Closed for winter season, reopening 23rd March 2022 – 31st December 2022.
Positioned high above the meandering River Wear, Auckland Castle was once home to the Prince Bishops of Durham, and was the place where they entertained, hunted and worshipped.
These were incredibly powerful men. They were given exceptional powers by the Norman kings of England, as well as the Church, and governed vast swathes of North East England.
Auckland Castle was built to host lavish medieval celebrations and hunting parties, to entertain royalty and impress visitors with the bishops’ power and wealth. From Bishop Auckland, the Prince Bishops ventured forth to broker royal marriages, lead armies into battle and advise kings.
Over the centuries, the Prince Bishops became increasingly wealthy. They used this money to transform the castle into a palace that showed off their high status. St Peter’s Chapel is the perfect example: Bishop Cosin turned the medieval Great Hall into the largest private chapel in Europe, a beautiful space to inspire people to feel the glory of God.
Art and Architecture
The Castle was transformed once again in the 1790s, when Bishop Barrington commissioned the renowned English architect James Wyatt to create a succession of magnificent state rooms.
These rooms contained delicate plasterwork and sumptuous furnishings in the fashionable Gothic style.
Among the finest surviving examples of Wyatt’s work in the country, they form a grand processional route through the Castle to the Throne Room.
These interiors have been conserved and visitors can marvel at Wyatt’s original scheme as they explore the Castle.
Are you intrigued?
You can find hundreds of years of hidden history within these walls. When the Castle reopens in March 2022, come and walk these northern corridors of power and let the Prince Bishops tell you their stories.
The Castle is also home to another family of well-known residents. Jacob and his Twelve Sons, an impressive series of paintings by the Spanish master Francisco de Zurbarán, have hung in the Long Dining Room since they were purchased by Bishop Trevor in 1756.
Bishop Trevor Gallery
The Bishop Trevor Gallery is named after Richard Trevor, who was Bishop of Durham from 1752 to 1771. Bishop Trevor played an important role in the story of Auckland Castle, having purchased the series of paintings of Jacob and his Twelve Sons by Francisco de Zurbarán, which have hung in the Long Dining Room at the Castle for over 250 years.
The gallery is housed in a series of rooms that were once Bishop Trevor’s private apartments. Designed by John Carr (1723 – 1807), who was one of the most renowned architects of the day, they were originally known as the North Apartments and look out across the River Wear in the valley below. It will house a programme of special exhibitions of fine art, with a focus on European painting from the medieval period to the present day. The displays will include masterpieces on loan from private collections and institutions.
Please visit The Auckland Project website for ticket information.