Norman Castle

Norman Castle

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Norman Castles in EnglandA simple A to Z

How many castles did the Normans build in England in the years following the conquest of England in 1066? We're not precisely sure, as many of them were hastily erected defences - just an earthen mound with a wooden palisade on top - discarded when they were no longer needed. Archaeologists imagine, though, that the Normans built about 500 motte and bailey castles in the first 20 years of William the Conqueror's reign.

How many are still standing? Well, this one was a surprise to me!

I knew that some Norman castles, like Alnwick, Warwick or the Tower of London had been rebuilt and extended over the centuries. I knew that others, like Warkworth or Kenilworth still stood as beautiful ruins. But I had no idea that there would be over 90 Norman castles still standing!

So this page is rather long! Explore at your leisure or use the alphabet keys to jump quickly to the information you need. And yes, I'm quite sure that this list is NOT complete. But as we travel the country exploring, or I find new books, I'll add in what I learn.

The Bromwich entry in the Domesday Book 1086

Radulf (Ralph) holds 3 hides from William in Bromwich.There is land for 3 plough teams.In the demesne there is 1 plough team, 10 villeins and 3 bordars have 3 plough teams.

There is woodland 1 league long and half a league wide. The value was and is 40 shillings. Brictwin held it in the time of King Edward.

(Find out more about Castle Bromwich in the Domesday Book by clicking here.)

Ralph was the new Norman lord who had taken the manor of Castle Bromwich from the Anglo-Saxon lord, Brictwin. We do not know what happened to Brictwin. But we do know that Ralph passed the manor down through his descendants for the next 600 years.

If you want to know about the Lords of the Manor of Castle Bromwich over a thousand years, you've come to the right place. Click the coat of arms.


The name "Durham" comes from the Celtic element dun, signifying a hill fort and related to -ton, and the Old Norse holme, which translates to island. [5] The Lord Bishop of Durham takes a Latin variation of the city's name in his official signature, which is signed "N. Dunelm". [5] Some attribute the city's name to the legend of the Dun Cow and the milkmaid who in legend guided the monks of Lindisfarne carrying the body of Saint Cuthbert to the site of the present city in 995 AD. [6] Dun Cow Lane is said to be one of the first streets in Durham, being directly to the east of Durham Cathedral and taking its name from a depiction of the city's founding etched in masonry on the south side of the cathedral. [6] The city has been known by a number of names throughout history. The original Nordic Dun Holm was changed to Duresme by the Normans and was known in Latin as Dunelm. The modern form Durham came into use later in the city's history. The north-eastern historian Robert Surtees chronicled the name changes in his History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham but states that it is an "impossibility" to tell when the city's modern name came into being. [5]

Durham is likely to be Gaer Weir in Armes Prydein, derived from Brittonic cajr meaning "an enclosed, defensible site" (c.f. Carlisle Welsh caer) and the river-name Wear. [7]

Early history Edit

Archeological evidence suggests a history of settlement in the area since roughly 2000 BC. [5] The present city can clearly be traced back to AD 995, when a group of monks from Lindisfarne chose the strategic high peninsula as a place to settle with the body of Saint Cuthbert, that had previously lain in Chester-le-Street, founding a church there. [6]

Legend of the Dun Cow and city origins Edit

Local legend states that the city was founded in A.D. 995 by divine intervention. The 12th-century chronicler Symeon of Durham recounts that after wandering in the north, Saint Cuthbert's bier miraculously came to a halt at the hill of Warden Law and, despite the effort of the congregation, would not move. [8] Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Street and leader of the order, decreed a holy fast of three days, accompanied by prayers to the saint. [9] During the fast, Saint Cuthbert appeared to a certain monk named Eadmer, with instructions that the coffin should be taken to Dun Holm. [9] After Eadmer's revelation, Aldhun found that he was able to move the bier, but did not know where Dun Holm was. [9]

The legend of the Dun Cow, which is first documented in The Rites of Durham, an anonymous account about the Durham Cathedral, published in 1593, builds on Symeon's account. [10] According to this legend, by chance later that day, the monks came across a milkmaid at Mount Joy (southeast of present-day Durham). She stated that she was seeking her lost dun cow, which she had last seen at Dun Holm. The monks, realising that this was a sign from the saint, followed her. [9] They settled at a wooded "hill-island" – a high wooded rock surrounded on three sides by the River Wear. [9] There they erected a shelter for the relics, on the spot where the Durham Cathedral would later stand. [9] Symeon states that a modest wooden building erected there shortly later was the first building in the city. [8] Bishop Aldhun subsequently had a stone church built, which was dedicated in September 998. [11] It no longer remains, having been supplanted by the Norman structure.

The legend is interpreted by a Victorian relief stone carving on the north face of the cathedral and, more recently, by the bronze sculpture 'Durham Cow' (1997, Andrew Burton), which reclines by the River Wear in view of the cathedral.

Medieval history Edit

During the medieval period the city gained spiritual prominence as the final resting place of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Bede the Venerable. The shrine of Saint Cuthbert, situated behind the High Altar of Durham Cathedral, was the most important religious site in England until the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury in 1170. [6]

Saint Cuthbert became famous for two reasons. Firstly, the miraculous healing powers he had displayed in life continued after his death, with many stories of those visiting the saint's shrine being cured of all manner of diseases. This led to him being known as the "wonder worker of England". [6] Secondly, after the first translation of his relics in 698 AD, his body was found to be incorruptible. [12] Apart from a brief translation back to Holy Island during the Norman Invasion [13] the saint's relics have remained enshrined to the present day. [14] Saint Bede's bones are also entombed in the cathedral, and these also drew medieval pilgrims to the city. [6]

Durham's geographical position has always given it an important place in the defence of England against the Scots. [15] The city played an important part in the defence of the north, and Durham Castle is the only Norman castle keep never to have suffered a breach. [16] In 1314, the Bishopric of Durham paid the Scots a 'large sum of money' not to burn Durham. [17] The Battle of Neville's Cross, took place near the city on 17 October 1346 between the English and Scots and was a disastrous loss for the Scots. [18]

The city suffered from plague outbreaks in 1544, 1589 and 1598. [19]

Prince Bishops Edit

Owing to the divine providence evidenced in the city's legendary founding, the Bishop of Durham has always enjoyed the title "Bishop by Divine Providence" [20] as opposed to other bishops, who are "Bishop by Divine Permission". [5] However, as the north-east of England lay so far from Westminster, the bishops of Durham enjoyed extraordinary powers such as the ability to hold their own parliament, [5] raise their own armies, [6] appoint their own sheriffs and Justices, administer their own laws, levy taxes and customs duties, create fairs and markets, issue charters, [8] salvage shipwrecks, collect revenue from mines, administer the forests and mint their own coins. [5] So far-reaching were the bishop's powers that the steward of Bishop Antony Bek commented in 1299 AD: "There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham wearing a mitre in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham". [21] All this activity was administered from the castle and buildings surrounding the Palace Green. [6] Many of the original buildings associated with these functions of the county palatine survive on the peninsula that constitutes the ancient city. [15]

Every Bishop of Durham from 1071 to 1836 was a Prince Bishop except for the first Norman appointment, Bishop Walcher (in office ca. 1071–1080), who was styled [ by whom? ] an Earl-Bishop. [5] Although the term "prince bishop" has been used as a helpful tool in the understanding the functions of the Bishops of Durham it is not a title they would have recognised. [6] The last Prince Bishop of Durham, Bishop William Van Mildert, [6] is credited [ by whom? ] with the foundation of Durham University in 1832. Henry VIII curtailed some of the Prince-Bishop's powers and, in 1538, ordered the destruction of the shrine of Saint Cuthbert. [6]

A UNESCO site describes the role of the Prince-Bishops in the "buffer state between England and Scotland": [22]

From 1075, the Bishop of Durham became a Prince-Bishop, with the right to raise an army, mint his own coins, and levy taxes. As long as he remained loyal to the king of England, he could govern as a virtually autonomous ruler, reaping the revenue from his territory, but also remaining mindful of his role of protecting England’s northern frontier.

Legal system Edit

The Prince Bishops had their own court system, including most notably the Court of Chancery of the County Palatine of Durham and Sadberge. [23] The county also had its own attorney general, [15] whose authority to bring an indictment for criminal matters was tested by central government in the case of R v Mary Ann Cotton (1873). [24] [ need quotation to verify ] [25] [ page needed ] Certain courts and judicial posts for the county were abolished by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873. Section 2 of the Durham (County Palatine) Act 1836 and section 41 of the Courts Act 1971 abolished others.

Civil War and Commonwealth era (1640 to 1660) Edit

The city remained loyal to King Charles I in the English Civil War - from 1642 to the execution of the king in 1649. Charles I came to Durham three times during his reign of 1625–1649. Firstly, he came in 1633 [26] to the cathedral for a majestic service in which he was entertained by the Chapter and Bishop at great expense. He returned during preparations for the First Bishops' War (1639). [27] His final visit to the city came towards the end of the civil war he escaped from the city as Oliver Cromwell's forces got closer. [28] [ need quotation to verify ] [29] Local legend [30] stated that he escaped down the Bailey and through Old Elvet. Another local legend has it that Cromwell stayed in a room in the present Royal County Hotel on Old Elvet during the civil war. [31] The room is reputed [ by whom? ] to be haunted by his ghost. [32] Durham suffered greatly during the civil war (1642 - 1651) and Commonwealth (1649-1660). This was not due to direct assault by Cromwell or his allies, but to the abolition of the Church of England [30] and the closure of religious institutions pertaining to it. The city has always relied upon the Dean and Chapter and cathedral as an economic force.

The castle suffered considerable damage and dilapidation during the Commonwealth due to the abolition of the office of bishop (whose residence it was). Cromwell confiscated the castle and sold it to the Lord Mayor of London shortly after taking it from the bishop. [31] A similar fate befell the cathedral, it being closed in 1650 and used to incarcerate 3,000 Scottish prisoners. [31] Graffiti left by them can still be seen today etched into the interior stone. [33]

At the Restoration in 1660, John Cosin (a former canon) was appointed bishop (in office: 1660–1672) and set about a major restoration project. This included the commissioning of the famous elaborate woodwork in the cathedral choir, the font cover and the Black Staircase in the castle. [34] Bishop Cosin's successor Bishop Lord Nathaniel Crewe (in office: 1674–1721) carried out other renovations both to the city and to the cathedral.

18th century Edit

In 1720 it was proposed that Durham could become a seaport by digging a canal north to join the River Team, a tributary of the River Tyne near Gateshead. Nothing came of the plan, but the statue of Neptune in the Market Place was a constant reminder of Durham's maritime possibilities. [35]

The thought of ships docking at the Sands or Millburngate remained fresh in the minds of Durham businessmen. In 1758, a new proposal hoped to make the Wear navigable from Durham to Sunderland by altering the river's course, but the increasing size of ships made this impractical. This was further compounded by the fact Sunderland had grown as the north east's main port and centre for shipping. [36]

In 1787 Durham infirmary was founded. [19]

The 18th century also saw the rise of the trade union movement in the city.

19th century Edit

The Great Reform Act 1832 saw the removal of most of the Prince Bishop's powers although he still has the right to a seat in the House of Lords. The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 gave governing power of the town to an elected body. [37] All other aspects of the Bishop's temporal powers were abolished by the Durham (County Palatine) Act 1836 and returned to the Crown. [38] [39]

The Representation of the People Act 2000 and is regarded as the second most senior bishop and fourth most senior clergyman in the Church of England. [40] The Court of Claims of 1953 granted the traditional right of the bishop to accompany the sovereign at the coronation, [41] reflecting his seniority. [6]

The first census, conducted in 1801, [42] states that Durham City had a population of 7,100. The Industrial Revolution mostly passed the city by. However, the city was well known for carpet making and weaving. Although most of the mediaeval weavers who thrived in the city had left by the 19th century, the city was the home of Hugh MacKay Carpets’ factory, which produced the famous brands of axminster and tufted carpets until the factory went into administration in April 2005. [43] Other important industries were the manufacture of mustard and coal extraction. [44]

The Industrial Revolution also placed the city at the heart of the coalfields, [45] the county's main industry until the 1970s. Practically every village around the city had a coal mine and, although these have since disappeared as part of the regional decline in heavy industry, the traditions, heritage and community spirit are still evident.

The 19th century also saw the founding of Durham University [46] thanks to the benevolence of Bishop William Van Mildert and the Chapter in 1832. Durham Castle became the first college [44] (University College, Durham) and the bishop moved to Auckland Castle as his only residence in the county. Bishop Hatfield's Hall (later Hatfield College, Durham) was added in 1846 specifically for the sons of poorer families, the Principal inaugurating a system new to English university life of advance fees to cover accommodation and communal dining.

The first Durham Miners' Gala was attended by 5,000 miners in 1871 in Wharton Park, [47] and remains the largest socialist trade union event in the world. [44]

20th century Edit

Early in the 20th century coal became depleted, with a particularly important seam worked out in 1927, and in the following Great Depression Durham was among those towns that suffered exceptionally severe hardship. [48] However, the University expanded greatly. St John's College and St Cuthbert's Society were founded on the Bailey, completing the series of colleges in that area of the city. From the early 1950s to early 1970s the university expanded to the south of the city centre. Trevelyan, Van Mildert, Collingwood, and Grey colleges were established, and new buildings for St Aidan's and St Mary's colleges for women, formerly housed on the Bailey, were created. The final 20th century collegiate addition came from the merger of the independent nineteenth-century colleges of the Venerable Bede and St Hild, which joined the university in 1979 as the College of St Hild and St Bede. [49] The 1960s and 70s also saw building on New Elvet. Dunelm House for the use of the students' union was built first, followed by Elvet Riverside, containing lecture theatres and staff offices. To the southeast of the city centre sports facilities were built at Maiden Castle, adjacent to the Iron Age fort of the same name, and the Mountjoy site was developed, starting in 1924, eventually containing the university library, administrative buildings, and facilities for the Faculty of Science. [49]

Durham was not bombed during World War II, though one raid on the night of 30 May 1942 did give rise to the local legend of 'St Cuthbert's Mist'. This states that the Luftwaffe attempted to target Durham, but was thwarted when Cuthbert created a mist that covered both the castle and cathedral, sparing them from bombing. The exact events of the night are disputed by contemporary eyewitnesses. [47] The event continues to be referenced within the city, including inspiring the artwork 'Fogscape #03238' at Durham Lumiere 2015. [50]

'Durham Castle and Cathedral' was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Among the reasons given for the decision were 'Durham Cathedral [being] the largest and most perfect monument of "Norman" style architecture in England', and the cathedral's vaulting being an early and experimental model of the gothic style. [51] Other important UNESCO sites near Durham include Auckland Castle, North of England Lead Mining Museum and Beamish Museum. [52]

General geography Edit

Durham is situated 13 miles (21 km) to the south-west of Sunderland and 18 miles (29 km) to the south of Newcastle. The River Wear flows north through the city, making an incised meander which encloses the centre on three sides to form Durham's peninsula.

At the base of the peninsula is the Market Place, which still hosts regular markets a permanent indoor market, Durham Indoor Market, is also situated just off the Market Place. The Market Place and surrounding streets are one of the main commercial and shopping areas of the city. From the Market Place, the Bailey leads south past Palace Green The Bailey is almost entirely owned and occupied by the university and the cathedral.

Durham is a hilly city, claiming to be built upon the symbolic seven hills. Upon the most central and prominent position high above the Wear, the cathedral dominates the skyline. The steep riverbanks are densely wooded, adding to the picturesque beauty of the city. West of the city centre, another river, the River Browney, drains south to join the Wear to the south of the city.

The county town of County Durham, until 2009 Durham was located in the City of Durham local government district, which extended beyond the city, and had a total population of 87,656 in 2001, covering 186.68 square kilometres in 2007. [2] In 2001, the unparished area of Durham had a population of 29,091, whilst the built-up area of Durham had a population of 42,939. [1] [53] [54]

There are three old roads out of the Market Place: Saddler Street heads south-east, towards Elvet Bridge, the Bailey and Prebends Bridge. Elvet Bridge leads to the Elvet area of the city, Durham Prison and the south Prebends Bridge is smaller and provides access from the Bailey to south Durham. Heading west, Silver Street leads out of the Market Place towards Framwellgate Bridge and North Road, the other main shopping area of the city. From here, the city spreads out into the Framwelgate, Crossgate, Neville's Cross and viaduct districts, which are largely residential areas. Beyond the viaduct lie the outlying districts of Framwellgate Moor and Neville's Cross. Heading north from the Market Place leads to Claypath. The road curves back round to the east and beyond it lie Gilesgate, Gilesgate Moor and Dragonville.

Many of the inner city areas are now inhabited by students living in shared houses.

Green belt Edit

As part of the wider Tyne and Wear Green Belt area, Durham's portion extends beyond its urban area extents of Framwellgate Moor/Pity Me, Elvet and Belmont, it being completely surrounded by green belt. This primarily helps to maintain separation from Chester-le-Street, [55] and restrain expansion of the city and coalescence with nearby villages such as Bearpark, Great Lumley and Sherburn. Landscape features and facilities within the green belt area include Raintonpark Wood, Belmont Viaduct, Ramside Hall, Durham City Golf Course, the River Wear, Browney and Deerness basins, and Durham University Botanic Gardens. It was first drawn up in the 1990s. [56]

Historical geography Edit

The historical city centre of Durham has changed little over the past 200 years. It is made up of the peninsula containing the cathedral, palace green, former administrative buildings for the palatine and Durham Castle. [8] This was a strategic defensive decision by the city's founders and gives the cathedral a striking position. [15] So much so that Symeon of Durham stated:

"To see Durham is to see the English Sion and by doing so one may save oneself a trip to Jerusalem" [8]

Sir Walter Scott was so inspired by the view of the cathedral from South Street [57] that he wrote "Harold the Dauntless", a poem about Saxons and Vikings set in County Durham and published on 30 January 1817. The following lines from the poem are carved into a stone tablet on Prebends Bridge:

Grey towers of Durham
Yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles
Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot
And long to roam those venerable aisles

With records stored of deeds long since forgot. [58]

The old commercial section of the city encompasses the peninsula on three sides, following the River Wear. The peninsula was historically surrounded by the castle wall extending from the castle keep and broken by two gatehouses to the north and west of the enclosure. [5] After extensive remodelling and "much beautification" [5] by the Victorians the walls were removed with the exception of the gatehouse which is still standing on the Bailey.

The medieval city was made up of the cathedral, castle and administrative buildings on the peninsula. [6] The outlying areas were known as the townships and owned by the bishop, [8] the most famous of these being Gilesgate (which still contains the mediaeval St Giles Church), Claypath and Elvet. [5]

The outlying commercial section of the city, especially around the North Road area, saw much change in the 1960s during a redevelopment spearheaded by Durham City Council however, much of the original mediaeval street plan remains intact in the area close to the cathedral and market place. [5] Most of the mediaeval buildings in the commercial area of the city have disappeared apart from the House of Correction and the Chapel of Saint Andrew, both under Elvet Bridge. [5] Georgian buildings can still be found on the Bailey and Old Elvet [5] most of which make up the colleges of Durham University.

Climate Edit

The table below gives the average temperature, rainfall and sunshine figures taken between 1981 and 2010, and extreme temperatures back to 1850 for the Met Office weather station in Durham:

Climate data for Durham, elevation: 102 m (335 ft), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1850–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.7
Average high °C (°F) 6.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.8
Average low °C (°F) 0.9
Record low °C (°F) −17.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 52.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 11.4 9.3 9.7 9.5 9.2 9.7 9.0 9.6 9.3 11.3 12.3 11.7 122.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 58.6 80.3 115.5 150.3 181.7 164.8 172.3 167.3 134.5 102.8 66.4 51.2 1,445.4
Source 1: Met Office [59] [60] [61]
Source 2: Durham Weather UK [62]

Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Durham has a temperate climate. At 651.1 millimetres (26 in) [63] the average annual rainfall is lower than the national average of 1,125 millimetres (44 in). [64] Equally there are only around 122 days [63] where more than 1 millimetre (0.04 in) of rain falls compared with a national average of 154.4 days. [64] The area sees on average 1445.4 hours of sunshine per year, [63] compared with a national average of 1125.0 hours. [64] There is frost on 51.5 days [63] compared with a national average of 55.6 days. [64] Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures are 12.5 °C (54.5 °F) and 5.2 °C (41.4 °F) [63] compared with a national averages of 12.1 °C (53.8 °F) and 5.1 °C (41.2 °F) respectively. [64] The highest temperature recorded at Durham was 32.5 °C (90.5 °F) during August 1990. [65]

The ancient borough covering Durham was Durham and Framwelgate, which was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In 1974 it was merged with Durham Rural District and Brandon and Byshottles Urban District to form the City of Durham district of County Durham. The district was abolished in 2009 with its responsibilities assumed by Durham County Council, a unitary authority.

Since April 2009 city status has been held by charter trustees, who are the Durham County Councillors for the area of the former district. The trustees appoint the Mayor of Durham. [66] The creation of the new City of Durham Parish Council has not affected the charter trustees. [67]

Durham Town Hall is located on the west side of the Market Place. The earliest part of the complex of buildings is the guildhall which dates from 1665. The town hall, at the rear, was opened in 1851 (at the same time as the indoor market, which extends beneath and either side of the hall). [68]

A local referendum was held on creating a parish council for unparished areas of Durham City in February and March 2017, in which 66% of voters supported the proposal. The County Council approved the plans in September 2017. The City of Durham Parish Council was created on 1 April 2018, with the first elections for the 15 council seats taking place on 3 May 2018. [69] [70]

This is a table of trend of regional gross value added of County Durham at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added [notes 1] Agriculture [notes 2] Industry [notes 3] Services [notes 4]
1995 4,063 47 1,755 2,261
2000 4,783 40 1,840 2,904
2003 5,314 39 1,978 3,297

The whole of the centre of Durham is designated a conservation area. The conservation area was first designated on 9 August 1968, and was extended on 25 November 1980. [71] In addition to the Cathedral and Castle, Durham contains over 630 listed buildings, [72] 569 of which are located within the city centre conservation area. Particularly notable properties include:

Grade I listed Edit

Grade II* listed Edit

  • St. Anne's Court, Castle Chare
  • Aykley Heads House (now Durham City Register Office and Finbarr's Restaurant) , Palace Green (now part of University Library, Palace Green)
  • Crown Court, Old Elvet
    , 12 South Bailey , 3 South Bailey
  • Railway viaduct, North Road

Grade II listed Edit

Durham Cathedral Edit

The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham, commonly referred to as Durham Cathedral was founded in its present form in AD 1093 and remains a centre for Christian worship today. It is generally regarded as one of the finest Romanesque cathedrals in Europe and the rib vaulting in the nave marks the beginning of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. The cathedral has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site [86] along with nearby Durham Castle, which faces it across Palace Green, high above the River Wear.

The cathedral houses the shrine and related treasures of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and these are on public view. It is also home to the head of St Oswald of Northumbria and the remains of the Venerable Bede. [86]

Durham Castle Edit

The castle was originally built in the 11th century as a projection of the Norman power in Northern England, as the population of England in the north remained rebellious following the disruption of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is an excellent example of the early motte and bailey castles favoured by the Normans. [87] The holder of the office of Bishop of Durham was appointed by the King to exercise royal authority on his behalf and the castle was the centre of his command.

It remained the Bishop's Palace for the Bishops of Durham [88] until the Bishop William Van Mildert made Bishop Auckland their primary residence. A founder of Durham University, Van Mildert gave the castle as accommodation for the institution's first college, University College. [89] The castle was famed for its vast 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 46 feet high and over 33 yards long. The castle is still the home of University College, Durham (which is, as a result, known informally as "Castle"). It has been in continuous use for over 900 years.

Anglican Edit

College Chapels Edit

    Chapel, University College
  • Norman Chapel, University College Chapel Chapel Chapel Chapel (now the Joachim Room, used for divine worship on the feast of St Hild)
  • St Mary the Less, South Bailey (now a chapel of ease in the parish of St Oswald, and the chapel of St John's College)

Non-conformist Edit

  • Durham Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Laburnum Avenue (in a former synagogue)
  • Waddington Street URC (formerly Presbyterian)
  • Elvet Methodist Church, Old Elvet
  • North Road Methodist (formerly Bethel Chapel)
  • Christ Church, Claypath (occupying two buildings, one formerly URC/Congregational and the other formerly Presbyterian)
  • King's Church (meets in Dunelm House)
  • Emmanuel Church, Belmont Industrial Estate
  • Spiritualist Church, John Street

Roman Catholic Edit

Former churches Edit

    , North Bailey (now museum)
  • Gilesgate Methodist Church (now Co-operative Funeralcare)
  • Freeman Place Methodist Church

Results relate to the 2008 examination series.

Primary Edit

  • Shincliffe Primary School
  • Finchale Primary School
  • Durham Blue Coat Junior School [90]
  • Durham Gilesgate Primary [91]
  • St Joseph's RCVA Primary [92]
  • St Godric's RC Primary School
  • St Margaret's CofE Primary School [93]
  • St Oswald's CofE Infant School [94]
  • Nevilles Cross Primary School
  • St Hild's College CE Aided Primary School

Secondary Edit

Durham is served by four state secondary schools:

School GCSE Results (percentage A* to C) [95] A/AS Average points [95]
Belmont School Community and Arts College [96] 48% N/A
Durham Johnston Comprehensive School [97] 89% 853.1
Framwellgate School Durham [98] 77% 645.8
St Leonard's Catholic School [99] 65% 751

College or sixth form Edit

New College Durham is the city's largest college of further education. It was founded in 1977 as a result of a merger between Neville's Cross College of Education and Durham Technical College. The college operated on two main sites near the city of Durham: Neville's Cross and Framwellgate Moor. The site at Framwellgate Moor opened in 1957 and has subsequently been rebuilt. The Neville's Cross Centre, which used to be housed in the county's former asylum has been sold for development into houses.

Durham Sixth Form Centre specialises in sixth form courses, while East Durham College has sites just to the east of the city.

Independent Edit

There are three independent schools:

School GCSE Results (percentage A* to C) [95] A/AS Average points [95]
The Chorister School N/A N/A
Durham High School for Girls 98% 854.8
Durham School 76% 807.1

University Edit

Durham is home to Durham University. It was founded as the University of Durham (which remains its official and legal name) [100] by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837. It was one of the first universities to open in England for more than 600 years, and is claimed to be England's third oldest after the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Durham University has an international reputation for excellence, as reflected by its ranking in the top 150 of the world's universities. [101]

Rail Edit

Durham station is situated on the East Coast Main Line between Edinburgh Waverley and London King's Cross. From the south, trains enter Durham over a Victorian viaduct, high above the city. A second station, Durham Elvet, had also served the city. It opened in 1893, serving passengers until 1931, goods until 1954. [102]

Road Edit

By road, the A1(M), the modern incarnation of the ancient Great North Road, passes just to the east of the city. The road's previous incarnation (now numbered A167) passes just to the west.

Durham Market Place and its peninsula form the UK's first (albeit small) congestion charging area, which was introduced in 2002. [103]

Park and Ride Edit

Durham City Park and Ride consists of three sites (Belmont, Howlands and Sniperley), which are located around the outskirts of the city centre. Frequent, direct bus services operate up to every 10 minutes between 7am and 7pm (Monday–Saturday). Car parking is free, with a return bus journey costing £2 per person (as of June 2020). [104]

Bus station Edit

Durham Bus Station was located off North Road, a short walk from the cathedral, university and railway station. It was managed and owned by the county council. In February 2021, the bus station was demolished to make way for a £10m redevelopment, due to take 18 months to complete. Currently, scheduled buses run from temporary stands on North Road and Milburngate. [105]

The former station was served by Arriva North East and Go North East's local bus services, with frequent routes running in and around the North East England region. The bus station had 11 departure stands (lettered A–L), each of which was fitted with seating, next bus information displays, and timetable posters. As of June 2020 [update] , the stand allocation was:

Stand Route Destination
A X20 Sunderland via Houghton-le-Spring
B 20 South Shields via Sunderland
C 16 Castleside via Stanley & Consett
16A Castleside via Stanley & Consett
X5 Shotley Bridge via Lanchester & Consett
X15 Shotley Bridge via Lanchester & Consett
D 22 Sunderland via Peterlee & Dalton Park
24 Hartlepool via Peterlee & Blackhall
43 Esh Winning
E 48 New Brancepeth
X46 Crook via Langley Moor & Brancepeth
F 49 Brandon via Langley Moor
49A Brandon via Langley Moor
52 East Hedleyhope via Esh Winning
G 204 Sherburn via Gilesgate & Belmont
204A Sherburn via Gilesgate & Belmont
208 Peterlee via South Hetton & Easington
265 Seaham via Murton & Dalton Park
H 56 Bishop Auckland via Coxhoe & Ferryhill
57 Hartlepool via Coxhoe & Wingate
57A Hartlepool via Coxhoe & Trimdon
58 Hartlepool via Coxhoe & Wingate
59 Thornley via Coxhoe
X12 Middlesbrough via Sedgefield & Stockton
J 6 Cockfield via Bishop Auckland
K 7 Darlington via Ferryhill & Newton Aycliffe
X12 Newcastle via Chester-le-Street
X21 West Auckland via Bishop Auckland
L 21 Newcastle via Chester-le-Street
50 South Shields via Chester-le-Street
50A South Shields via Chester-le-Street
X21 Newcastle via Chester-le-Street

Air Edit

Durham's nearest airports are Teesside Airport within the county to the south-east and Newcastle Airport to the north, both of which are located 25–30 miles (40–48 km) from the city by road.

Archery Edit

Durham hosts several archery clubs who shoot at various locations in the city, [106] [107] [108] members of these clubs shoot for the region and individually at national events, as well as many who shoot purely for fun. In 2014 the regional Durham And Northumberland Archery Team won the National Intercounty Team Event at Lilleshall NSC, this event saw 260 archers from 19 counties competing over 2 days for the title. [109]

Cricket Edit

Durham City Cricket Club plays on its own ground near the River Wear. Formed in 1829, Durham City was one of the founder members of the Durham Senior Cricket League upon its creation in 1903 and the First XI have been crowned champions on thirteen occasions. [110]

Football Edit

The town's football club Durham City A.F.C. once boasted membership of the Football League between 1921 and 1928 but has long been a non-league club, currently playing in the Northern League. Their home ground was New Ferens Park. However, after a dispute with the Landlord Durham were forced out of New Ferens Park and made a deal to groundshare at Willington F.C..

Durham is also home to FA Women's Championship team Durham Women's F.C., a team founded in 2014, they are a collaboration between South Durham and Cestria Girls and Durham University, the team are nicknamed The Wildcats, who are coached by Lee Sanders and play their Home games at Maiden Castle part of Durham University.

Ice rink Edit

Durham Ice Rink was a central feature of the city for some 60 years until it closed in 1996. It was home to the Durham Wasps, one of the most successful British ice hockey clubs during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 2009 an ice rink opened outside of the bowling alley it lasted for 6–8 months.

Durham Ice Rink's demolition began in May 2013. [111] On the location of the former ice rink now stands Freemans Reach which houses the Durham Passport Office [112]

Rowing Edit

For sport rowing there are a number of boating clubs operating on this stretch, Durham Amateur Rowing Club, the Durham University Boat Club, the 14 university college clubs of the Durham campus, Durham Constabulary and the school clubs – Durham School Boat Club and St Leonard's who row regularly in their own colours out of their own boathouses and Durham High School for Girls who may row out of Durham Amateur Rowing Club.

Durham Amateur Rowing Club Edit

Durham Amateur Rowing Club, DARC, operates out of a purpose-built community clubhouse on the River Wear which opened in 2007: [117]

Durham Amateur Rowing Club is one of the country's oldest clubs (founded in 1860) and lies at the end of Green Lane in Durham, occupying a tranquil setting on the River Wear. [118]

The club takes part in the government scheme playing for success where it uses sport to combine rowing, science, computers and video to help boost literacy and numeracy. [119]

Durham University rowing Edit

Durham University rowing is divided into two sections: Durham University Boat Club and Durham College Rowing, the latter comprises 16 college boat clubs.

Regattas and head races Edit

The River Wear is host to a number of regattas and head races throughout the year. These include:

the Novice Cup, Wear Long Distance Sculls and Senate Cup in November and December Durham Small Boats Head in February Durham City Regatta in May Durham Regatta and Admiral's Regatta in June and Durham Primary Regatta in September. [114]

Durham Regatta Edit

Durham Regatta has been held on the River Wear in Durham since 1834. It is the second oldest regatta in Britain [120] and is often referred to as 'the Henley of the North'. [121]

Durham Regatta in its current form dates back to 1834, when only a handful of trophies were competed for over a period of three days. Today, the regatta takes place over a period of two days, at which dozens of trophies are competed for. It is a favourite amongst Durham University, Durham School and Durham Amateur Rowing Club, who have competed regularly since the early days. [122]

Pleasure boats Edit

In addition to the competitive rowing and sculling of the boat clubs mentioned above, there is also a thriving hire of public pleasure boats from April to October. [123]

Rugby Edit

Durham City Rugby Club has its headquarters on Green Lane:

Durham City RFC, the second oldest club in the county, was founded in 1872 with navy and gold playing colours and Durham Cathedral's sanctuary knocker as the club's crest.

City have a proud heritage and their Hollow Drift home has been developed into an excellent rugby facility which includes two floodlit pitches and a training area.

At present, City run four senior sides, a Veteran's XV, a Ladies' XV and mini and junior teams from aged 6 to 17. [124]

Durham University sport Edit

    , (born in 1977), British TV presenter for the BBC. shows include Blue Peter, The One Show and Countryfile. , (born in Thornaby in 1943), novelist ('Regeneration' trilogy), now resident in Durham. [125] , (baptised 1571, died 1609), Elizabethan poet. Died in Durham. [126] , (born 1953) former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Attended the Chorister School 1961–1966. [127] (1739–1837), dwarf, spent last years of his life in Durham. [128]
  • Rev. Edward Bradley (1827–1889). Studied at Durham University and took his nom de plume "Cuthbert Bede" from the names of two its colleges. [129] (1949–2003), poet. Lived in Durham from the 1970s and was co-director of the Basil Bunting poetry centre at Durham University library from 1988. [130] (1902–1966), international footballer, born in Framwellgate Moor. [131] (born 1976), international cricketer. Born in Shotley Bridge, now resident in Durham. [132] (born 1993), cricketer
  • Sir Kingsley Dunham (1910–2001), Professor of Geology and later Professor Emeritus at the University of Durham, director of the British Geological Survey from 1967 to 1975. [133] (1823–1876), hymnologist, clergyman in Durham from 1849 to his death. [134] (1858–1932), arms manufacturer and novelist. Lived in Durham from 1902, and became Honorary Reader in Paleography at the University of Durham, and Honorary Librarian to the Dean and Chapter Library of Durham Cathedral. [135] (born 1949), journalist and poet. Attended the Chorister School 1957–1962. [127] (born 1924), Canadian broadcaster, born in Durham. [136] (1721–1810), composer. Lived in Durham for much of his life. [137] (c. 1065–1170), popular medieval saint, briefly served as doorkeeper at St Giles Hospital in Durham before becoming a hermit. [138] (born 1974), International rugby union player. Born in Durham. [139] (1783–1863), prize fighter, racehorse owner and politician. Resident in Durham at time of his death. [140] (born 1970), professional footballer , novelist (taught at Durham School) , children's writer (born 1949), record producer and member of the Buggles and Art Of Noise. [141] , (born 1988), professional women's footballer, currently playing for Manchester City W.F.C. , professional footballer , novelist , philosopher and radio broadcaster of the famous British acting family, the Kemble family lived, worked and is buried in Durham. (died 1154), poet
  • Members of the band Martha , Lord Justice Laws, judge (attended the Chorister School [127] ) , musician, born in Durham in 1957 , playwright. (born 1958), lead-singer with punk-band Penetration and solo artist during the 1980s , writer , former Middlesbrough footballer , novelist , novelist [142] , 100th Archbishop of Canterbury (a former Bishop of Durham) (died c. 1190), hagiographer , biologist and author , poet , literary memoirist , poet (novelist and poet), born in Sunderland, graduated from Durham University and was a lecturer there in English Literature (author of 20 novels, including The Moonspinners, Madam Will You Talk, and the Merlin trilogy) , historian and antiquarian (died after 1129), historian , composer , businessman (attended the Chorister School [127] ) , novelist [143] (died c. 1305), 13th century painter and carpenter to Henry III and Edward I , Astronomer Royal , literary critic
    , United States , United States , United States , Germany , Germany , Russia , France , Slovakia , Denmark , Spain , Hungary [144]

The following people and military units have received the Freedom of the City of Durham.

Norman Castle - History

© 1995-2016 Lise Hull
One would expect the Middle Ages to have been a simple time, with few truly distinctive occupations, save the lord of the manor, his knights, his household, and the peasants. But, the complexity of the medieval working world is startling. Yes, the above are typical occupations of the age, but within these broad classifications we can define an incredible array of other occupations.

True, medieval jobs were not all fulfilling or stepping stones to success and status, as we envision the knight's position in the lord's court. However, each occupation filled a crucial place in the social system of the Middle Ages, ensuring virtually every imaginable need could be handled by an individual with the proper training or know-how.

Basically, society was divided between two classes, positions of status and positions that were not. Nevertheless, while the lord and members of his entourage had status, they could not survive without the support, albeit drawn through oppression, of the peasants. Medieval society was like a jigsaw puzzle. Each segment was an integral piece of the complete system. Without any one part, the system could not work.

As villages developed alongside the castle, occupations began to differentiate during the Middle Ages. Indeed, the growth of many towns directly resulted from the introduction of commercial endeavors, which were necessary to sustain the castle or the manor, as well as the local populace.

A merchant class quickly developed once feudalism was established in Europe. These merchants became wealthy in their own right, owning grand homes of their own comparable to the best in the land. They transported the products of craftsmen, laborers, and skilled workers across the nation, and internationally as well, furthering trade and acting as envoys between the regions they served.

In existence as early as the reign of Charlemagne and used by the Anglo-Saxons, the guild was of primary importance during the Middle Ages. Initially a rudimentary plan designed to support a certain group of workers (each village originally had one or two guilds), the guild system rapidly expanded throughout Europe.

In essence, these organizations were prototypes of modern trade unions and functioned in an almost identical manner. Their main intention was "to promote economic welfare of its members and guarantee full employment at high wages by restricting membership (Bishop)." Virtually every medieval occupation had its own guild, including bell ringers, minstrels, candle makers, grocers and weavers.

  • Almoners: ensured the poor received alms.
  • Atilliator: skilled castle worker who made crossbows.
  • Baliff: in charge of allotting jobs to the peasants, building repair, and repair of tools used by the peasants.
  • Barber: someone who cut hair. Also served as dentists, surgeons and blood-letters.
  • Blacksmith: forged and sharpened tools and weapons, beat out dents in armor, made hinges for doors, and window grills. Also referred to as Smiths.
  • Bottler: in charge of the buttery or bottlery.
  • Butler: cared for the cellar and was in charge of large butts and little butts (bottles) of wine and beer. Under him a staff of people might consist of brewers, tapsters, cellarers, dispensers, cupbearers and dapifer.
  • Carder: someone who brushed cloth during its manufacture.
  • Carpenter: built flooring, roofing, siege engines, furniture, panelling for rooms, and scaffoling for building.
  • Carters: workmen who brought wood and stone to the site of a castle under construction.
  • Castellan: resident owner or person in charge of a castle (custodian).
  • Chamberlain: responsible for the great chamber and for the personal finances of the castellan.
  • Chaplain: provided spirtual welfare for laborers and the castle garrison. The duties might also include supervising building operations, clerk, and keeping accounts. He also tended to the chapel.
  • Clerk: a person who checked material costs, wages, and kept accounts.
  • Constable: a person who took care (the governor or warden) of a castle in the absence of the owner. This was sometimes bestowed upon a great baron as an honor and some royal castles had hereditary constables.
  • Cook: roasted, broiled, and baked food in the fireplaces and ovens.
  • Cottars: the lowest of the peasantry. Worked as swine-herds, prison guards, and did odd jobs.
  • Ditcher: worker who dug moats, vaults, foundations and mines.
  • Dyer: someone who dyed cloth in huge heated vats during its manufacture.
  • Ewerer: worker who brought and heated water for the nobles.
  • Falconer: highly skilled expert responsible for the care and training of hawks for the sport of falconry.
  • Fuller: worker who shrinks & thickens cloth fibers through wetting & beating the material.
  • Glaziers: a person who cut and shaped glass.
  • Gong Farmer: a latrine pit emptier.
  • Hayward: someone who tended the hedges.
  • Herald: knights assistant and an expert advisor on heraldry.
  • Keeper of the Wardrobe: in charge of the tailors and laundress.
  • Knight: a professional soldier. This was achieved only after long and arduous training which began in infancy.
  • Laird: minor baron or small landlord.
  • Marshal: officer in charge of a household's horses, carts, wagons, and containers. His staff included farriers, grooms, carters, smiths and clerks. He also oversaw the transporting of goods.
  • Master Mason: responsible for the designing and overseeing the building of a structure.
  • Messengers: servants of the lord who carried receipts, letters, and commodities.
  • Miner: skilled professional who dug tunnels for the purpose of undermining a castle.
  • Minstrels: part of of the castle staff who provided entertainment in the form of singing and playing musical instruments.
  • Porter: took care of the doors (janitor), particularly the main entrance. Responsible for the guardrooms. The person also insured that no one entered or left the castle withour permission. Also known as the door-ward.
  • Reeve: supervised the work on lord's property. He checked that everyone began and stopped work on time, and insured nothing was stolen. Senior officer of a borough.
  • Sapper: an unskilled person who dug a mine or approach tunnel.
  • Scullions: responsible for washing and cleaning in the kitchen.
  • Shearmen: a person who trimmed the cloth during its manufacture.
  • Shoemaker: a craftsman who made shoes. Known also as Cordwainers.
  • Spinster: a name given to a woman who earned her living spinning yarn. Later this was expanded and any unmarried woman was called a spinster.
  • Steward: took care of the estate and domestic administration. Supervised the household and events in the great hall. Also referred to as a Seneschal.
  • Squire: attained at the age of 14 while training as a knight. He would be assigned to a knight to carry and care for the weapons and horse.
  • Watchmen: an official at the castle responsible for security. Assited by lookouts (the garrison).
  • Weaver: someone who cleaned and compacted cloth, in association with the Walker and Fuller.
  • Woodworkers: tradesmen called Board-hewers who worked in the forest, producing joists and beams.

Other medieval jobs included:
tanners, soap makers, cask makers, cloth makers, candle makers (chandlers), gold and silver smiths, laundresses, bakers, grooms, pages, huntsmen, doctors, painters, plasterers, and painters, potters, brick and tile makers, glass makers, shipwrights, sailors, butchers, fishmongers, farmers, herdsmen, millers, the clergy, parish priests, members of the monastic orders, innkeepers, roadmenders, woodwards (for the forests). slingers.

Castles of the Conqueror

In 1066, as everybody knows, the Normans invaded England. That most engaging of all medieval sources, the Bayeux Tapestry, shows them landing their horses at Pevensey in Sussex and racing to occupy nearby Hastings, from where they would shortly set out to fight the most famous battle in English history.

Before that, they paused to have an elaborate sit-down meal – barbecued chicken is on the menu – and attend to their own protection. “This man,” says the caption of an important-looking Norman holding a pennant, “orders a castle to be dug at Hastings,” and to his right we see a group of men, armed with picks and shovels, setting to work.

The Normans’ decision to erect a castle at the very moment of their arrival might not strike us as particularly remarkable. After all, medieval warfare revolved around the building and besieging of fortresses, and the English landscape of today is liberally studded with their remains. But at the time of the invasion in late September 1066, the Normans’ action was startlingly novel: prior to that point, castles had been virtually unknown in England.

The exceptions comprised a handful constructed a few years earlier by the French friends of King Edward the Confessor. “The foreigners had built a castle in Herefordshire,” says the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1051, “and had inflicted every possible injury and insult upon the king’s men in those parts”.

The fact that the chronicler was reporting a new phenomenon is conveyed not only by his palpable outrage at the Frenchmen’s behaviour, but also by his need to borrow their word for the offending object: this is the first recorded use of ‘castle’ in English.

The Conquest that followed 15 years later ensured it would not be the last, because the castle was the primary instrument by which the Normans stamped their authority on England. From having almost no castles in the period before 1066, the country was quickly crowded with them. According to one conservative modern estimate, based on the number of surviving earthworks, at least 500, and possibly closer to 1,000, had been constructed by the end of the 11th century – barely two generations since the Normans’ initial landing.

Of course, England had not been without defences before 1066. The pre-Conquest landscape was studded with, among other things, Iron Age hillforts, Roman legionary forts, and the fortified towns built by the Anglo-Saxons themselves, known as boroughs or burhs. But all of these structures differed from what followed in that they were large enclosures designed to protect sizeable communities including, in some cases, non-military personnel. Castles, by contrast, were comparatively small affairs, designed to be defended by a limited number of fighting men. They had originated in France around the turn of the first millennium as a result of the collapse of royal and provincial authority, when power ultimately devolved to those who had the means to build their own private fortifications and fill them with mounted warriors.

As well as being smaller in area, castles were also taller. Some of the earliest French examples were great stone towers, such as the soaring donjon at Loches on the river Loire, built by the buccaneering Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, around AD 1000, and still impressive 1,000 years later.

But the crucial thing about castles was that they could be created without the need for such colossal investment. It was quite possible to obtain the same advantage of height quickly and on a fraction of the budget by throwing up a great mound of earth and topping it with a tower of wood. As every schoolchild knows, such mounds were known from the first as ‘mottes’.

The point about size and speed is reinforced by the Normans’ behaviour in England immediately after their arrival. At Pevensey they created a castle by adapting a Roman fort, and at Hastings by customising an Iron Age hillfort, in each case hiving off a smaller section of the much larger original.

After their victory at Hastings, as they set about crushing the remaining English resistance, the Normans continued to follow this method of construction. They added new fortifications to the ancient defences at Dover, and almost certainly created the castle at Wallingford by destroying a corner of the Anglo-Saxon borough.

When, late in 1066, the citizens of London at last submitted to William the Conqueror, his first thought was to plant a castle in the south-eastern angle of the city – the site that would soon become home to the Tower.

Rising in revolt

In the years that followed, the castle-building campaign intensified. The Normans, wept the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 1067, “built castles far and wide throughout the land, oppressing the unhappy people, and things went ever from bad to worse”.

Part of the reason for this intensification was the repeated attempts by the English to throw off the rule of their conquerors. The south-west of England rose in revolt at the start of 1068, apparently led by the surviving remnants of the Godwin family, while in the summer of the same year there were similar risings in the Midlands and northern England.

William crushed them all, marching in with his army and planting castles in major towns and cities. Exeter, Nottingham, Warwick, York, Lincoln, Cambridge and Huntingdon all received new royal fortresses at this time, and further examples were added in the years that followed: Chester and Stafford in 1069–70, Ely in 1071 and Durham in 1072.

The northernmost outpost of Norman power was established in 1080 by the Conqueror’s son Robert, who planted a “new castle” upon the river Tyne, while William himself marked the western limit of his authority during an expedition to Wales the following year, founding a new fortress in an old Roman fort called Cardiff.

The foundation of castles, however, was far from being an exclusively royal affair. William may have raised armies to quell major rebellions, but for the rest of the time he relied on other Normans to keep order in his new kingdom.

In the two decades after 1066 the king rewarded his closest followers with extensive grants of land in England, and the first act of any sensible incoming lord was invariably to construct a castle. In some instances it appears that these were planted on top of existing English seigneurial residences, to emphasise a continuity of lordship.

But in most cases such continuity was lacking because the process of conquest had caused the country’s existing tenurial map to be torn up. Sussex, for example, was sliced up into half-a-dozen new lordships, known locally as rapes, which paid no heed to earlier patterns of ownership. New lordships required new castles, and the rapes were named in each case after the fortresses that sprung up at Chichester, Hastings, Bramber, Arundel, Lewes and Pevensey.

The reorganisation of Sussex into continental-style, castle-centred lordships seems to have been a decision determined by cold military logic. The county had been the Normans’ beachhead, and also the former Godwin heartland. The rapes run north-south, and their castles are all located near the coast, as if to keep the route between London and Normandy secure.

In recent decades, however, the scholarly trend has been to emphasise that castles had other roles beyond the military. The fact that they were often sited to command road and river routes, for example, meant that their owners were also well placed to control trade, and could both protect and exploit mercantile traffic. We are reminded, too, that part of the reason for building a castle could be symbolic. A great fortress, towering above everything else for miles around, provided a constant physical reminder of its owner’s power – a permanent assertion of his right to rule.

During the Conqueror’s reign, this was most obviously true in the case of the three great stone towers the king himself is known to have created at Chepstow, Colchester and (most famously) London. In each case these giant buildings, the like of which England had not seen since the time of the Romans, have strong Roman resonances and were partially constructed using the stone from nearby Roman ruins not for nothing did 20th-century scholars christen the style ‘Romanesque’.

Indeed, in the case of Colchester it is difficult to suggest a reason for the construction of so massive a building – beyond a desire to be associated with the town’s imperial past. There are no reports of rebellions or military action in Essex during William’s reign, but the great tower he created in Colchester was erected on the ruins of the town’s Roman temple. The Conqueror’s sycophantic biographer, William of Poitiers, draws frequent comparisons between his royal master and Julius Caesar. To judge from buildings such as Chepstow, Colchester and the Tower of London, it was a comparison that the king himself was keen to cultivate.

At the same time, we need to guard against hyper-correction. In recent years, it seems to me, the revisionist arguments about Norman castles have been pushed too far, to the extent that some historians now come close to arguing that they had almost no military function at all.

Take, for example, the castle that William the Conqueror caused to be built at Exeter in 1068. Its original gatehouse still survives, and has been judged defensively weak because it was originally entered at ground level. This may be so, but it takes a considerable leap to conclude from this, as one historian has done, that the whole castle was “militarily ineffectual”.

Much of the site has now vanished, but it occupied an area of around 185 metres by 185 metres (600 by 600 feet) Domesday Book suggests that 48 houses were destroyed in order to make room for it. It was built on the highest point in the town, and was separated by a deep ditch and rampart.

Exeter had fallen to William in 1068 after a bitter three-week siege that saw heavy casualties on both sides – and during which, if we believe the later chronicler William of Malmesbury, one of the English defenders signalled his defiance by dropping his trousers and farting in the king’s general direction. It beggars belief to suppose that the Conqueror, having taken the city at such cost, would have commissioned a building that had no military capability, and was concerned only with the projection of what has been called ‘peaceable power’.

The notion that castles had little military purpose also requires us to ignore the testimony of contemporary chroniclers. William of Poitiers repeatedly describes the castles his master besieged on the continent before 1066 using terms such as “very strong” or “virtually impregnable”. Such descriptions are borne out by the fact that it took the duke months, and in some cases years, to take them.

Yet some scholars are curiously reluctant to allow that castles built after the Conquest served a similar military purpose. The Conqueror’s great stone tower at Chepstow, for instance, has been plausibly reinterpreted in recent years as an audience chamber where the king or his representatives could receive and overawe the native rulers of Wales.

But the fact is that Chepstow Castle was still a formidable building, situated high on a cliff above the river Wye, and defended at each end by ditches cut deep into the rock. True, it does not bristle with arrowloops, turrets and machicolations – but then no castles did in that period, because the technology of attack was primitive in comparison with what came later. Without the great stone-throwing machines known as trebuchets, there was not much an enemy at the gates could do, beyond mounting a blockade and trying to starve a garrison into submission.

In these circumstances, a well-situated and well-stocked castle could be militarily decisive. In 1069 the people of Northumbria overran Durham, massacring its Norman garrison, which tried and failed to hold out in the hall of the local bishop. But when the Northumbrians attempted to take the town again in 1080 they failed, because they were unable to take its new castle.

Subduing the English

One of the remarkable things about the Norman conquest was how quickly the rift between the English and the Normans was healed. Within a generation or two, it is possible to point to castles that did owe more to ideas of peaceful living than military deterrence. But in the years immediately after 1066, filled as they were with bloody rebellion and even bloodier repression – when a few thousand Normans lived among a population of two million English in the daily fear of violent death – in these circumstances castles have to be regarded first and foremost as military installations, introduced to subdue an unwilling population.

Unfashionable though it may be among castle scholars, there is every reason to listen to the testimony of the half-English, half-Norman historian Orderic Vitalis, born in Shropshire within a decade of 1066, who attributed the success of the Conquest to one factor above all others.

“The fortifications that the Normans called castles,” he explains, “were scarcely known in the English provinces, and so the English – in spite of their courage and love of fighting – could put up only a weak resistance to their enemies.”

William’s castles 1066–87

From the moment his army landed on English soil, the Conqueror embarked on a remarkable programme of castle-building…


Established by the Conqueror’s friend William fitz Osbern soon after 1066, Chepstow was acquired by the king in 1075, after which construction is reckoned to have started on its Great Tower.


William built his first castle in England here, the point of the Normans’ disembarkation, to protect his army while they prepared to engage Harold Godwinson.


After his victory at Hastings, William reportedly spent eight days at Dover, an Iron Age hillfort, “adding the fortifications it lacked”. Afterwards it was entrusted to his half-brother Odo of Bayeux.


This was established shortly before Christmas 1066, “as a defence against the inconstancy of the numerous and hostile inhabitants” (wrote William of Poitiers). Work on the White Tower started in the 1070s and continued until the early 12th century.

Old Sarum

Planted in the middle of an Iron Age hillfort, Old Sarum was probably begun before 1070, when the Conqueror went there to dismiss his army after the Harrying of the North.


This most famous of English castles was created a short distance from an existing royal hunting lodge, probably before the council held at Windsor in 1070.


On his return from Scotland in 1072, William stopped to plant a castle in Durham where, three years earlier, his troops had been massacred by the Northumbrians.

William built not one but two castles in York: the first (Clifford’s Tower) was constructed in the summer of 1068, the second (Baile Hill) early the following year.


Norwich was begun before 1075 that year Ralph Guader, the rebellious earl of East Anglia, was besieged here for three months.


A gigantic building, with close affinities to the Tower of London, Colchester illustrates William’s desire to be compared to the Romans before him.

Marc Morris is a historian and broadcaster specialising in the Middle Ages. He is the author of The Norman Conquest (Hutchinson, 2012).

To listen to our podcast interview with Marc on the story and legacy of the Norman Conquest, click here.

Primary Sources

(1) Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Version E, entry of 1137

And they filled the whole land with these castles. They burdened the unhappy people of the country with forced labour on the castles. And when the castles were made they filled them with wicked men.

(2) Water of Terouanne describing the motte and bailey castles built by William the Conqueror (c. 1100)

They make a mound of earth as high as they can, and encircle it with a ditch as broad and deep as possible. They surround the upper edge of the mound. with a palisade of squared timbers firmly fixed together. Within they build their house, a stronghold that commands the whole. The gate can only be reached by crossing a bridge, which starts from the outer edge of the ditch.

Norman Castle - History

It is not known precisely when construction of Colchester Castle began, but it was probably started in the 1070s or 1080s on the orders of William the Conqueror. The Castle was sited on the great stone base of what had been the Roman Temple of Claudius. William was linking his authority to that of the Roman emperors before him.

The keep is the largest surviving example built by the Normans, measuring 46m by 33.5m. Its ground plan is shared in England only by the White Tower at the Tower of London which makes Gundulph, Bishop of Rochester the likely designer of both castles.

Faced with a lack of good quality building stone, the Normans used the ruins of Roman Colchester to provide most of the brick and stone that they needed. The Castle was built in two stages. The first phase keep was only one storey high as is shown by the battlement which can still be seen clearly on some areas of the outer walls. The second phase of construction from about 1106 was entrusted to Eudo, who served the first three Norman kings as Steward of Normandy. The walls were raised higher, though how high is still a matter for debate. The traditional view is that the Castle was a three storey building. However, new evidence and a re-appraisal of the arguments suggest that the Castle was always roughly at the height it is today.

There are important surviving Norman features still to be seen in the Castle. The entrance doorway, which was originally protected by a fore-building, has a fine arch which is partly built of Caen stone brought from Normandy. The Great Stair, rising in the south west corner tower, is the largest winding stone staircase in Britain. The first floor fireplaces are early examples of their kind and have Y-shaped chimneys that discharge through holes in the walls. The royal apartments were situated in the east gallery on the first floor, a fact marked by the presence of an adjoining chapel or crypt, and a toilet!

Surrounding the keep was a large bank and ditch, of which only the north and east sections survive substantially intact. Within this area, called the bailey, only the foundations of a chapel can still be seen, but there would have been many other buildings such as stables, storehouses and workshops. On the north side of the keep a lower bailey extended down to the town walls.

The Castle was a royal fortress throughout the Norman period. It only saw serious action once, in 1216, when King John had to retake it from a French occupying force which was supporting a revolt by the English barons.

The Norman Castle in Erice, a fortress for Venus

The Norman Castle in Erice is also known as the Venus Castle, because its history has its fulcrum and origin in the goddess of fertility.

Where the fortress is now, there used to be a temple dedicated to Potnia, the goddess of fecundity worshipped by the Elymians, an ancient pre-Roman population that inhabited this part of Western Sicily.

According to legend, this is also where Erix was buried after dying in a boxing match against Hercules. Erix was the son of an Argonaut and of Aphrodite, and Erice was named after him.

Virgil says another son of Aphrodite-Venus, Aeneas, buried his father Anchises in this area, before traveling to Lazio.

In the 12th century, he Normans used the stones of the temple to build the castle, which was restored after a long period of decadence in the 19th century by Count Agostino Piepoli. He had the pentagonal tower rebuilt after it has been destroyed in the 1400s, and created a beautiful English-style garden, open to the public and destined to become a symbol of the town.


One of the major considerations in determining the size of the castle is what size of soldiers will be used with it: 1/32, 1/64, 1/72, 1/132 scale, etc. Conversely, the scale of the soldiers will be determined to some extent by the physical size you have already set for the castle. Selecting soldiers is not an easy proposition. Medieval knights in some of the scales are not all that easy to come by. Noncombatants – serfs and castle workers –are not available at all, except perhaps from very expensive specialty museum model companies. The small figures (1/72, 22 mm) allow for the construction of smaller castles, but the detail is not as good as with some larger figures. Middle-sized figures (1/64 scale, 25 mm) are small enough to make relatively small castles and are large enough to have good detail. However, these figures are among some of the most expensive. Larger figures (1/32 scale, 54 mm) usually have the best detail and are the easiest to play with. However, at present, this is the most difficult scale to find figures. The 54 mm scale figures are what we typically think of as “toy figures.”In making suggestions on castle occupants, I will confine consideration to two types of soldier: the classic medieval knight and soldier in armor, and the classic “toy soldier,” that is, the 18th century Napoleonic soldier. If the former is your choice then the typical medieval castle will be the best. If you choose the latter then it would be better to include the later additions made in castles for cannon placements, or the specific cannon forts. In cannon forts, the sides were sloped to deflect cannon balls.

There are several companies around, which can be found on the internet by searching for “toy soldier.” I purchase my figures from three companies:

The Michigan Toy Soldier Company
1406 E 11 Mile Road
Royal Oak, MI 48067

Silver Eagle Wargame Supplies
4417 West 24th Place
Lawrence, KS 66047

Games Workshop
8 Neal Drive
Simsbury, CT 06070

Michigan Toy Soldier has the greatest selection of 1/72 (22 mm) figures, at the best price (less than $10, including shipping, for a box of 30-40 figures). They also have a limited number of 1/32 (54 mm) figures at a reasonable price ($15 for 12 figures). They have figures from many periods, such as Roman, Celt, and Egyptian armies (all 1/72), which are difficult to find elsewhere. They have figures in lead and rubber. Silver Eagle offers 1/64 (25 mm) lead figures. There are few from the medieval period – the most common early figures are from the 17th century. However, these figures can be painted, with striking results. The price is reasonable ($1 or less per figure). Games Workshop is the source for Warhammer Fantasy miniatures in 1/64 (25 mm) scale. These are plastic, with some lead, and are larger and more detailed than other 25 mm scale figures. For example, although the men are actually 25 mm – the same height as other 25 mm men – they are thicker and more detailed than other figures. Horses from this company are twice the size of the rather undersized horses offered by other companies in the 25 mm scale range. These are probably the best, most detailed figures available and they paint up beautifully. There are also lots of fantasy characters available, such and fairies and goblins. They are somewhat limited, however, in the range of available figure choices. They are also the most expensive ($1.50 to $35.00) per figure.No matter which type of soldiers you decide to use in your castle, it is important that you purchase at least one figure in your scale of choice before beginning construction. That will allow you to make the battlements, and other features such as arrow slits and windows, just the right size. Throughout the construction guide itself, I will assume that you have chosen your scale and have a figure to work with, so I will limit any further reference to scale.

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