"my Park being a favourite article with me as, before I had one, my garden was…" Joseph Butler, Prince Bishop of Durham (1750-1752)
Wednesday 6 April 2016 - Tuesday 31 December 2019
The Prince Bishops created Auckland Park over 800 years ago as their own private hunting ground. It was one of the reasons why the Bishops of Durham chose to live at Auckland Castle, rather than in Durham City.
The park has its origins in the medieval hunting grounds of the Prince Bishops, and was much larger than it is today. First mentioned in 1181 in the Boldon Book (a survey of the estates of the Bishopric of Durham), by the Middle Ages the park housed a large herd of deer, as well as Wild Cattle. Its coppiced woodland would have supported the Bishop’s palace, supplying it with wood and charcoal. The 200 acre parkland retains many of the medieval elements, including the fish ponds and woodland paths, providing an important record of how the medieval bishops lived, entertained and hunted.
Over the centuries many Prince Bishops changed the aspect of the park but Richard Trevor, Bishop of Durham from 1752 to 1771, had the greatest impact. He built the Clock Tower and Gatehouse and remodelled the park as a landscape setting to the palace. Bishop Trevor created the Georgian Gothic Deer House as a place to shelter and feed the deer, and also created a first floor dining room from which guests could view the palace and surrounding countryside while enjoying the bishop’s hospitality.
The 18th-century Bishops added other features in the park: beyond one of the stunning bridges which span the River Gaunless you can find the ice house and a stone pyramid that caps an early water supply for the castle.
Following Auckland Castle’s re-opening in 2019 we have ambitions to recreate the beautiful original designs of the park.
A temporary haul road is currently running through the Deer Park to allow access for construction traffic during the conservation. The park remains free and safe for the public to access during this time and visitors are simply advised to take extra care and keep dogs on a lead near the haul road if possible. The road will be removed entirely once work is complete.
The Deer Park is open from 6am to 5pm.
After 5pm the main gates will be locked.