Friday, 6 September 2013

Durham Castle ...


Never breached – the fortress has stood the test of time – yet wear and tear has taken its toll and in the late 1920s a major shoring-up operation was required to the west side to underpin and secure the mud and sandstone foundations.

The Castle entrance to the Great Hall,
buttery and Medieval kitchens; from here (to the right)
is found the stone tower for the black staircase
and gallery passages to the rest of the Castle

Founded soon after the Norman Conquest, the Castle has been rebuilt, extended, adapted to changing circumstances and uses over a period of 900 years ...


... from being a key northern fortress, transforming itself into a comfortable palace for the Bishops of Durham; and since 1837 as the founding college for the University ...

The Castle, containing the Norman Gallery leading to
Tunstal's Chapel, and on the lower floor to the back -
the incredible Norman Chapel

... where students and dons live and study, to the more prosaic bed and breakfast accommodation in such an imaginative setting ... one I think I may take up for my next visit.


The buttery and kitchens have been in use for over 900 years ... adapted over the centuries and today, in term time, the meals for 300 members of the college are prepared and served from here.

see paragraph in text of blogpost

This picture shows the kitchen as it probably looked in the late 19th century ... the two great fireplaces seen here, and another at the opposite end, together with the roof, brickwork and windows have remained unchanged since Bishop Fox refurbished a twelfth-century building already serving as a kitchen, in the late 1400s – very early 1500s into the medieval kitchens we can still see today.


The Great Hall - full of international
students, who were treated to
a real English Christmas dinner
c/o the staff - they didn't travel
home as it was too far.
c/o The Journal

The Great Hall is now the dining-hall of University College – a huge and wonderful space ... which was refurbished in 2011 affording the opportunity to add additional layers of pictures to the walls, mirroring the style favoured in the early years of the University ...


... the portraits include a series of late 17th C Spanish representations of Saints ... that were apparently ‘lost’ or ‘stolen’ in the early 1800s ... they are not valuable ... but the gold leaf on one of the frames is of more value! 


The black staircase - my
photo from guide book
The window in the great hall has historical value  ... and was recently cleaned over six weeks, at a cost of £10,000.


The Black Staircase built in the early 1660s, is 57 feet high, and except for the intricately carved side panels, which are of soft wood (painted black to match), is made of oak.


It was the first example of a flying staircase ... and now sits a little like the leaning tower of Pisa ... but has been propped up permanently with plain oak cylindrical columns ... it (understandably) does groan ... you can see the crack in the soft wood panels, the pineapple stand in the distance, while the plain column can be seen seated onto one of the pineapple stands - where the pineapple was removed.


Norman stone work in the long gallery
c/o Durham World Heritage site
Bishop John Cosin responsible for building the Black Staircase and who contributed significantly to the wider architecture of Durham, including his library, encouraged a style of woodwork unique to the area ... a sumptuous fusion of gothic and contemporary Jacobean forms.


The decorative elements include ... pineapples, which only the super wealthy could afford in the 1660s ... so the artist mocked up the design as he had almost certainly had never seen one in real life ... then there are dragons, acanthus leaves, and grapes ... the dreams and desires of the nobles.


The original Norman stone-
arched:
Le Puiset's entrance
The Long Gallery is a mix of 900 year old stone work, reckoned to be one of the finest examples of late Norman stone carving in England ... it has recently been restored ... but is in extremely good condition as it was included within a new Medieval outer wall and so was protected from weathering.


The chevron stones would have been brightly painted giving the archways rich overtones against the grey-tan-brown sandstone of the defensive walls.


Later great Flemish tapestries were hung in the galleries ... these today, together with the maps, are carefully stored away, while the paintings are better left in situ ... this decoration would have served a few purposes – reflecting the medieval art of the day, giving a barrier against the cold stone walls, and reminding all visitors of the Bishopric’s wealth and standing in society.
Tunstal's Chapel where a revival of
 medieval and renaissance music was being performed


The Long Gallery was built to provide a covered entrance to Tunstal’s Chapel, erected in the 1540s ... this small intimate chapel has been sympathetically altered over the centuries in keeping with its original intent.


There is another chapel ... the Norman Chapel ... which is one of the oldest parts of the Castle, dating from about 1080 ... and over the year has been used as a dump!, crypt and storage ...

 
The Norman Chapel
... the early-Norman sculpture on the capitals of its six columns is a privilege to see ... some depict foliage, animals, grotesque masks ... including a Mermaid – the earliest known image of this female form ...


The chapel is constructed within the original huge outer wall ... but from inside ‘the defence’ is less secure – and was possibly incorporated in case of need for an escape route ...


My photo from the guide
book - showing the capitals
on top of the columns
Remembrance Services are held in this tiny chapel for members and family of the Durham Light Infantry ... the regiment has a revered history ... having served with great valour particularly during the Crimea and the Great War (1914-1918) ... the DLI’s main chapel is now within Durham Cathedral.


From this Chapel there is an entrance to the Keep, which was restored by the architect Anthony Salvin (1799 – 1881), renowned for his knowledge and restoration of medieval buildings.  The Keep now retains its outer shell, while the interior has been completely remodelled to accommodate 21st century residential living.


The Keep - looking from the Palace Green, with
a 20th red telephone box ... probably also now
historically out of date!


There were parts of the Castle, as the Keep, that we were unable to see – but which the guide book alerts us to ... all similarly and faithfully restored as can best be done in the 21st century.







So this Castle that has ‘morphed’ with the times from a Norman defence, a military fortress, to a lavish palace, as Bishops were wont to call their residences ... before the Bishops moved out to Bishop Auckland, originally their hunting lodge in the magnificent forests and countryside about 12 miles from Durham.

 
The entrance to the castle from
the Green - the Cathedral entrance
is directly across the Palace Green
Once the military significance of the Castle finally vanished in the 17th century ... the ensuing Bishops seemed determined to make the castle a worthy reflection of the high status and enormous wealth of their office.


Repairs were made, porches and buttresses were added, new extensions extended, interiors remodelled, state rooms added, and alterations to the external walls and finally a reconstruction to the Castle Gatehouse ...


By then the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, Victoria came to the throne ... societal norms and expectations were rapidly changing ... the University was established in the 1830s ...


Looking south from the Keep across Palace
Green to the Cathedral - the alms houses
are on the left
... the early ambitious plans were to build on the Palace Green ... but in the end thankfully the Green is still a green open space between the Castle and the Cathedral ... surrounded by medieval buildings, but not built upon.


Further refurbishment has occurred in the last 180 years to accommodate the transition from Castle to University ... the University has expanded way beyond the Castle – but this fortress remains the focal point of University life in Durham ...



... and holds some student and teaching staff quarters, and in addition it provides the dining hall, common rooms, library and administrative offices ... while offering a splendid setting for many of the social and official functions of the University.



It is still adapting ... hosting wedding receptions, visiting conferences, Royal visits, as well as those more humbly wanting bed and breakfast as paying guests ...



... however - don’t forget to close and latch the gate of this multi-functional building  behind you .... is it too heavy for you??!!


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

49 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

First flying staircase - didn't know that.
I wonder if they'd let guests stay in the dungeon? Or is that where they place students who misbehave?

Kittie Howard said...

I really enjoyed your post about Durham College's history. Like all of your fab posts, the combination of historic documentation and your modern-day commentary are a treat. Our visit to Normandy, including William the Conqueror's fortress in Caen and the tapestry at Bayeux, triggered an interest in learning more about the Normans. Today's post was a lovely piece to fill in the puzzle. Thank you!

Karen Walker said...

Oh, Hillary, darn you, now I'm going to have to come back to England and do a castle trip and definitely include this one.

Julie Flanders said...

Wow, I love that chapel. But it was used as a dump?? LOL hard to imagine that. :D
This is what I love so much about England, the history is so amazing. It's fascinating to imagine all that has gone on in this building over 900 years.

Suzanne Furness said...

That would be a great B&B stay I'm sure! Some fascinating facts and insights, I've never visited myself but maybe I'll get a chance one day. Glad my window cleaning bill is somewhat more modest!

Sara said...

Hilary,

I love it when old buildings are still in use today and of course in England "old" means OLD:~)

It's nice this castle is still a University and a place where travelers and visitors can stay. I agree with you it would be fun to stay in it.

I liked the Black Staircase, but wondered why it was painted black. Also, your information about pineapples was fascinating...and that the designers probably never saw one.

Thanks for this post and I hope you have a nice weekend:~)

Bob Scotney said...

Super article, Hilary of a local landmark that's existence we tend to take for granted, knowing little about its long history.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

The thing that intrigues me the most about traveling to Europe someday is the opportunity to see the castles! And Durham Castle is now on my list. Along with Dunluce Castle in Ireland.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Loved the research, Hilary, the subject. Always wanted to attend Durham university, ended with Bangor instead. However did include Durham as part of my First Wolf story. Such a beautiful city.

Julia Hones said...

Mesmeric post, Hilary.
I will close and latch the gate now... I think it is not too heavy. I can do it!
Have a peaceful weekend.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Alex - incredible staircase! Do you know we didn't see the dungeon ... but the drop to the river is a fair distance and nearly straight down! Misbehaving students ... depends which century I guess!

@ Kittie - thank you so much - really appreciate your kind words.

Looks like I might need to cross the Channel and look at places in France at some stage ... your trip sounds just amazing ... and am so pleased I added a little to your knowledge ..

@ Karen - well I sure hope you do get over here sometime - it'd be great to see you ... !?!

@ Julie - the chapel was extraordinary to be allowed to visit - and what we do to things before we realise their value.

We are extraordinarily lucky to have so much history ... relating to the island and its surrounding islands ... well I couldn't think about 900+ years of things happening! Marauding Scots, invading Vikings ... let alone the journeys of St Cuthbert - I have yet to tell ...

@ Suzanne - that's great ... that you'll think about a trip up to the NE and perhaps stay at the Castle ..

.. and yes the window cleaning bill for our humble residences is somewhat less!

@ Sara - this place was incredible ... and fascinating to see - I'd love to go back sometime ...

The oak was weather worn black or very dark brown .. and so the softer wood needed to match, hence the paint aspect ... it was incredibly dark ... fabulous to look at though ...

We forget just how much was unknown or undiscovered .. such as pineapples - they started to grow them here in walled gardens, and when their understanding of how heat and light helped growth ... in the 1500s ...

Wouldn't it be great to meet up there?!

@ Bob - as a local expert or not! - thanks so much for your thumbs up and if I enlightened you a little that's great ...

@ Keith - I see what you mean about Dunluce .. what a fabulous setting - I've only ever been to southern Ireland ...

Remember my other 24 posts about castles in the A - Z ... lots to visit!

@ Carole - a friend went to Durham and she was most jealous about me going up ... we might go back together and B&B!

Interesting about including Durham in your First Wolf story .. great steep sides covered in forest of this fortress ... must have had wolves centuries ago ...

It is a very beautiful city .. I need to see more ..

@ Julia - so happy you enjoyed it .. and thanks for shutting and latching the gate - it's too heavy for me!

Thanks everyone .. so appreciate your comments and thoughts ... have happy weekends yourselves ... Hilary

Betsy Brock said...

Absolutely stunning! I'd love to take a tour!

Janie Junebug said...

Another place I want to visit.

Love,
Janie

JoJo said...

That is fabulous! I'd love to take a metal detector around there although I'm sure that's probably illegal. What's a buttery?

L.G. Smith said...

Wow, so beautiful. Wouldn't want to think of what it costs to heat that place today though with all those high ceilings.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

When we were in the U.K. this summer, my daughters loved climbing on the ruins of Ogmore Castle, but were less impressed with the intact manor houses and castles, no matter how old they were. I kept saying, "This is SO MUCH older than anything you can visit in the U.S."

But the passage of time is blurry to them, and I don't think they understood the difference between an American colonial house built in the 1700s and a Tudor manor built in the 1400s.

Manzanita said...

Those castle walls have seen a lot of action and a lot of change. They tell a great story but think of the story if they could really speak. How interesting to stay in it as a B & B. Probably spooks and all.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

900 years! That just blows my mind.

juliet said...

What a lot of history in one formidable castle. I always wonder about the heating bill when I see these huge buildings!

Donna Hole said...

Wow, that is a lot of changes. Awesome that something so unique has stood the ravages of time, changes in history, and finally conformity to social change. Beautiful castle.

Have a good weekend Hilary.

.......dhole

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Betsy - it is stunning to walk through .. and the family would be happy here - lots of trains!

@ Janie - another to add to the list?

@ JoJo - it's solid rock on the top .. so digging would be a little challenging: but the surrounding areas .. lots to find I'm sure.

A buttery is the Medieval serving area and where the butts, barrels of alcoholic drink were stored ... which the butler master minded ...

@ Luanne - it is beautiful .. the stone would retain the warmth ... but you're right to wonder about the heating - it was warm when I was there!

@ Dianne - we take it for granted here ... but I can understand your daughters' reactions .... it is so difficult to comprehend 1,000 years of history -

I think children of today do have difficulty thinking about life of their ancestors ... going back through time - and your children's relatives must stretch back to Britain, perhaps Europe ...? That might make them think and appreciate the time frame ..

Your kids will work it out in due time ... your interest will spur them on in due course ...

@ Manzanita - yes .. if walls could talk! There is so much of life here - great battles, which were won, great lives, lots and lots of everyday daily occurrences happening ..

I hope I can stay in the Castle at some stage ... and lots and lots of ghosts around, or potentially ...

@ Karen - the area has been lived on for much longer .. as my next posts will show you ...

@ Juliet - formidable is a good word isn't .. and is perfect for this castle ..

The preservation of the building requires that it cannot get too warm ... especially for the wood work ... it would be something worth knowing more about: when I get a chance I must check it out.

Cheers to you all .. our heatwave has broken .. and we are having heavy showers down here - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Donna - sorry left you off! It's been interesting learning about how the castle has adapted over time - I enjoyed the tour I had, as well as reading up a bit about it.

With the enclosures of the galleries - and the changes made by each noble in charge ...

Thanks Donna .. cheers Hilary

Annalisa Crawford said...

Beautiful building. I always get goosebumps when I stand in a building that old - you can just feel the history leaping out and hitting you. That staircase is wonderful.

Patsy said...

Looks well worth a visit.

I remember reading that rich people would hire pineapples at one time, to put on their dinner tables and impress their guests. Although it cost the equivalent of hundreds of pounds today, it was cheaper than having hot houses and gardeners to grow them, or sending a ship to try to get one back to England before it rotted. I think I'd have been tempted to call their bluff and ask for a slice.

Munir said...

Ah Dungeons - - - they remind me of my college days in India. Our college was in the building that was built by the British and for a long time the area was called "The Residency" meaning the residency of the British officers.

Susan Scheid said...

Wonderful! I love that the buttery and kitchen, so very old, are still in use.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I doubt I could budge that door. Massive, indeed. Wonderful history, Hilary. Mind-boggling how much time has passed, all the changes. Thanks again for opening my eyes to all that has passed before me.

Deniz Bevan said...

Lovely post, Hilary!
I love climbing those scary narrow staircases in English castle keeps - the view is always worth it!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

It must be amazing to attend university in surrounding oozing with so much history. And it would be amazing to stay at the B&B there, too. I hope you get to do that next time.

Just gorgeous. Thanks for the super post.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Annalisa - it would be wonderful to just 'be' there and think back across the centuries - perhaps taking a journey through the rooms as each has altered, and remembering the types of occupants.

@ It is well worth a visit.

And your comments re pineapples is spot on .. I was going to include it - but thought it would make the post even longer ...

... also I thought about hiring a pineapple today - it would be off very quickly .. so hiring one could only really be done once?! Perhaps twice ..

... is your head worth asking for a slice of said pineapple?!

@ Munir - It's 'funny' there was no mention of dungeons ...

It must have been interesting being a student in India and residing in one of the Colonial buildings .. and yes "The Residency" is the usual name ... fascinating that you had that experience ...

@ Susan - the whole place was just stunning - and I do wish I could have seen it all .. but parts were off limits.

The kitchen and buttery were amazing rooms .. I'd have liked to have spent longer .. but I guess next time I'll do another tour.

@ Joylene - the hinges must be well oiled .. and the door was enormous. Think too of making the door though ..

I was very impressed by the Castle and the fact we could have a tour of a working place - sort of brought it more to light .. and as you say 1,000 years is a long time ..

@ Deniz - our narrow stairs we usually clamber up and down and are stone ... this was quite gentle and quite wide - it was a very comfortable staircase .. there was space!

@ Susan - I'll ask Clare about her time at Uni there .. she said it was an incredible place ... and I hope we can B&B there at some stage.

Thanks so much ...

Lovely to see you all - and glad Durham has hit your brain maps!

Cheers Hilary

MorningAJ said...

It looks like a fascinating place. I've seen the cathedral but never the castle. Thanks for the guided tour.

Milo James Fowler said...

They've really stood the test of time. Can't say the same for my condo complex...

JJ said...

I have seen several of these sites, and love them. It makes me long to return to Europe.

Chatty Crone said...

The history just blows my mind because we don't have it here. So interesting and thanks for sharing it. Hey you can send me a ticket and we could go look together any time! sandie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anne - I walked round the Cathedral - but was too short of time for the tour .. as the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition was booked too ...

If you ever get back there - the Castle is an excellent place to visit ..

@ Milo - yes the Castle still stands ... modern buildings are not so well built - hope the Condo survives your residency!

@ JJ - there is so much history to see here and in Europe .. just staggers the mind ...

@ Sandie - I'd love to be able to send you a ticket - sadly not an option from this end!

We are lucky with our back story to who we are here ...

Cheers everyone .. Hilary

Karen Lange said...

So grand and wonderful! Would love to visit sometime. In the meantime, I can vacation a little through your posts. :) Thanks so much!

Arlee Bird said...

Amazing how intact this structure has remained. They don't make things to last anymore like they did back then. Will any of the artwork or home decoratives of our age last anywhere near as long as those old tapestries did. Don't think I could afford a window cleaning bill like they have in that castle.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Teresa Coltrin said...

I love castles and have secretly wanted to live in one.

I need to look up what a Keep is.

T

Lynn said...

What life must have been like, when it was first built. Lovely that it is still in such good use.

Tara Tyler said...

so grand and gorgeous! would live to stay there some day. reminds me of hogwarts & sleeping beauty! oh the fantasy of castles! love it stands the test of time!

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

I have had the awesome delight of visiting Durham Castle. Of course, your meticulous detail goes beyond what I would have described.

Very good, my friend. My memory of the day I went to the castle was getting soaked outside later, waiting for a bus to take me to Ushaw Moor.

Cheers.

Suze said...

It's a little amazing to me that we take something like pineapples completely for granted. Our lives as so unimaginably plush and indulgent compared to the experiences of most of human history.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Karen - glad you enjoyed the travel with my words ...

@ Lee - they certainly don't make things to last now-a-days .. and I doubt if much will last .. aren't the thought of the tapestries amazing; While window cleaning is a little excessive isn't it!

@ Teresa - I remember that thought .. and hope one day perhaps you can have a brief stay in one ..

A Keep was a great tower and usually the most strong defended point of the castle, before outer walls were added .. for enclosing other members of the population - soldiers, horses, stores and then suppliers of goods etc

@ Lynn - a tough life it must have been ... but then that was all there was .. and isn't it wonderful it's still in use today ..

@ Tara - I think some of Harry Potter was filmed here .. but it might have been the Cathedral .. fantastic place for the imagination to roam though ...

@ Gary - we had a good tour leader, and I now have a focus on information that might be useful later on!

Gosh if I'd been visiting the next day .. I'd have know how you feel - thankfully the train protected me as I went back to London. Ushaw Moor looks a wonderfully open area .. and stunningly beautiful I imagine, despite the weather.

@ Suze - yes, if we ponder how life is so easy for us now .. as pineapples all the year round ..

... I like your descriptions .. we live plush and indulgent lives without much care of thought of how far we've come ..

Cheers to you all - Hilary

loverofwords said...

Another treat from the "University of Hilary." Is "treat" too mundane? But a treat is a little tidbit of pleasure, so your posts are intellectual treats. Thank you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tasha .. that's so kind of you - I just enjoy posting as I do .. so it's a quid pro quo .. I'm happy - you're happy ... delighted you enjoy coming over for a 'treat' ... lovely to have you here .. cheers Hilary

Suze said...

Lugging a book of that size makes one think two things: do I want the digital copy? And is it at all possible that this compendium could have used an editor ... ?

The image of the Norman Gallery is just fantastic. I am so glad I had the privilege to view it on your blog this morning! I am a great fan of chandeliers.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Suze - yes certainly if the books are enormous, the logistics of carrying them are a pain - well my back hurts! However if it's a reference book - I definitely prefer the real thing ... I find it easier to read and to refer back to ..

Isn't the Norman Gallery stunning and chandeliers .. there are some amazing chandeliers around ..

Delighted to see you here .. cheers Hilary

Tina said...

The whole shoring up the foundation reminds me too much of what we're doing here...that dining hall picture sent me right back to Hogwarts. It's hard to imagine 900 years of history. The US isn't even 300 yet...
Tina @ Life is Good

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. I know Colorado is going through its own evaluation of repairs and reconstruction to be undertaken - after the terrible floods across the region ..

I think some of the Harry Potter series was filmed in the Cathedral ... but the dining hall picture of the foreign students having Christmas lunch reflects the hall full ..

Well of course we're both considerably older .. Sweden and the UK have similar history .. Sweden is probably older - history is fascinating though ... it's just we've recorded ours and searched for older eras and pieced together their history as best we can ..

With thoughts re your floods .. Hilary