From opening new buildings and unveiling museum exhibitions, to attending special ceremonies at Durham Cathedral, many members of the Royal Family have visited Durham, for many different reasons throughout the years.

To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee we’re looking back over the years to highlight some of the amazing places members of the Royal Family have visited across the county. Can you remember these royal visits? 

collage of images left to right, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Anne and The Queen Mother visiting Durham Cathedral at different times throughout the years.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 

October 1947 
One month before her wedding and 5 years before her accession in 1952, the then Princess Elizabeth laid the foundation stone of St Mary’s College, Durham University. The silver trowel which Princess Elizabeth used on the day is still kept by the collage. 

At the time, the Chancellor of Durham University was the Marquess of Londonderry, who the Princess stayed with, along with his wife at their home at Wynyard Hall. Wynyard Hall is now an exclusive wedding venue, and also home to an award-winning farmshop, café and beautiful walled gardens which are open to visit throughout the year.  

Drone shot of Wynyard Hall - copywrite Wynyard Hall

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh  

May 2002
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited the seaside town of Seaham, arriving by royal train into Seaham Station. From Seaham, the royal couple went on to view the memorial garden commemorating Easington Colliery disaster of 1951 and the Turning the Tide coastal improvement project at Blackhall Rocks.     

Once known for its coal mining and black beaches, The Turning the Tide project transformed the polluted, industrial Durham coastline, into a beautiful stretch of coast, now known for its abundance of wildlife, stunning clifftop walks and beautiful beaches. 

It was during this visit the Queen also officially opened Durham’s Millennium Place, which is home to Gala Theatre, Durham City library, stylish bars and restaurants.  

HRH Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother

July 1975
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother opened the Timothy Hackworth Victorian Railway Museum in Shildon, the forerunner of today’s LocomotionThe National Railway Museum. Did you know the Queen Mother loaned a silver replica of an engine to the museum?    

Today Locomotion exhibits many historic carriages and engines including Queen Alexandra’s Saloon carriage (wife of Kind Edward VII).   It was constructed in 1902, designed by J. C. Park and built at the London & North Western Railway Carriage Works at Wolverton.

Queen Alexandra's Saloon on display at Locomotion - image copywrite Science Museum Group

The Queen Mother had a very special relationship with the Bowes family and with The Bowes Museum. The Bowes were one of the most ancient families of County Durham, and their ancestral home was Streatlam Castle, near Barnard Castle, where she would spend family holidays as a child. 

Until her death in 2002 The Queen Mother was Patron of the Friends of The Bowes Museum, and visited the museum many times throughout her life, including a visit in September 1976 to open the Queen Elizabeth Gallery of Costume, named in her honour. As a memorial to her 40 years as a supportive patron, the Friends of TBM erected an armillary sphere (a model of objects in the sky) in the grounds of the Museum, which was officially unveiled by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, October 2005. 

Queen Mother admiring Silver Swan at The Bowes Museum - image copywrite The Bowes Museum

June 1987
The Queen Mother pulled into Durham City onboard the royal train which was pulled by the locomotive “St. Cuthbert”. During her visit to Durham City she stood on the balcony of Durham Town Hall to greet people assembled in the Market Place, and also took a tour of Durham Cathedral

Did you know you can now step inside and visit Durham Town Hall? A real hidden gem of Durham City, the Town Hall is open every Saturday 10am – 3pm. Learn about the powerful Price Bishops, the evolution of local government, and the historic and ongoing roles of the Mayor and the Mayor's Bodyguard.

The Long Dining Room inside Auckland Castle

HRH Charles, Prince of Wales 

July 2012 and April 2022 
HRH Charles, The Prince of Wales has visited The Auckland Project twice in recent years. In 2012 he visited Auckland Castle, accompanied by The Bishop of Durham and young people of The Prince’s Trust to view Francisco de Zurbarán’s Jacob and His Twelve Sons paintings. 

The paintings were bought by Bishop Trevor in 1756 and have hung in the Long Dining Room at Auckland Castle for over 250 years. No visit to Auckland Castle is complete without stepping into the Long Dining Room to get a close up view of these 17th century masterpieces, and one of the largest collections of Zurbaráns in the world.

The Prince of Wales returned in spring 2022, alongside Queen Letizia of Spain to officially open the Spanish Gallery, the UK’s first gallery dedicated to the art, history and culture of Spain. Here you can immerse yourself in the Spanish Golden Age, enjoy a taste of Spain in the new Tapas restaurant, and see the UK's largest collection of 16th and 17th century Spanish artworks outside London, including work by El Greco, Murillo and Velazquez. 

Prince Charles stood outside Durham Cathedral with several other people - image copywrite Durham Cathedral

February 2018 
HRH Charles, The Prince of Wales officially opened Open Treasure at Durham Cathedral, now known as Durham Cathedral Museum. Whilst in Durham City he also visited Bowes House, South Bailey (part of Durham University’s St John’s College) to unveil a plaque which commemorates his ancestor Dame Elizabeth Bowes (1651-1736) who lived at Bowes House and is an ancestor of Prince Charles through his late grandmother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.        

The Cathedral Museum is open daily, where you can step into the octagonal Great Kitchen, get up close to the treasures of St Cuthbert, experience the sounds and smells of daily life at Durham Cathedral in centuries gone by in the Monks' Dormitory, and discover the stories of how Christianity flourished in North East England.

To mark the 125th anniversary of The Bowes Museum, HRH also headed to Barnard Castle for a tour of the museum, including the refurbished ceramics galleries and to examine the botanical cabinet of Mary Eleanor Bowes - grandmother to John Bowes, founder of The Bowes Museum, and the great great grandmother of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. 

Princess Anne meeting Pip the pony at Beamish The Living Museum of the North
HRH Anne, Princess Royal 

HRH Princess Anne, Princess Royal officially opened The 1900's Town’s Carriage House at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North. During her visit she was also lucky enough to meet Pip the pit pony. Don't forgot to visit the Carriage House on your next trip to Beamish Museum to see various  historic carriages, you may even get to meet some of the museum's adorable pit ponies who can usually be found in the 1900s colliery. 

HRH The Duke of Kent

A few years later a member of the royal family returned to Beamish Museum to open the Masonic Hall in the museum's 1900's Town. HRH The Duke of Kent officially opened the Masonic Hall in a ceremony supported by 2,000 Freemasons in full regalia who processed through The Town's main street as part of the opening celebrations.

View of the gardens at ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens on a bright sunny day

October 2018
HRH The Duke of Kent returned to Durham to visit Ushaw College, now known as Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, to learn about its plans to transform itself into an arts and events venue. During his visit he inspected the College’s Library, attended a performance by the County Youth Choir in the College chapel and planted an oak tree in the grounds.   

Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens is open daily, with a whole host of  activites, events and exhibitions to enjoy.   

Do you have a memory of a royal visit? We'd love to hear them in the comments below or share your memories with us via our Facebook page. 

Images used in this blog courtesy of Durham Cathedral, Wynyard Hall, Science Museum Group, The Bowes Museum, The Auckland Project and Beamish, The Living Museum of the North. 




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