From the Cathedral

From the Cathedral




Construction of the Castle began in 1072 under the orders of William the Conqueror, six years after the Norman Conquest of England, and soon after the Normans first came to the North. The construction took place under the supervision of the Earl of Northumberland, Waltheof, until he rebelled against William and was executed in 1076. The castle then came under the control of the Bishop of Durham, Walcher, who purchased the earldom and thus became the first of the Prince-Bishops of Durham, a title that was to remain until the 19th century, and was to give Durham a unique status in England. It was under Walcher that many of the Castle’s first buildings were constructed. As was typical of Norman castles, it consisted of a motte (mound) and an inner and outer bailey (fenced or walled area). Whether the motte and inner bailey were built first is unknown. In defensive terms, Durham Castle was of strategic importance both to defend the troublesome border with Scotland and to control local English rebellions, which were common in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest, and led to the so-called Harrying of the North by William the Conqueror in 1069. The Historia Regum, a literary work about the history of the English kings written in 1136, mentions that the Castle was constructed “to keep the bishop and his household safe from the attacks of assailants”. This makes sense – Robert de Comines (or Cumin), the first earl of Northumberland appointed by William the Conqueror, was brutally murdered along with his entourage in 1069. The threat to Durham was not simply from locals who resented the Normans’s presence – there was also the looming threat of invasions from the Scots and the Danes.


It remained the bishop's palace for the bishops of Durham until the bishops made Auckland Castle their primary residence and the castle was converted into a college. The castle has a large Great Hall, created by Bishop Antony Bek in the early 14th century. It was the largest Great Hall in Britain until Bishop Richard Foxe shortened it at the end of the 15th century. However, it is still 14 m high and over 30 m long. In 1837, the castle was donated 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 over 100 students, most of whom are in the keep. Students and staff of the college eat their meals in Bishop Bek's Great Hall. The Great Hall's Undercroft, meanwhile, serves as the Junior Common Room, including its bar - i.e. as the principal common room for the college's undergraduate members. The two chapels are still used, both for services and other purposes such as theatrical performances. Other facilities contained within the castle include the college's library, the college offices, and the college's IT suite. Durham Castle is jointly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, a short distance across Palace Green. There are guided tours on specific dates. There is wheelchair access to the grounds only as many of the buildings have stairs.


The Oriental Museum, formerly the Gulbenkian Museum of Oriental Art and Archaeology, part of the University of Durham in England. It has the following collections. China: The Chinese collection contains over 10,000 objects ranging from the Zhou Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty included c.1,000 pieces of Chinese pottery, of which 400 are from the Rt Hon. Malcolm MacDonald collection, and nearly 2,000 pieces of Jade and hardstones from the Sir Charles Hardinge donation. Korea: Containing just over 500 pieces, the collection is one of the smallest with objects from the Goryeo dynasty and Joseon Dynasty including bronze mirrors and ceramics with sanggam decoration. The collection is predominantly composed of the donations from the Rt Rev Richard Rutt and Dr Henry de Laszlo. Recent acquisitions of contemporary Korean culture and art have been made possible by the Stories of the World project and the Art Fund, resulting in the Korean collection encompassing the time period from 600 AD to 2013. Indian subcontinent: Ranging from stone sculptures to Mughal jade and Gandharan sculptures the collections contains 1,500 objects, and over 5,000 photographs taken by Sir John Marshall. Japan: The Japanese collection spans mostly the Edo and Meiji periods of Japanese history but also contains objects from the Muromachi and Momoyama periods, along with a bronze Buddha head from the Kamakura era. South East Asia: The collection is formed mainly from two acquisitions, the Harold MacDonald collection consisting of items presented to him as Commissioner General of South East Asia, and the Roberts Collection of Balinese art. The Levant and Middle East: The collection contains many artefacts collected from archaeological excavations such as those from Sir Leonard Woolley's excavations at Ur, Kathleen Kenyon's at Jericho and the Lachish excavation. The core of the collection is from the Nothumberland Collections consisting of seals and cuneiform tablets. Ancient Egypt: Made up of over 6,700 objects the Egyptian collection is formed from two main acquisitions; The Northumberland collection of over 2,500, purchased from the Fourth Duke of Northumberland, and 4,600 items comprising the Sir Henry Wellcome collections.The collection includes an 18th dynasty funeral mask, and Shabti of Prince Bahmery along with a statue of the Vizier Paser from the 19th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses II.


The entrance to the Oriental Museum is via a very shallow ramp from the museum carpark. A wheelchair is also available for loan in the museum. There is a unisex accessible toilet on the ground floor of the museum, close to reception. This WC also contains baby changing facilities and toilet aids for younger visitors. Guide and hearing dogs are welcome to accompany their owners around the museum. A water bowl can be provided. Two accessible lifts provide access to all levels of the museum. The controls are push button and at wheelchair height.


Location : Durham DH1 3RW

Transport: Durham (National Rail) 10 minutes. Bus Routes 40 and 40A stop close by.

Opening Times Oriental: Monday to Friday 10:00 to 17:00. Weekends/Holidays 12:00 to 17:00

Opening Times Castle: Guided Tour Only

Tickets Oriental: Adults £1.50. Senior/Children (5 - 16) £0.75

Tickets Castle: Adults £5.00. Senior/Children (5 - 16) £3.50

Tel: 0191 334 2932