The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Bishop Auckland Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Akeland; Aukland

In the civil parish of Bishop Auckland.
In the historic county of Durham.
Modern Authority of Durham.
1974 county of County Durham.
Medieval County of County Palatinate of Durham.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ21213023
Latitude 54.66641° Longitude -1.67026°

Bishop Auckland Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are major building remains.

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Bishop's palace. Official residence of Bishop of Durham, diocesan office, and 2 independent flats. Manor house probably begun for Bishop du Puiset (1153-95), completed in first half of C13, altered and enlarged for Bishop Bek (1284-1311) (Cunningham 1990). Scotland wing probably C16 long gallery for Bishop Tunstall, later used as granary. Mid-C18 division into rooms, and c1980 alterations and insertion of mezzanine floor. North-south range, alterations and additions include c1530 addition of south dining room for Bishops Ruthal and Tunstall, and substantial rebuilding dated 1664 for Bishop Cosin. Also 1767-72 for Bishops Trevor and Egerton possibly by John Carr, and c1795 for Bishop Barrington by James Wyatt. Medieval parts coursed rubble, later parts mostly coursed squared sandstone, with ashlar dressings. Roofs Lakeland slate and lead, Scotland wing roof concrete tiles.
PLAN: irregular. Medieval manor included great hall running west-east at east of site and with its own services at east end. Great hall is now Chapel of St Peter (qv). To west of this, probably originally with extruded stair in angle between, a kitchen range ran north-south. From this range the Scotland wing runs east-west.
EXTERIOR: east elevation: 2 storeys of varied heights, 1:1:1:4 bays. At left, one bay mid-late C18 projects slightly, and has flat-headed 3-light ground floor window with Gothick glazing bars and traceried heads under label mould. Tall sash above has intersecting glazing bars in Tudor-arched window with dripmould. At right of this bay, straight join to 2-bay L-plan with stone-mullioned 3-light windows with trefoil tracery and moulded spandrels under flat head with dripmould; shallow elliptical head to door at right to private apartments and offices. Large window above has stone Y tracery between 2 lights with Gothick glazing bars under dripmould. Similar windows in next bay breaking forward with polygonal projecting bay window to front and 2 windows in returns, with ground-floor dripstring, the front bay window and the rear on the return with ogee heads to ground-floor lights, below band (originally with battlemented parapet before upper floor added) with richly carved arms of Ruthall and Tunstall and moulded surrounds. Moulded plinth to this build, and quoins at right. Set back above is second floor of C17 front range, with 3-light stone-mullioned traceried windows, the left blocked. 4-bay state room range set back to right has high ashlar plinth, rainwater heads dated 1664, and tall first floor. 3-light ground-floor windows have stone mullions and heads, and first-floor sashes have Gothick glazing bars, except in 4th bay which is obscured by lower projection containing porch to Chapel of St Peter. All parapets battlemented, the state room with full-height buttresses with pinnacles, the angles with ogee domes of Cosin's work as in Chapel of St Peter. Low pitched and flat roofs except Scotland Wing which has steeply pitched roofs to main and shorter 2nd rear parallel range. Left return has symmetrical south elevation to C18 addition, with 1:3:1 windows, the centre a canted bay. Set-back low-pitched gable to left of centre has blocked roundel under battlements. Similar gable set back at right to state rooms. Scotland wing at west: south elevation 3 storeys, 10 windows. Large square buttresses with many offsets to first 2 floors to right of 4th window and almost full height to left of 3rd window from right end. Coped truncated chimney projection at centre. Ground floor has Tudor stone heads and label moulds to ledged boarded door at left and half-glazed door at right; flat-headed windows, all renewed and most blocked, with chamfered stone surrounds and label moulds. Sashes, smaller on first floor, have fine glazing bars with Gothic heads. Left return has first-floor stone oriel on stone corbels; eaves raised in brick from swept to straight pitch. Rear of whole building has much medieval detail and fine C18 Gothick work.
INTERIOR: entrance hall to domestic range and offices has mid C18 Classical stone arcades. Ground-floor library to right has beams on corbels, and truncated stone pillar in centre of bay window. Offices to left have mid-C18 detail including Greek key fret to fireplace in Secretary's room. Above, private apartments at rear, partly on mezzanine floor, have broad glazing bars to windows to west and in part of Scotland wing which is included, and blocked narrow splayed medieval windows partly revealed in cupboards on east wall. At north end of this a private oratory contains re-used C16 panelling with painted heraldic devices of various European monarchs and of English counties along frieze. Raine describes such panelling as being in 'the housekeeper's room' which seems to have been in the bay with projecting window to right of the private entrance. Rooms at south in extension by Wyatt have late C18 stucco decoration. Rich mid-C18 rococo decoration to dining room, known as King Charles Room, including chimney piece with cornice breaking forward in scroll brackets, and pilasters and inlay of coloured marble with carved panel on frieze showing children and bird's nest. Ceiling has stucco of Italian York school with central sunburst and rich mouldings, plus 6-panel doors in architraves, the mid C18 ones with cornices, some with broken pediments, on pulvinated friezes. State rooms: entrance is through ground-floor room known formerly as the Gentlemen's Hall, which has Wyatt decoration applied to older structure with beams and ceiling stuccoed with blind tracery, and Gothick chimney piece with re-used C17 carved wood overmantel. Wyatt inserted Imperial stair in W end of this room, with paired shafted Gothick balusters and ramped moulded handrail. Half-landing and landing windows are large sashes with delicate glazing bars. All doors in the state rooms are panelled with blind tracery, from the vestibule onwards, which like those to all rooms and cupboards in the major rooms is in Gothick arch with dripmould. Wyatt divided Cosin's long chamber, its wide floorboards still in situ, to make ante-room and throne room, both with Gothick detail including ribbed stucco ceiling panels. Ante-room has canted corners with arched niches. Throne room has delicate stucco shallow canopy to throne, and grey marble or limestone Gothick chimney piece. State dining room to south is mid C18 with rich decoration including chimney piece with terms supporting cornice over moulded frieze, deep dado rail, coved ceiling with guilloche panels with 2 leaf swirls for lights and central painted arms of Bishop Trevor. At north end of this range Bishop Trevor added private apartments now known as the Victoria Flat. They have fine mid C18 decoration including pronounced dado rails, with dentilled enrichment in the bedroom, and with good chimney pieces in 2 bedrooms. Some ceiling cornices, all doors 6-panelled, and in north room, Bishop Trevor's arms on chimney piece. One room divided mid C19 to provide kitchen and bathroom, but canted corner chimney breast survives although chimney piece removed or obscured. In the angled passage to this flat from a narrow stair to left of the chapel porch there are walls which must be C18 lining; a small door high in this wall, at first-floor level, reveals painted wall decoration extending across 2 floor levels, showing a Cross of Lorraine and other heraldic devices - difficult to see. The Cross of Lorraine appears as part of Bishop Bek's patriarchal seal (Raine p.22). This painting could have been executed to decorate the grand stair which was removed by Wyatt. In east corridor of this flat a cupboard with C17 doors, which is in the rear of the west wall of the chapel. Former kitchen range has 3 octagonal stone piers down centre, fireplace detail obscured by boiler fittings. North door of principal room late C15, ledged and boarded with hollow-moulded Tudor arch, has part of inscription carved in spandrels. Similar inscription in serving hatch of Durham Castle kitchen inscribed 1499 for Bishop Fox is complete and reads Est Deo Gracia, suggesting that a door to the left has been removed. In small room to north of this, now fitted as public toilets, a creeing trough is set in square mortared rubble block beside steps to right of door. Scotland wing shows evidence of early fabric on ground floor although much obscured by plaster and removed by alterations, with deeply splayed blocked door in centre north, with smoothly dressed octagonal stone slab with rough edges set on round stone pedestal beside door. In west bay a deeply-chamfered door. In short north range c1980 staircase inserted. On first floor a damaged elliptical fire lintel on south wall, now high above inserted mezzanine floor. Offices at west end include boxed-in medieval pointed arch, garderobe chamber on north wall, and mid C18 chimney piece and stucco ceiling cornice. Upper floor rooms have c1700 2-panel doors. Roof partly inspected. Throne room has king and queen posts with bolted struts to rafters from posts, and much old graffiti made by workmen. Scotland wing has collared pegged trusses with purlins at ridge and 2 levels at sides. The full account of this building's history by Raine gives many extracts from building accounts but must be read bearing in mind that Raine had not understood that the medieval hall is the present chapel. (Listed Building Report)

Malcolm Thurlby dates the hall as completed under Bishop Puiset (i.e. complete before 1195), rather than just started by him and completed in the C13.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER       Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:09

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact