Keys to the Past

Durham Castle, Durham City (Durham City)

Durham City, Castle © DCC 2007
Durham City, Castle © DCC 2007

The earliest known building on this site is a motte and bailey castle {SMR1201}, although it is speculated that a pre-conquest fortified structure may also have occupied the site. The Castle is one of the largest medieval fortresses in the North of England and it served a dual function as stronghold and ecclesiastical palace of the Prince Bishops of the County Palatinate. In 1832, it was handed over from the Bishop as the founding college of Durham University. Some of the earliest surviving unaltered fabric is to be found in the Norman chapel beneath the later more extensive chapel building. This evocative structure was most likely built around 1080. The Keep and the North Range are attributed to Bishop Flambard (1099-1128), Bishop Pudsey (1153-95) built Constables Hall and what is now the kitchen on the south-west side of the castle. Bishop Bek (1284-1312) built the Great Hall, although little of his work remains. Alterations by Bishop Hatfield (1345-81), included the enlarging of the mound and the rebuilding of the keep, and enlarging the Great Hall. Bishop Fox (1494-1501) made alterations. including the conversion of the Norman buildings in the southwest corner into a kitchen. Bishop Tunstall (1530-59), among other alterations built a chapel on the north side of the courtyard. Other repairs were made in C17 and Bishop Cosin (1660-72), was responsible for the destruction of the barbican and the partial filling of the moat. Repairs, including extensive refacing, were made in C18 and C19. In 1840, the keep was extensively rebuilt by Salvin the architect on the old foundations, as student accommodation. The castle in its earliest form withstood a siege by Malcolm of Scotland at the beginning of C11. In 1088, after a brief siege, the fortress was surrendered by Bishop William de St. Calais to William Rufus. During the Civil War the Castle was occupied by Scottish forces. In 1840 it was rebuilt as accommodation for students as part of the University of Durham. This is a listed building, thus protected by law.

Reference number:D1202
Legal status:World Heritage Site
  • National Heritage List for England Entry Number: 1000089
Event(s):Salvage Recording at Durham Castle 1993; Archaeological Services University of Durham
Building Recording of the North Terrace of Durham Castle 1993; Archaeological Services University of Durham

See also:
Source of Reference
Local History of Durham City

Disclaimer -

Please note that this information has been compiled from a number of different sources. Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council can accept no responsibility for any inaccuracy contained therein. If you wish to use/copy any of the images, please ensure that you read the Copyright information provided.