In the closing years of the 15th century, Bishop Fox (1494-1501) undertook extensive remodelling work in the Great Hall, which he shortened to its original Medieval length. He used the space this freed-up to construct four floors of rooms. He also further increased the capacity of the Kitchen and added a Buttery to allow for the easy service of food to the Great Hall. The Kitchen included three vast fireplaces, and the Buttery boasts an intricately carved wooden hatchment, with the date 1499 carved into it.
Tunstall Gallery and Chapel
Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall (1530-1559) built the Tunstall Gallery, Clock Tower and Tunstall Chapel in the 1540s. The two-storey Tunstall Gallery was built out from the North Hall. Galleries like this were symbols of wealth and good taste. They provided indoor space to entertain guests, stretch your legs during bad weather, look out over your estate, and showcase your prized possessions. Today, we use the gallery to display items from Durham Castle’s Museum collections, much as Bishop Tunstall would have done 500 years ago.
Tunstall also widened the entrance to the Gatehouse to allow access for carriages, fitting it with new iron-bound gates. During the 17th century, significant building work was undertaken by Bishop Cosin (1660-1672) and Bishop Crewe (1674-1722), both of whom extended the Tunstall Chapel.
One of the most distinctive features of the Tunstall Chapel are the misericords, or ‘mercy seats’. Tunstall moved these from Auckland Castle to Durham Castle. These hinged seats are designed to be raised when not in use, but are fitted with a ledge on their underside so that people standing for services could continue to rest on them. Many of the seats around the Chapel have intricate carvings, including a pig playing the Northumbrian pipes, a collection of mythical creatures such as unicorns, griffins and dragons, and even a man wheeling his wife in a wheelbarrow.
A carving of a pelican piercing its breast. This was the symbol from the coat of arms of Bishop Fox.
Looking down the Tunstall Gallery in Durham Castle, featuring wooden panelling and the museum displays.
The Tunstall Chapel in Durham Castle. Looking east towards the stained-glass windows and altar.
A 12th century reconstruction drawing by Dominic Andrews. The reconstruction drawing features the North Hall, Keep, Gatehouse and Norman Chapel.