Auckland Castle

Auckland Castle
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Set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland above the River Wear, Auckland Castle has been home to the Bishop of Durham for over 900 years.

After the Norman Conquest, the Bishop of Durham was granted exceptional powers to act as a political and military leader. As England’s one and only Prince-Bishop, he was the second most powerful man in the country and effectively ruled the area between the Tyne and the Tees.

The Castle is now home to many important works of art, most notably the paintings of Jacob and his Twelve Sons by Spanish master Fransisco da Zurbarán (1598-1664).

Venue Type:

Gallery, Historic house or home

Opening hours

Winter Opening

The Library Tea Room will be open 10:30 am – 3:30pm every day except Tuesdays.
Auckland Castle will open fully to the public from Saturday 14th February 2015.

Admission charges

Adults: £8.00
Children (under 16):£free
Accompanying carers are given free admission.
National Art Pass holders receive 50% reduction on admission.

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

Bill Viola

  • 12 June — 26 October 2015 *on now

Auckland Castle plays host to a major arts installation that evocatively responds to its context, and challenges all your senses and preconceptions about faith.

Earth Martyr, Air Martyr, Fire Martyr, and Water Martyr are four individual works by Bill Viola derived from his large-scale video installation Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), unveiled at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, in May 2014. Unsettling yet beautiful, these works offer a profound contemplation on the nature of faith, suffering, sacrifice, and death.

Through the medium of video, Viola reflects on the fundamental meaning of martyrdom.
He writes, ‘The Greek word for martyr originally meant “witness.” In today’s world, the mass media turns us all into witnesses to the suffering of others. The martyrs’ past lives of action can help illuminate our modern lives of inaction. They also exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs and principles.’

Each silent video shows a man or woman being overcome by one of the four elements, immovable in the face of their physical agony.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Normal admission charges apply


Plots and Spangles

  • 16 October 2015 — 11 April 2016

Presented within Auckland Castle's beautiful State Rooms, this exhibition of lavishly embroidered priest's vestments tells the compelling and tragic tale of one woman's religious devotion in the aftermath of the Gunpowder plot. This impressive collection has been described as 'the single most important body of work by a named Englishwoman in early modern times'.

Helena Wintour was only six years old when her father, the notorious Gunpowder plot conspirator Robert Wintour, was captured, put on trial and executed. She dedicated the rest of her life to the service of the Catholic faith, and to creating this rare collection of thirteen highly decorated ceremonial garments. Each of the vestments is embroidered by hand and embellished with sequins, precious stones and pearls.

This is the first time the full collection has been reunited in nearly 350 years. The vestments will be displayed alongside other seventeenth-century artefacts including Guy Fawkes lantern and a first folio of Shakespeare's Histories and Tragedies from 1623. Together these objects tell a complex story of faith, treason and devotion.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Free with admission to the Castle
Adults £6, Concessions £5, Under 16's free
Annual Pass £15 per person, £14 Concessions


Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

Mistress Wintour's Rich Embrodered Churchestuffe: practical Catholic devotion for laywomen following the Gunpowder Plot

  • 4 November 2015 From 6pm

An examination of Helena Wintour's embroidered vestments and their Catholic iconography. The talk will look at the religious and cultural resources available to recusant laity in the decades after the failed Plot of 1605, and Helena's close association with Jesuit spirituality.

The complex iconography of her beautiful embroideries draws on many sources, from botanical prints to Counter-Reformation confraternities and English metaphysical poetry. Helena's remarkable life story and that of the creation and survival of a unique set of 17th century embroideries is a compelling, romantic and tragic tale, which culminates in the triumphal re-uniting of her divided life's work at Auckland Castle, in the exhibition ‘Plots and Spangles: The Embroidered Vestments of Helena Wintour’ that opens in October 2015.

Suitable for

  • Not suitable for children


Lecture tickets cost £6 and must be paid for in advance. If you have an Annual Pass (costing £15) lectures are free but please book your place in advance as spaces are limited. If you would like to purchase an Annual Pass, please call 01388 743797.


Auckland Castle
Market Place
Bishop Auckland
County Durham
DL14 7NR




01388 743750

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.