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Portfolio > North East England 3 > Barnard Castle, County Durham                                              Click on an image below to reveal enlarged version

Barnard Castle, County Durham, UK

Barnard Castle is a market town on the north bank of the River Tees, in County DurhamNorthern England. The town is named after and built around a medieval castle ruin. The town's Bowes Museum's has an 18th-century Silver Swan automaton exhibit and paintings by Goya and El GrecoIt sits on the opposite bank to Startforth and is 21 miles (34 km) south-west of the county town of Durham. Nearby towns include Bishop Auckland to the north-east, Darlington to the east and Richmond in North Yorkshire to the south-east. The largest employer is GlaxoSmithKline, with a manufacturing facility on the town's outskirts.

Before the Norman conquest the upper half of Teesdale had been combined into an Anglo-Norse estate which was centred upon the ancient village of Gainford and mortgaged to the Earls of Northumberland. The first Norman Bishop of DurhamBishop Walcher, was murdered in 1080. This led to the surrounding country being attacked and laid waste by the Norman overlords. Further rebellion in 1095 caused the king William II to break up the Earldom of Northumberland into smaller baronies. The Lordship of Gainford was given to Guy de Balliol.

The earthwork fortifications of the castle were rebuilt in stone by his successor, Bernard de Balliol I during the latter half of the 12th century, giving rise to the town's name. The castle passed down through the Balliol family (of which the Scottish king, John Balliol, was the most important member) and then into the possession of Richard Neville, Earl of WarwickKing Richard III inherited it through his wife, Anne Neville, but it fell into ruins in the century after his death.


The remains of the castle are Grade I listed, whilst the chapel in the outer ward is Grade II listed. Both sets of remains are now in the care of English Heritage and open to the public. John Bowes lived at nearby Streatlam Castle (now demolished). His Streatlam stud never had more than ten breeding mares at one time, but produced no fewer than four Derby winners in twenty years. The last of these, "West Australian", was the first racehorse to win the Triple Crown, in 1853. Bowes and his wife Joséphine Benoîte Coffin-Chevallier founded the Bowes Museum, which is of national status. Housed in its own ornate building, the museum contains an El Greco, paintings by GoyaCanalettoBoucherFragonard and a collection of decorative art. A great attraction is the 18th century silver swan automaton, which periodically preens itself, looks round and appears to catch and swallow a fish.


Although never a major manufacturing centre, in the 18th century industry centred on hand loom wool weaving, and in the early 19th century the principal industry was spinning and the manufacture of shoe thread.


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