ONE of Doncaster's oldest monuments faces a brighter future after an English Heritage-backed conservation project to boost its ancient defences.
Peel Hill in Thorne had been listed as being at high risk of decay before the conservation work was started.
The site is a 22ft high man made mound which supported a tower built by the Normans after 1066 to secure their iron grip on the rebellious north.
Parts of the mound have been re-turfed, holes filled in and steps built so people can scale its heights while protecting the vulnerable banking and a path has also been laid around its base.
The work was done by the monument's owners Thorne-Moorends Town Council using a 12,000 English Heritage grant.
Now the council has linked up with Sheffield University Archaeology Unit to stage a public Time Team-style dig which runs from today until Friday.
It is part of a bid to encourage greater community involvement and appreciation of the site.
The mound is one of 156 scheduled ancient monuments in South Yorkshire, ranging from medieval fortifications to industrial, Roman and prehistoric sites. Earlier this year English Heritage revealed more than 60 per cent are at significant risk of damage in its Heritage at Risk report.
Keith Miller, English Heritage Inspector of Ancient Monuments, said: "Peel Hill's problems are typical of those facing many of our ancient sites, particularly damage due to its banks being used by bikers.
"But the council and local people have shown loads of enthusiasm in getting to grips with the situation and launching a very positive community archaeology project. It shows what can be done to protect an irreplaceable asset to the area and increase public understanding, access and enjoyment of this wonderful site."
Organisers hope the public dig, which will also involve local schoolchildren, may throw up new information on the site.
Thorne was a significant Baronial stronghold during the medieval period and according to historical records, the tower on the mound was also used as a hunting lodge and a jail. It stood until at least the 16th century.
Ian Harrison, clerk at Thorne-Moorends Town Council, said: "Four trenches will be dug and hopefully we'll unearth artefacts and possibly more masonry from the stone castle which replaced the original timber one.
"People of all ages are being invited to take part under the guidance of professional archaeologists. We want to write a new page in the history books as part of our push to help protect this remarkable relic."
To take part in the dig contact Ian Harrison at Thorne-Moorends Town Council on 01405 812092, or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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