950th Birthday of Durham Castle

How do you celebrate a nine hundred and fiftieth birthday? That was the challenge embraced by the Castle community in 2022. Durham Castle, founded in 1072 at the behest of William the Conqueror, has been the seat of power for the great Prince Bishops of Durham. It has hosted royalty on many occasions, and since 1837 been the home of University College. Throughout the year we presented a diverse and exciting series of 950 events aimed at both connecting with our history and celebrating the vibrant community that the Castle represents today.

As the world slowly emerged from the depths of the Covid Pandemic, the 950 Celebrations’ theme “Reawakening” was embodied with the relaunch of the Castle Lecture Series. These talks invited the wider community into the extraordinary, historic setting of the Great Hall to engage with both the intellectual and social life of the college. Over the course of the year, we were honoured to host talks on such wide-ranging topics as:

During the Summer, the celebratory elements of the 950 Program were brought to the fore by a series of open days. The Castle gates were flung wide open to the general public. Events that included bouncy castles, face painting, magicians, live music, pizza, cake and even daring feats of arms by gallant knights took place in the courtyard. It was truly a party fit for nearly a millennium!

Over the centuries, Durham Castle has accumulated its fair share of spooky stories and scary anecdotes. In October, we gathered in the Bishop’s Dinning Room, decorated in a suitably eerie fashion, to sip spiced cider as spine tingling stories from near and far were shared by members of our own Castle community. In the flickering, shadow filled light it was easy to imagine yourself in a haunted castle…and maybe we were! 

As the year of 950 celebrations drew to a close, we brought the celebrations to London with an Alumni gathering at the beautiful Clothmakers’ Hall. This was an opportunity for University College graduates new and old to connect and hear about what has been going on at the Castle.  This gathering provided an opportunity for us all to look ahead at the exciting new developments on the horizon including the North Terrace redevelopment.

To conclude the year, we hosted a Murder Mystery evening welcoming students, staff, and members of the wider Durham community to the Great Hall. Over the course of a delicious dinner guests tried to untangle a complex web of clues and red herrings to catch a killer and discover Who Done It!

Durham Castle’s 950th anniversary was a truly remarkable milestone and as we gathered throughout the year, it became clear that the vibrant and dynamic community that calls the castle home today continues to celebrate our shared story, build fresh memories, and tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

You can watch recordings from some of our most recent Castle lectures by clicking on the images below.

Castle 950 Talk: 'A strong castle, in their language called Durham' Dr John Munns

Curator in Conversation: Dr Barbara Drake Boehm