Pictured are Coun Peter Wilkinson and Toby Kendall from YAT

Rusty keys have been unearthed at the site of Northallerton’s former prison – buried among the footings of an old wall.

They are among a range of early finds in an archaeological dig which aims to uncover more about the jail’s past before redevelopment work begins.

York Archaeological Trust (YAT) is spending a month at the 3.5 acre site excavating several locations – which so far is uncovering old walls, a massive chimney, pottery and the keys.

“We found the keys buried in the footings of an old wall near where one of the old wings was demolished many years ago,” said Toby Kendall from YAT.

“This is not the find we were expecting as keys are clearly something that have to be very secure in a prison. But this haul includes all types – as well as some old knife blades and door fittings. We hope someone will be able to help us unlock the mystery surrounding them and tell us why they might be there!”

During the excavation work site owners, Hambleton District Council are giving access to local people and organisations through open days, workshops and digging sessions.

Hundreds are expected at the two open days – on Saturdays September 16 and 30 – when the gates will be open to visitors to come and see the site from 10am until 4pm (last admission 3pm).

“The prison is already unearthing some interesting finds – and being able to allow local people to have a look at what is being done is important,” said council deputy leader Peter Wilkinson.  “We want them to be part of this project – and help shape its future.”

  • Archaeological workshops  take place on September 12, 19 and 26 from 10am until noon and 1 – 2.30pm to look at various aspects of the excavation teams work. To find out more contact: yourdig@yorkat.co.uk
  • Your Dig public digging sessions take place from 10am until 4pm on September 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27 and 28.  Anyone taking part will work with the team in the trenches and be guided through the process – no experience is needed but safety boots are essential.  To find out more contact: yourdig@yorkat.co.uk
  • Open days are on September 16 and 30 from 10am until 4pm.  No tickets are needed – last admission is 3pm.  Sturdy shoes are recommended.


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