Durham Castle Buildings Archive

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 33 CAS
  • Dates of Creation
      ca. 1885-1951, predominantly 1924-1939
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      4 metres & 12 plan file drawers

Scope and Content

Plans, drawings, photographs (negatives, with prints and lantern slides of a selection), and documentary material concerning repairs and alterations to Durham Castle. Structural reports on Durham castle in 1925 and 1927 drew attention to its state of advanced disrepair, and the likelihood that parts of the building would eventually slide into the river unless urgent measures were taken to stabilise the foundations. The contents of this collection relate primarily to the extensive programme of repairs carried out between 1924 and 1939, and to the appeal launched by the Durham Castle Preservation Fund to raise the necessary resources.

The documentary material includes reports on the structural state of the castle, correspondence between architect and contractors, estimates of costs, accounts of expenditure, appeal committee minutes, correspondence, publicity and press cuttings. The negatives (over 500) provide a detailed visual record of the main programme of work between 1929 and 1938, with more selective coverage of earlier work in the 1920's. The plans and drawings number almost 700. The architects for the project were W.T. Jones F.R.I.B.A., until his death in 1932, and later Sir Charles Peers. The consulting engineer was Dr. Oscar Faber. The Clerk of Works, C.A. Linge, was also the photographer for the main phase of work from 1930 onwards, and compiled a detailed inventory of photographic work undertaken. Most of the earlier negatives appear to have been taken by Edis, the leading Durham firm of photographers. The main contractors were John Thompson and Sons, Peterborough, and the borings were done by Andrew D. Brydon Ltd of Harrogate.

The collection also includes one volume and a photograph of a drawing relating to proposals for work on the Norman Chapel, etc., 1951 (CAS/B19 and P41, architects Seely & Paget, contractors George Gradon & Son, Ltd), and two earlier drawings ca.1885 and 1919 (CAS/P40 and 42) of the Tunstall Chapel and castle kitchen respectively.

Administrative / Biographical History

The building of Durham castle was begun about 1072 by Waltheof, Earl of Northumberland. Over the centuries since then it has been rebuilt, altered and extended to adapt it to changing circumstances and uses, as fortress, bishop's palace and university college. Custody of the castle was given by William the Conqueror soon after its foundation to Walcher, Bishop of Durham, and it remained in the possession of successive bishops for over seven and a half centuries. To their spiritual responsibilities the bishops of Durham added administrative, judicial, and military responsibilities as rulers, on behalf of the crown, of the Palatinate of Durham, as that jurisdiction developed in the middle ages. In the post-medieval period the temporal responsibilities of the bishop of Durham as palatine lord gradually diminished, and his temporal jurisdiction was ended in 1836, when Durham became an ordinary county. The last of the prince bishops, William Van Mildert, was instrumental in founding the University of Durham in 1832, and in 1837 Durham Castle was given to the university, and became the home of its earliest college, University College. It continues to be used for this purpose.


The collection is arranged according to physical format in 3 sections:

  • CAS/B: Documentary material, photograph albums, loose contact prints, and lantern slides (stored in boxes)
  • CAS/N: Negatives (stored in boxes)
  • CAS/P: Plans, drawings and publicity material (stored in plan files)

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

The plans, albums, slides and documentary material were deposited with the University Library by the University's central administration at some time in the late 1950's or early 1960's. An additional small group of photographs was deposited by University College in 1992. The negatives were discovered among a miscellaneous photographic deposit received in 1995 from the University's Department of Archaeology, which also included contact prints of some of them.

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue available at online catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Bythell, Duncan, Durham Castle: an illustrated guidebook (Norwich, 1974)  Faber, Oscar, The underpinning of Durham Castle, The structural engineer, n.s. 12.11 (1934), 438-463.