The collection of decorative art at Durham Castle is extremely varied. It includes personalised ceramics, ornate silverware and electroplate, and even 25 tapestries, many of which have hung in the Castle since the 17th century.
Of particular significance are two sets of 17th century Flemish tapestries; one depicts the life of Moses and the other, the story of Jacob from Genesis. These tapestries are incredibly detailed and in addition to their decorative and storytelling functions, they insulated against the cold stone walls in the past.
Silverware and electroplate
The silverware and electroplate collection totals around 400 objects, ranging from sporting trophies and cutlery, to goblets and candlesticks.
One of the most elaborate items is an extravagant early Victorian candelabrum. Made in 1846 by Garrard and Co. for the Hartlepool Dock and Railway Company, it was dedicated as a gift to their long-serving secretary, Thomas Wood. His grandson, John Wood, bequeathed the candelabrum to the Castle in recognition of his time at University College.
Other interesting objects on display include the Maltby Service, a personalised Wedgwood dinner service produced for the University and funded by Bishop Edward Maltby for entertaining the Courts of Assize judges, who stayed in Durham Castle from the 17th century until the 1970s. The design bears his own arms and the initials ED for Edward Dunelm, circled by a border showing signs of the zodiac.
Another item of curiosity is a 19th century porcelain Veilleuse, with an orange St Cuthbert’s cross on the front. It would have been used in the early days of University College to keep food or a small teapot warm at night with a candle inside, and it would have made a perfect nightlight, especially inside a large, dark Castle!