The Trust

Past Projects


The Durham Castle Society and University College Durham Trust have supported a number of important projects over the years.

Below are a few examples of how donations have been used for the benefit of the College. Please click on the titles to find out more.


Tunstall Chapel Refurbishment

The University College Durham Trust has raised over £50,000 for the restoration of the Castle’s Tunstall Chapel. It is the larger of the two Castle chapels and is now used regularly during term time by the College Chapel Choir. The Chapel was built for Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall (or Tunstal; he used both spellings) in the 1540’s; but many of the richly-carved pews, including most of those at the west end, are even older, having been transferred from the (now-demolished) upper Chapel at Auckland Palace, the Bishop’s Country Residence. 

The marble and wooden floor, which was sinking and had loose tiles, has been lifted and re-laid; no skeletons (fortunately) were discovered, nor was any treasure found (unfortunately). The stained glass windows were cleaned and repaired; several were broken a few years ago when a University gardener cutting the grass on the mound of the Keep lost control of his Flymo!

The choir stalls and seats were repaired and cleaned thanks to a specific donation from Mrs Alison Pearson, wife of Neville Pearson who sadly passed away; Neville was one of the founders of the College Trust in 1990. These seats are misericords (“mercy-seats”): hinges allowed them to be folded back to the wall so that the congregation could stand, but a small projection on the underside of each seat afforded something of a prop for those standing during an overlong service. Many of the seats are intricately carved on their undersides (only), some of the College’s favourites being a pig playing the Northumbrian bagpipes and a man pushing his wife in a wheelbarrow. 

The restoration of the chapel organ was completed at a cost of almost £60,000. A specific grant towards this was obtained from the Priestman Trust of Sunderland, to whom we are very grateful. The organ repairs involved 3 months’ work by Harrison & Harrison, a local firm, who installed the organ in 1882 (the warranty had run out unfortunately). The organ is very special – it was originally put in the Cathedral by Father Smith in the late 17th Century and when it was replaced there, cunning castle students trophied the discarded one for the College (just joking).

The Trust is extremely grateful to everyone who has donated to the Tunstall Chapel refurbishment – either directly to the Trust in its appeals or through the University’s telephone campaigns.

West Courtyard Extension

/images/undercroft-2.jpgThe Trust’s project in 2001 was an appeal for support from Castle graduates to fund an extension to the West Courtyard area to provide more communal space for the Junior Common Room. There was a shortage of common rooms in the Castle for the JCR, as there were over 600 members of the College by the start of the new Millenium. Plans were accepted by the City to extend the West Courtyard area to create three connected rooms. These are effectively behind the main wall of the Undercroft and below the Servery.

The College is very grateful for the support of its alumni in helping to fund this project, which provided space for a new JCR TV room, toastie bar and West Courtyard area for a pool table, vending machines and additional seating.

Lowe Library Extension

Thanks to the generous support of the University College Durham Trust, the Lowe Library was extended in 1997 to include the basement floor, providing additional study space and shelving. This is a significant improvement to the library space available in the Castle. The Trust contributed over £42,000 towards this project, supported by donations from other Castle alumni.

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 The Durham Castle Society currently gives an annual contribution of £1000 to the Lowe Library to ensure that book collections are kept up-to-date and relevant to students' needs.


Portrait of John Atkin MBE

The University College Durham Trust has contributed to a painting of John Atkin, Chief Steward, by Andrew Ratcliffe, who has also painted portraits of some of the College’s former Masters. John Atkin, or ‘John the Maid’, as he was fondly known by generations of Castle students, was a college institution in himself. He was awarded an MBE in 2002 for services to higher education. John retired in December 2008 after almost fifty years at University College, having started work as a boy in the Castle kitchens in June 1959.

John was described in the 2002 edition of Castellum (the Castle Society magazine) by Albert Cartmell (University College, 1951-1954) as follows:

‘Mercurial and quixotic, often unorthodox in his approach to problems and people, distinguishableby his jewellery, he is a man you cannot forget. From management’s point of view he is man you have to have on your side. For the student and tourist, his immense good humour, unfailing kindness and concern for those in distress (particularly the ladies), his command of the local dialect and his ability to rub shoulders, literally, with princes and plebs without outwardly recognising the difference, create an unforgetable aura. For the Servery Staff, he is an inspiration as well as a hard task master. Above all John has the ability to charm people and to create, often unwittingly, an atmosphere of fun and bonhomie.’

For any Castlemen who remember John from their time in Durham and have not yet seen the portrait, which now hangs in the Great Hall, we would highly recommend coming to see it at the next Annual Reunion.

Portrait of Prof. Maurice Tucker

A portrait of the Master, Maurice Tucker, was commissioned last year and unveiled in June 2010, after the last formal meal of the Academic Year. The Artist is Andrew Ratcliffe, who also painted our portraits of Ted Salthouse (Master 1979–1998) and John Atkin (the latter also featured in a recent edition of Castellum). The picture was financed jointly by the Castle Society, the Senior Common Room and the Junior Common Room. Once again, we gave the Artist a near-impossible commission, asking for a portrait with something of a contemporary feel that would nonetheless blend in with the others in the Great Hall. Andrew is pictured at work on the Norman Gallery.

The portrait itself shows the Master seated on the Norman Gallery. Under the microscope by his side is a fossil which the young Maurice, then aged seven, found in the family back garden in Newbury Park – a find which started him on his career in Geology. In the background, the Cathedral and Gatehouse are visible through the window – and the car in the courtyard is Maurice’s own (included, at his insistence, to counter the suggestion of antiquity provided by the microscope). Also notice the tie, a College colours tie – for representing castle at table tennis when he was here as an undergraduate, 1965-68!

MacFarlane-Grieve Memorial

Funded by donations to the University College Durham Trust, a memorial to the late MacFarlane-Grieve was installed in 2006.

The latest addition to the Tunstal Gallery is a stained glass panel bearing the arms of Angus Alexander Macfarlane-Grieve, whose long career at Durham included the posts of Bursar (1923–39), Censor (1923–29) and Master of University College (1939–53).

The Castle’s collections include a watercolour of Macfarlane-Grieve but no oil painting and several years ago it was suggested that this omission be rectified – but it was then remembered that ‘‘Mac’’ had specifically resisted the same suggestion as he approached retirement (money being short in the post-wars years) and we decided to continue to honour his wishes. There was no prohibition on a stained glass memorial, however, and that has now been produced, thanks to the University College Durham Trust.

Designed by Kyme’s of Middlesbrough to match similar memorials to several earlier Masters, the new glass replaces one of the clear panels on the Tunstal Gallery.

Durham Castle Society

Durham University