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Durham University

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Miss Caroline Smith

The Palaces of the Bishops of Durham: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives AD 1100 – 1550 in the Department of History

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Academic Background

In 2014 I completed a BA (Hons) degree in archaeology from Durham University with a dissertation exploring the effect of post-medieval landscape development on medieval settlement. Following this, I have started a Masters by Research in archaeology investigating the medieval residences of the bishops of Durham. Resulting from this research, I volunteer at the Durham Cathedral Muniments cataloguing the medieval documentary collections. Additionally, I have participated in many fieldwork projects including the ‘Tripillye Mega-Sites’ Project, Ukraine and the ‘Religious orders on the frontier: monks on the edge of Christian Europe’ Project, NE Spain.

Research Topic

The Palaces of the Bishops of Durham: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives AD 1100 – 1550.


The bishops of Durham were amongst the wealthiest ecclesiastical figures in medieval Britain. As a consequence their residences were both numerous and geographically diverse, although few have received appropriate attention. This project adopts a multifaceted approach combining documentary evidence in the form of bishops’ registers and itineraries with archaeological datasets ranging from geophysical prospection, excavation and standing buildings analysis. Through this integrated approach, I hope to better understand the interaction between these buildings and their owners: how palaces influenced episcopacy but equally, how the changing role of the bishops influenced palace form. Ultimately, this study adopts a primarily archaeological approach which, when combined with historical data, provides new insights into the interrelationship between religion and politics and its expression through bishop’s palaces in medieval Britain.


Best Medieval/Post-Medieval Dissertation Prize, Dept. of Archaeology, Durham University

Research Projects

Department of Archaeology

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