BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 June 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Legacies - Wear

BBC Homepage
 Legacies
 UK Index
 Wear
 Article
Audio
 Archive
 Site Info
 BBC History
 Where I Live

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

 
Wear
The Keep
© Durham University
A castle of your own.

A castle of your own.

Durham Castle, so often eclipsed by its World Heritage-status partner, Durham Cathedral, is situated on a hill above the River Wear, and has seen a dramatic change of function since originally being built as a fortress. Today, it is the prestigious home of the University of Durham.

Hear the Master of the Castle explain why Durham Castle is a World Heritage Site.

There has been a castle on the site since 1072. William the Conqueror initially built it, after returning from an expedition to Scotland. It was to be a fortified stronghold for the Bishop of Durham as a status symbol in defiance against the Scots and Northumbrian landowners.

Door knocker
© Durham University
The castle has been threatened only once from a strong force by William Wallace in 1297. However, its military function faded after the union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603.

There were two early attempts to transform the castle into an educational establishment. After his systematic seizing of religious properties, Henry VIII proposed creating a college on the site. However, his plan was never implemented.

Oliver Cromwell also tried to establish a college during his reign as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, but his son Richard, decided not to risk offending the eminent institutions of Oxford and Cambridge who had expressed disapproval.

Castle walls
© Durham University
The bishops themselves have had a significant influence on the evolution of the castle. This culminated in the establishment of the University of Durham by Bishop van Mildert and the Chapter of the Cathedral in the early 1830s. Their aim was to create "an institution which should secure to its inhabitants the advantage of a sound yet not expensive academic education", for the north of England.

Hear the Master of the Castle explain why Durham Castle was the Home of the Bishops and why it was a northern stronghold for the rulers in London.

However, their motives were not entirely selfless. The 19th Century government disliked the wealth of the Church, so the establishment of a university at the castle site suited the bishops. The State would be unable to confiscate the land, allowing the Church to retain some degree of influence. It would also provide a much-needed new space in which to train the clergy. So the University of Durham was born.


Pages: [ 1, 2 ] Next

Print this page
Interact
Interact is your section. Join in the community - send in your own articles, chat, and tell us what the word 'heritage' means in your part of the country.

Go To Interact >
Internet Links
University College Durham
Tour of Durham Castle
World Heritage Sites
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.
Gracehill
Mid Georgian building at Gracehill
Related Stories
Long-term British defence
The hot seat of the North
Threave Castle, not half as forbidding as it appears




About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy