Conservation work begins at Durham Castle’s Norman Chapel

The first phase of the project will include repairing the water damage to the Chapel's sandstone walls.

The Norman Chapel at Durham Castle is the oldest standing building in Durham City. IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons/Matthew Hoser

At Durham Castle, a project to restore the 11th-century Norman Chapel – the oldest standing building in Durham City – has begun.

William the Conqueror ordered the construction of Durham Castle in 1072 to control the rebellious local population and defend the border with Scotland.

It evolved into a palatial residence for the Bishops of Durham, seeing eras of remodelling according to changes in styles, until it was donated in 1837 to the University of Durham.

The Norman Chapel was briefly used during the Second World War as a command and observation post for the Royal Air Force.

Over the years, however, the ground levels around the Chapel have risen, and being now partly subterranean, water from surrounding soil has caused damage to the sandstone walls.

The first phase of the project will involve restoring the stonework and putting in place protective measures against future water damage.

Other original features of the Chapel, such as its sandstone pillars, which are threaded through with iron to give the appearance of marble, and stunning stone carvings of lions, snakes, and what is thought to be the earliest depiction of a mermaid in England, will also be conserved.

Lighting will be installed to highlight the carvings, along with new interpretation and displays in the recently refurbished Chapel entrance.

Durham Castle is open for guided tours throughout the year.