The Fortification of the Peninsula
How successful was the Castle as a defensive structure? Find out about its walls and gates.
Visitors to Durham Castle today are likely to overlook the fact that the Castle comprised much of the Durham Peninsula, including the Cathedral Precinct.
Building the Outer Walls
Though nature had made the city a fortress, he made it stronger and more imposing with a wall....."
A monk of Durham, writing about the 11th century Bishop Flambard. (Anglia Sacra, i, 708).
Masonry walls were built around the peninsula between 1099 and 1128 by Bishop Flambard. These were probably a rebuilding of earlier Anglo-Saxon defences.
In addition to a wall around the southern part of the peninsula, there was a wall around Palace Green and another around the marketplace.
The walls, strengthened with flanking towers and buttress turrets, followed the contours of the hill rising up from the river banks on all sides except the north, where a wall of great strength, varying from 10m to 15m in height, was built to the north of the castle with a dry moat outside this (along modern Moatside Lane).
There was a massive gate in this northern wall, the North Gate, at the southern end of what is now Saddler Street.
Two other gates were present in the walls, leading to fords across the river: Kings Gate (on modern Bow Lane) and Water Gate or Bailey Gate (at the southern end of South Bailey).
There was also a postern (secondary gate) Dark Entry’ in the Priory, while medieval references to a ‘Windishole Gate’ suggest another such gate at the modern Windy Gap.
The Outer Bailey Walls Today
Although much overgrown, the peninsula’s outer fortifications can still be seen along the river banks. These are in fact the walls of the castle, not of the city.