A Norman Castle
Durham Castle was originally constructed as a motte and bailey castle, with a fortified raised motte overlooking a fenced courtyard, or bailey, below. On top of the motte was the Keep, designed to act as a defensive structure. The original Keep was constructed from wood, but in the 14th century that it was rebuilt in stone. Although originally constructed as a practical fortress, the Normans soon began to enhance the castle with stunning architectural features.
Built in the 1080s, the Norman Chapel is the oldest standing building in Durham City. We cannot be certain what its original purpose was: it could have been part of a double chapel with a crypt underneath, an oath-swearing hall, or even a hall. Recent research, alongside the wealth of early Christian symbolism in its carved stonework, suggests that it has probably always served as a chapel. The six central pillars are made of local sandstone, chosen for their unique marbled texture. On top of these pillars are beautiful and intriguing carvings, which include a snake, lions, a hunting scene and even a mermaid, thought to be the earliest example in England.
Now the home of University College Bar, the Undercroft is one of the oldest spaces in Durham Castle and was constructed underneath the first Great Hall, built in the 11th century and later replaced by the current Great Hall.
Built in the 12th century, the North Hall was a second Great Hall, which enabled the Bishops to host grand double-banquets. The Hall was extensively remodelled after a disastrous fire, one of the major additions being the Norman Arch. This was built to be the main external entrance to the North Hall, and steps would have risen all the way from the courtyard to the arch and into the Hall. It is one of the finest examples of this type of architectural feature in the country, adorned with concentric layers of intricate geometric carvings.
The original Gatehouse was extensively altered in the 18th century. Traces of the original structure can still be seen however, including the richly decorated archway.