Ian Stewart said: “Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, we now have a great opportunity solve this mystery that has baffled experts for many years.

” This project will bring together many people of different ages, backgrounds and abilities to try and find the answer.”

Chair of the North Area Committee which works closely with local voluntary and community groups such as CNAG,  Councillor Denny Wilson, added: “Once again we have to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing even more funding for Sunderland’s heritage.

” This focus on the river is very timely with the Tall Ships event coming to Sunderland and our bid to be City of Culture 2021.”

The community led project will see archaeologists visit various sites such as Roker Beach, Hylton Ferry Landing, North Dock, local farmland and the Hylton Dam site with plenty of opportunities for volunteers to become involved with the research work.

This will include detailed scientific and archaeological investigations such as laser scanning of the stone blocks, excavations and soil sampling to help determine when and how construction took place.

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “While we have a number of clues, including public complaints made in the 1700s and 1800s about ‘ye stones of the old bridge’ and evidence that the stones possibly have Roman origins, there is still a lot to discover about Sunderland’s forgotten stones.

” Thanks to National Lottery players, people of all ages will develop skills and have the opportunity to be actively involved in celebrating and demystifying this intriguing community story.”