Durham Castle

Durham Castle

Durham Castle was originally built in the 11th century to protect the Bishop of Durham from the surrounding population who were "wild and fickle" following the Norman Conquest in 1066. The castle is a good example of the early Norman motte and bailey castle.

Durham castle has a vast Great Hall, built by Bishop Antony Bek in the early 14th century. It was the largest Great Hall in Britain until Bishop Richard Fox reduced its size in the 15th century. Nevertheless it remains 14 m high and over 30 m long.

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

The Norman Chapel is the oldest part of the castle. Its architecture is Saxon, which could be due to forced Saxon labour being used to build it. In the 15th century its three windows were blocked up when the keep was enlarged. The Chapel was not used again until 1841 when it was used as a corridor for the keep. During the World War II, it was used as a command and observation post for the RAF. It was re-consecrated shortly after the war and is still used for weekly services.

Tunstall's Chapel is mainly used as the castle's chapels as it is the larger of the two. Bishop Cosin and Bishop Crewe had enlarged it in the late 17th century. Some of the seats in this chapel are 16th-century misericords. These were designed such that a person standing for long periods of time could rest on a ledge of the upturned seat.

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

Students of the college now eat their meals in Bishop Bek's Great Hall, and use its Undercroft as a college bar. The two chapels are still used, both for services and for theatrical perfomances. Also within the castle is the college's library. Access to the castle for the public is restricted to guided tours.


Durham Cathedral and Castle World Heritage