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Durham Castle
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Durham Castle

"Few buildings in England can boast a longer history of continuous occupation than Durham Castle. Founded soon after the Norman Conquest, the Castle has been rebuilt, extended and adapted to changing circumstances and uses over a period of 900 years." — (Department of the Environment, World Heritage List Nomination.)

Durham Castle stands guard over the city of Durham in the North East of England, by the side of the imposing Normans Durham Cathedral, the two together marking a double pinnacle of authority that continues to inspire awe even today. The original castle was built in the eleventh century in order to protect the Bishop of Durham from attack, as the population of England — particularly in the wild North — remained 'wild and fickle' following the disruption of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is an excellent example of early motte and bailey castles favoured by the Normans.

The castle has a vast Great Hall, created by Bishop Bek in the early 14th Century. It was the largest Great Hall in Britain until Bishop Fox shortened it at the end of the 15th Century. However, it is still 14 metres high and over 30 metres long.


Durham Castle has two chapels: the Norman Chapel, built around 1078 and (Bishop) Tunstall's Chapel, built in 1540.

The Norman Chapel is the oldest accessible part of the castle. Its architecture is Saxon in nature, possibly due to forced Saxon labour being used to build it. In the 15th century, its three windows were all but blocked up because of the expanded keep. It thus fell into disuse until 1841 when it was used as a corridor for the keep. During the Second World War, it was used as a command and observation post for the Royal Air Force when its original use was recognised. It was re-consecrated shortly after the war and is still used for weekly services.

Tunstall's Chapel is the more heavily-used of the castle's chapels, being somewhat larger. Bishop Cosin and Bishop Crewe extended it in the late 17th Century. At the back of the chapel, some of the seats are 16th Century misericords (literally, mercy seats). These were designed such that a person standing for long periods of time could rest on a ledge of the upturned seat.

University College

In 1837, the castle was donated to the newly-formed University of Durham by Bishop Van Mildert as accommodation for students. It was named University College. Architect Anthony Salvin rebuilt the dilapidated keep from the original plans. Opened in 1840, the keep still houses 100 students.