Our grand Conference Banquetheld on Thursday 11th September.

Great Hall


The Castle of the Prince Bishops 

Durham Castle, together with the neighbouring Cathedral, is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the historic venue for the Grand Conference Banquet. 

First constructed in the 11th Century, the castle was designed to be a symbol of the new Norman king's authority and regime, to subdue the "wild and fickle" local population, which did not take kindly to the Norman conquest of these islands. The king chose to appoint whoever was currently Bishop of Durham to exercise his royal authority in the region, so for this reason the succession of clerics became known as the "Prince Bishops". Many of them adopted a lifestyle to suit this title! 

The Great Hall of the castle stands an impressive 14 metres tall and when it was created by Bishop Bek early in the 14th Century it was the largest Great Hall in England. Two hundred years later, his successor Bishop Richard Foxe decided to shorten it, but even in its shortened form it is still 30 metres long. No wonder that this provided inspiration for "Hogwarts" in the "Harry Potter" films! This unique place is the setting for our Grand Conference Banquet. 

Until 1837 the castle remained as the Bishop's residence, but in that year the then Bishop of Durham, Bishop Edward Maltby, donated the building (together with its maintenance costs!) to the University of Durham to serve as student accommodation - it became known as "University College". The castle had become dilapidated, so three years work was needed to renovate it. Although this was done in architectural sympathy with the original plans, inevitably much of the original interior was modified to make it suitable for its new use. The Great Hall remains intact, however, and is used by the resident students as a refectory.