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18 June 2014
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Durham Castle
A castle of your own.

While the bishops moved out to Bishop Auckland, the students of University College would feast in the Great Hall. One of the finest of its kind, the Great Hall was built by Bishop Anthony Bek (1284-1311) and Bishop Thomas Hatfield (1345-1381). The original structure was 13.7m (45ft) high and 30.5m (100ft) long, but it was shortened in the 17th Century when two large staterooms were built, one above the other, at the north end. These were later removed in the 19th Century.

Find out more from Castle Master Maurice Tucker on the other rooms used by the university.

The students were forced to dine in slightly less opulent style in the 1920s and 30s when the walls of their unique dining hall began sliding into the river. They were force to sit at one side of the hall until a restoration fund was set up to remedy the problem.

© Durham University
The subsidence was a direct result of the castle's "motte and bailey" structure, a mound with a keep on top. Durham University lecturer, Michael Prestwich, says: "The main disadvantage of a motte and bailey castle is that it needs a lot of maintenance, as the motte is manmade and therefore unstable." With Durham Castle, the motte (mound) is made of stone and sand, causing some parts of the castle, including the hall's foundations, to crumble.

Architect Anthony Salvin rebuilt the dilapidated keep from the original plans to create a student halls of residence. Opened in 1840, the keep still houses 100 students.

As a World Heritage site, and a once-great fortress and Bishop's palace, it is surely one of the most unique addresses for student accommodation in the country.

Changing rooms
  • The Outer walls and upper floors of the gatehouse were rebuilt in the Gothic style by fashionable architect, James Wyatt, at the end of the 18th Century.
  • For almost 800 years, Durham Castle was home to the powerful bishops.
  • Between 1617 and 1631, Bishop Neile spent nearly £3000 in repairs and additions.
  • A miniature train was used to bring coal through the keep walls for the fireplaces for each student room.

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