Market Place, Bishop Auckland,
t: 01388 743750
Auckland Castle has been the palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham for over 900 years. The Castle was the seat of power in the North East of England and after the Norman Conquest and the subsequent Harrying of the North, the Bishop of Durham was granted exceptional powers to act as a political and military leader. The king allowed him to raise taxes, mint coins and hold his own parliaments. Such royal privileges made the Bishop of Durham the second most powerful man in the country - he effectively ruled the area between the Tyne and the Tees.
The Castle is now home to many important works of art, most notably the paintings of Jacob (Israel) and his twelve sons by Spanish master Fransisco da Zurbaran.
The Long Dining Room
Added in the 16th Century, some four hundred years after the original foundation, the Long Dining Room has much the same impressive proportions as the Throne Room it adjoines.
Originally the work of Bishops Ruthall and Tunstall, it has been considerably modified by later bishops. Bishop Trevor in 1760 was responsible for the fine moulded ceiling, with his coat of arms colourfully decorating its centre. Bishop Barrington was to modernise and move the beautiful oriel window overlooking the garden, along with the other first floor windows. The windows to the south look towards the triple-arched entrance to the Castle and Chapel, and across the wooded valley of the Park to the Durham road.
Furnishings in this room include three side-tables designed by James Wyatt, and the African ebony inlaid dining table with intricately carved oak legs, which will extend to four times its present size.
St. Peter’s Chapel
This was originally built in the 12th Century by Bishop High de le Puiset as a great Banqueting Hall, complete with buttery, wine cellar and minstrel gallery. A century later Bishop Beck added buttresses to the outside walls and carried out other reconstruction work. For nearly five hundred years the Prince Bishops of Durham entertained their guests here.
From the 13th to the 17th century the Castle’s Chapel (built by Bishop Beck) was a double-storey building which till about 1650 stood opposite the present Chapel at its south side. It was demolished during the Commonwealth period, when Auckland Castle passed into the hands of Sir Arthur Haselrig, a prominent Parliamentarian. Pulling down the Chapel, or, as some tell, blowing it up, he used the resultant material to build himself a mansion in the grounds. But before its completion the Restoration changed the political landscape yet again; Haselrig lost Auckland Castle and was committed to the Tower of London.
When Bishop John Cosin came in 1660 he found all the buildings on the site in a seriously dilapidated state. A born architect with a passionate devotion to English Church traditions, Cosin demolished the unfinished mansion and set about converting the Banqueting Hall into a glorious chapel appropriate to such a Castle – this was consecrated on St.Peter’s Day, 1665.
It was almost two hundred years before any further work was attempted on the Chapel. In 1828 Bishop van Mildert raised the side aisles and carried out further repair work, his contribution is commemorated in his arms cut into some of Cosin’s woodwork. Later in the 19th century Bishop Lightfoot added to the beauty of the place with the stained glass windows and a carved reredos, its lower part of the dark Frosterley marble, and its upper of oak. This replaced the picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds of the Resurrection [CLAIRE] and dedicated to Barrington (Bishop of Durham in the 18C) The new Holy table he gave was also of oak, with cedar panels, while his credence table was constructed from a portion of an ancient altar-slab found in the Castle.
Most of the present windows of the Chapel, the heraldic shields round its walls, and finally the six angels which rest upon the supports of the roof of the old Banqueting Hall – all these we owe to Bishop Lightfoot which was completed in 1888.
During the years of 1978 and 1983 the Chapel and other areas of the Castle were replaced where needed, decorated and repainted, thus recovering their original brilliance.
1st April – 30th September
10.30am – 4pm every day except Tuesday’s.
£8 - Adults
£6 - Concessions
£4 - Children over 12 Free for Children under 12
£20 - FamilyTicket Prices subject to change for groups of over 15 people.
Disabled car parking
Coach parties welcome
Free guided tours
Credit/debit cards accepted