Durham Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameDurham Castle
Alternative NamesDunelm; Dunhelm; Dunholm
Historic CountryDurham
Modern AuthorityDurham
1974 AuthorityCounty Durham
Civil ParishDurham

Early motte and bailey castle. Chapel of 1080 survives. Parts of Constables Hall of 1170, much altered Great Hall of 1300 and other fragments of medieval masonry also survive in much altered and continuously reused building which still follows ground plan of the original castle. Palace of the Prince Bishops of County Durham.

Located on a rocky butte overlooking a bend in the Wear River, the monumental array constituted by the cathedral and its outbuildings to the south, and by the castle which inhibits the main access to the peninsula, to the north, makes up one of the best-known cityscapes of medieval Europe. The architectural evolution of the castle, taking place over eight centuries, is even more complex. Of the original Norman foundation, there remains essentially the typical layout comprising a motte to the east and a large bailey to the west. The construction was begun in 1072 by Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland. It was an effective fortress which regularly faced the onslaught of Scottish troops; in the 17th century the military role of the castle gave way to a more residential character which was further accentuated when the castle became part of Durham University in the 19th century. The present castle is a veritable labyrinth of halls and galleries of different periods, and in its north wing it houses various vestiges of the Romanesque epoch, include the castral chapel, built in 1080. (World Heritage Site 370bis)

The castle of Durham stands on the neck of a peninsula which was unapproachable by the engines of siege of ancient times, and from the very fact of its impregnable strength played a comparatively small part in military history. It was founded purely as a fortress, but before long became the chief residence or palace of that long line of Prince Bishops whose history has been told elsewhere

Selected first as a refuge for the venerated body of St. Cuthbert, the peninsula must have received some artificial addition to its natural defences at an early date, and by the beginning of the 11th century was strong enough to stand a siege by Malcolm of Scotland. (Simeon of Durham, Op. Hist. (Rolls Ser.), i, 215) It is unlikely that the protective walls of Durham at this time were more than earthen banks crowned with palisades, nor is it probable that any part of the keep mound had been thrown up before the Conquest. The castle is recorded to have been built by Earl Waltheof about 1072, though some masonry in the Norman chapel is possibly of an earlier date. Waltheof's work was continued after his death in 1075 (Ibid. ii, 199) by Bishop Walcher, his successor in the Earldom of Northumbria. The keep mound, then covering a much smaller area than at present, was probably raised at this period, but would not for some years be sufficiently stable to be crowned with a masonry tower. Bishop William de St. Calais, who planned the present church, probably strengthened the castle, which, after a brief siege, he was compelled to surrender to William Rufus in 1088. (Anglo-Sax. Chron. (Rolls Ser.), i, 358; ii, 193) But his successor, Ranulph Flambard, was, there can be little doubt, the designer of the Norman fortifications, as they can be traced to-day and as Laurence described them in the 12th century, although they have been usually credited to his successor Hugh Pudsey. Flambard cleared away the houses from the ground, now the Palace or 'Place' Green, between the castle and the church, (Simeon of Durham, op. cit. (Rolls Ser.), i, 140) and built a wall from the east end of the church to the keep. (Ibid. i, 140; ii, 260) The whole of the plateau of the peninsula was thus appropriated by the castle, the church and monastery. Whatever were the individual shares of the early bishops in fortifying their stronghold, it is pretty clear that by the middle of the 12th century the fortifications had developed upon the lines then laid down. (VCH, 1928)

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ273423
Latitude54.7753791809082
Longitude-1.57560002803802
Eastings427390
Northings542350
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) passim
  • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 99
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 153, 267
  • Brickstock, R., 2007, Durham Castle: fortress, palace, college (Jeremy Mills Publishing)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles and Tower Houses of County Durham (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 26-32
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 9, 14-20, 44, 65, 68, 84, 116, 132, 157, 159-60, 174
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 51-4, 76-81
  • Jackson, M.J., 1996, Castles of Durham and Cleveland (Carlisle) p. 28-30 (plan)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 27-9 (plan)
  • Leyland, M., 1994, 'The origins and development of Durham castle' in Rollason, D., Harvey, M., and Prestwich, M. (eds), Anglo-Norman Durham 1093-1193 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 407-24
  • Thompson, M.W., 1994, 'The place of Durham among Norman episopal palaces and castles' in Rollason, D., Harvey, M., and Prestwich, M. (eds), Anglo-Norman Durham 1093-1193 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)
  • Roberts, Martin, 1994, English Heritage book of Durham (London: English Heritage)
  • Corfe, Tom (ed), 1992, 'The Visible Middle Ages' in An Historical Atlas of County Durham p. 28-9
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 118-20, 139
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 107-109
  • Drage, C., 1987, 'Urban castles' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 117-32 online copy
  • Clack, P., 1985, The Book of Durham City p. 50-65
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 135
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus (revised by Elizabeth Williamson), 1983, Buildings of England: Durham (Harmondsworth) p. 212-8
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 226
  • Hugill, Robert, 1979, The Castles and Towers of the County of Durham (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 45-54
  • Clipson, J., 1977, 'Durham city: Back Silver Street' Archaeological excavations 1976 (HMSO) p. 116
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 167, 179-80
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 643
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 56-8
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1928, VCH Durham Vol. 3 (London) p. 64-91 online transcription
  • Tipping, H.A., 1921, English Homes, period 1 Vol. 1 (London) p. 55-66
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 146-9 online copy
  • Hamilton Thompson, A., 1912, Military Architecture in England during the Middle Ages (London) p. 198-201 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 93-5
  • Gee, Henry, 1911, 'Durham Castle' in Rait, R.S. (ed), English Episcopal Palaces (Province of York) (London; Constable & Co) p. 101-200 online copy
  • Gould, Chalkley, 1905, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Durham Vol. 1 (London) p. 354 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 341-2 online copy
  • Boyle, J.R., 1892, Comprehensive Guide to the County of Durham: its Castles, Churches, and Manor-Houses (London) p. 140-89
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 32-5 online copy
  • Brayley, E. and Britton, J., 1803, Beauties of England and Wales; Durham Vol. 5 p. 60-62
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1785-94, The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham Vol. 2 p. 358-69 online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 2 p. 95-7 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 82

Antiquarian

  • Speed, John, 1611-12, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain online copy
  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 150, 156
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 73 online copy
  • Celia Fiennes, 1888, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary (London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press) Vision of Britain online transcription

Journals

  • 2012-13, 'Castle Studies Group Conference 2012 report' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 26 p. 7-26
  • Goodall, John, 2011 April, 'Bones of the kingdom' Country Life Vol. 205.14 p. 80-5 online copy
  • Burton, Peter, 2010-11, 'Original castle gates and doors – A Survey' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 246-59 online copy
  • Wood, R., 2010, 'The Norman chapel in Durham Castle' Northern History Vol. 47 p. 9-48 online copy
  • 2004-5, 'Durham Castle: Castle restoration plan revealed' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 18 p. 81-2 (news report)
  • 2001-2002, 'Durham Castle' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 15 p. 54-5 online copy
  • Harfield, C.G., 1991, 'A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book' English Historical Review Vol. 106 p. 371-392 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Binney, M., 1989, 'Durham Castle' Country Life 183.39 p. 134-9
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 308
  • Clack, P.A.G., 1980, 'Rescue excavations in Co Durham, 1976-1978: 3, An excavation at Queen's Court, 2 North Bailey, Durham city' Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland n ser, Vol. 5 p. 56-70
  • Clipson, J., 1980, 'Back Silver Street, Durham, 1975-56 excavations' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 8 p. 109-26
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1979, 'Medieval Britain in 1978' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 23 p. 260 download copy
  • Johnson, M., 1978, 'The great north gate of Durham Castle' Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland (new ser) Vol. 4 p. 105-18
  • King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Simpson, Grace and Hatley, V., 1953, 'An Excavation Below Bishop Tunstal's Chapel, Durham Castle' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 33 p. 56-64 (minor excavation)
  • Wood, M., 1935, 'Norman Domestic Architecture' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 92 p. 167-242 esp 178-9 online copy
  • Whiting, C.E., 1933, 'The castle of Durham in the Middle Ages' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 10 p. 123-131
  • Greenwell, 1934, Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland Vol. 7 p. 56-91 (early history)
  • Jones, 1925, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 82 p. 226-7 online copy
  • Sedding, 1920, The Builder Vol. 119 p. 311-14
  • Hodges, 1908, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 65 p. 327-8 (slight) online copy
  • Tipping, 1908, Country Life Vol. 23 p. 126-35
  • 1890, The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend p. 166-70 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 203 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1881, 'The castle and keep of Durham' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 38 p. 418-21 (reprint in MMA) online copy
  • Longstaffe, W.H.D., 1879, 'Report of the Meeting at the Castle, Durham' History of the Berwickshire Naturalist Club Vol. 9 p. 73-9 online copy
  • Ornsby, G., 1866, 'Durham Castle' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 22 p. 46-63 (plans) online copy
  • 1863, The Gentleman's Magazine Vol. 15 Part 2 p. 58-9 online copy
  • Gee, H., Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians (ser2) Vol. 20 p. 17-18
  • Gee, H., Transactions of the Durham and Northumberland Archaeological Society

Guide Books

  • Bythell, D. and Leyland, Martin, 1992, Durham Castle, University College, Durham (Durham: University College)
  • Bythell, D., 1985, Durham Castle, University College, Durham (Durham: University College)
  • Bythell, D., 1974, Durham Castle (Jarrold)
  • Anon, n.d., Durham Castle, University College, Durham (Durham: University College)
  • Surtees, 1928, History of Durham Castle

Primary Sources

  • Ingram, James, (ed) 1912, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Everyman Press, London) Laud Chronicle AD1088 view online transcription (Ingram's translation and notes date from 1823. More recent translations of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles should be consulted for serious study)
  • Arnold, T. (ed), 1882-5, Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia (London: Rolls Series 75) Vol. 1 p. 140, 215 Vol. 2 p. 199, 260
  • Stenton, D.M. (ed.), 1953, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the thirteenth year of the reign of King John, Michaelmas 1211 (Pipe Roll 57) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 66)
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 188

Other

  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk North East Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 2 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 2 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 2 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 19 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 19 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 16 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 27 online copy
  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)
  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
  • Leyland, Martin, 1994, The origins and development of Durham Castle to AD 1217: the archaeological and architectural record (PhD thesis University of Durham) online copy (large file)