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DURHAM CASTLE

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Castle, which has been rebuilt, extended and adapted to changing circumstances during a period of continuous occupation since its foundation circa 1072. Its role has changed; from being a key fortress in the defence of the border with Scotland, it was gradually transformed in more peaceful times into an imposing and comfortable palace for the Bishops of Durham, and since 1837, soon after the foundation of the University of Durham, has served as a residential college. Construction of a castle at Durham was begun circa 1072 as a symbol of Norman power in the north and the re-establishment of William the Conqueror's regal authority followed the murder of William's earl in 1069 and the defeat of the Norman army who had occupied the town. It is likely that some fortifications were built early in the 11th century on the site of the present castle when the peninsula of Durham was occupied by the Community of St Cuthbert, although no firm evidence of the Saxon defences has yet been found. The earliest castle building, however, began circa 1072 by Waltheof, the new Earl of Northumberland. Following his murder in 1075 it was continued by Bishop Walcher and it remained the principal residence of the Bishops of Durham throughout the Medieval period. The outer defences of the castle embraced the whole of the peninsula including the cathedral and priory, but the main defences were placed along its vulnerable north boundary. The chronology of the early Norman castle is still subject to much debate and conjecture.

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