Durham Castle entrance gates next to the Cathedral.
The castle was originally built in the 11th century as a projection of the Norman king's power in the north of England, as the population of England in the north remained "wild and fickle" following the disruption of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is an example of the early motte and bailey castles favoured by the Normans. The holder of the office of the Bishop of Durham was appointed by the King to exercise royal authority on his behalf, the castle was his seat.
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.
University College, Durham
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. During university vacations, the college offers rooms in the castle for (usually academic) conferences and as hotel accommodation. Access to the castle for the public is restricted to guided tours. Outside of these, only members of the college or vacation guests may visit the castle. In 2011, the castle was closed to guided tours while refurbishments are carried out. It reopened to the general public in autumn 2011.
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