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Barnard Castle

Coordinates: 54°33′N 1°55′W / 54.55°N 1.92°W / 54.55; -1.92
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Barnard Castle
Town and civil parish
The "Butter Market" (the town's Market Cross)
Barnard Castle is located in County Durham
Barnard Castle
Barnard Castle
Location within County Durham
Population5,495 (2011)[1]
OS grid referenceNZ047166
Civil parish
  • Barnard Castle [2]
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtDL12
Dialling code01833
FireCounty Durham and Darlington
AmbulanceNorth East
UK Parliament
List of places
County Durham
54°33′N 1°55′W / 54.55°N 1.92°W / 54.55; -1.92

Barnard Castle (locally [ˈbɑːnəd ˈkæsəl], BAH-nəd KASS-əl) is a market town on the north bank of the River Tees, in County Durham, 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 Greco.

It 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.[3][4][5]


Before the Norman Conquest in 1066, 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 Durham, Bishop 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.[6] 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 Warwick. King 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,[7] whilst the chapel in the outer ward is Grade II listed.[8] Both sets of remains are now in the care of English Heritage and open to the public.

John Bowes lived at nearby Streatlam Castle (demolished in 1959). 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 Goya, Canaletto, Boucher, Fragonard 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.[9]

Notable visitors[edit]

The ruins of Barnard Castle, which gave the town its name

Walter Scott frequently visited his friend John Sawrey Morritt at Rokeby Hall and was fond of exploring Teesdale. He begins his epic poem Rokeby (1813) with a man standing on guard on the round tower of the Barnard Castle fortress.[10]

Charles Dickens (Boz) and his illustrator Hablot Browne (Phiz) stayed at the King's Head in Barnard Castle while researching his novel Nicholas Nickleby in the winter of 1837–38. He is said to have entered William Humphrey's clock-maker's shop, then opposite the hotel, and enquired who had made a certain remarkable clock. William replied that his boy Humphrey had done it. This seems to have prompted Dickens to choose the title "Master Humphrey's Clock" for his new weekly, in which The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge appeared.[11][12][13]

William Wordsworth,[14] Daniel Defoe,[15] Ralph Waldo Emerson,[16] Hilaire Belloc,[17] Bill Bryson[18] and the artist J. M. W. Turner[19] have also visited the town.

In May 2020 Barnard Castle came to national attention when Dominic Cummings, the chief adviser of the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was discovered to have driven to the town with his family during the COVID-19 pandemic, while at a significant risk of having the disease himself owing to contact with the infected Prime Minister. (Cummings developed symptoms the next day.) Following media allegations that he had broken lockdown regulations by driving to the town, he told how he drove there to test his eyesight to reassure his wife that he was able to drive them back to London the next day.[20][21][22]


Barnard Castle Post Office

Barnard Castle is for all purposes (historic, ceremonial and unitary authority) located in County Durham. Barnard Castle has a Town Council governing a civil parish. The Town Council elects a ceremonial Town Mayor annually.

It is part of the Bishop Auckland parliamentary constituency, which as of 2019 is represented in parliament by Dehenna Davison of The Conservative Party. All four Durham County Councillors whose wards (Barnard Castle East and Barnard Castle West) include part of Barnard Castle are Conservative.[23]

The local police force is Durham Constabulary. The town is the base for the Barnard Castle division, which covers 300 square miles (780 km2). This division is within the force's south area.


Between 1894 and 1974 the town was administratively part of Barnard Castle Urban District.[24] The administrative and ceremonial county boundary was adjusted in 1974. Barnard Castle became administrative centre of the Teesdale district of County Durham non-metropolitan county until its abolition on 1 April 2009 and the county council became the unitary authority of County Durham.


  • Elevation: 180 m (600 ft)
  • Nearest large towns: Darlington, 16 miles (26 km). Bishop Auckland 14.8 miles (24 km)


The most important employer in Barnard Castle is GSK, which has a large pharmaceutical manufacturing plant on the outskirts of the town which employs around 1,000 people.[25] GSK has invested £80 million into the plant since 2007.[26] Barnard Castle School follows GSK in second place, employing 183 people.[27]


Barnard Castle Bridge over the River Tees

Barnard Castle has road connections to Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor and central County Durham via the A688 and Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees, and Middlesbrough by the A67. Barnard Castle is also four miles (6.4 km) from the A66, with access to the M6 to the west and the A1(M) to the east. The B6278 also connects Barnard Castle with Middleton-in-Teesdale. The old road bridge over the River Tees was built in 1569 and is Grade I listed.[28][29]

Barnard Castle railway station was closed for passenger trains in 1964. A Bill was approved in 1854 for a line from a junction with the Stockton & Darlington Railway at Darlington to Barnard Castle and opened on 9 July 1856, with intermediate stations at Broomielaw, Winston, Gainford and Piercebridge. The terminus at Darlington only lasted five years. In 1856 the South Durham & Lancashire Railway proposed a line from Bishop Auckland to Tebay via Barnard Castle and Kirkby Stephen but only the western section was built with the Company receiving its Bill in 1857.

The line opened on 8 August 1861 from a second terminus at Barnard Castle to a junction with the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway at Tebay with intermediate stations at Lartington, Bowes, Barras, Kirkby Stephen, Ravenstondale & Gaisgill. The two stations at Barnard Castle were some distance apart; the earliest station became a through station and closed to passengers on 1 May 1862, but remained in use as a goods depot. The second station was closed for passenger trains under the Beeching cuts in 1964 and completely on 5 April 1965 and the site was eventually built on by GlaxoSmithKline.[30] Today rail access is via Bishop Auckland, or Darlington. There are two bus routes provided by Arriva North East which connect Barnard Castle to Darlington, the X75 (Via Staindrop) and X76 (Via Winston) and there is also the 79, provided by Hodgsons Coaches, which travels from Barnard Castle to Richmond.


Barnard Castle School is an independent co-educational boarding school located on the eastern edge of the town. Teesdale School is an 11–18 comprehensive school on the outskirts of the town, just off the A688.

There are three primary schools serving the town. Green Lane school is a primary school for 4–11 year olds. St Mary's is a Roman Catholic school situated on Birch Road near the church of the same name.[31] Montalbo Primary School and Nursery is for 3-11year olds.


The Bowes Museum was purpose-built to house the collection of John and Josephine Bowes. The museum is built in the style of a French chateau, in extensive grounds, and is by far the largest building in the town. It contains paintings by El Greco, Francisco Goya, Canaletto, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher, together with a sizable collection of decorative art, ceramics, textiles, tapestries, clocks and costumes, as well as older items from local history. It is famous for the Silver Swan automaton, which played every day at 2pm until it seized up during the 2020 COVID-19 Lockdown, it is currently undergoing repairs.[32][33]

The Witham Arts Centre on the Horse Market, presents a variety of events, including drama, cinema, music, spoken word and children's events as well as being the town's visitor information centre.[34]

The Barnard Castle Meet is an annual carnival festival held on the second bank holiday weekend in May, the schools' summer half-term week. The Meet, as it is known locally, has grown from the North East Cyclists' Meet dating back to 1885, and since the early 1900s the town has staged a carnival and grand procession through the town centre on the bank holiday Monday. The weekend is now probably the largest event in the Barnard Castle and Teesdale calendar. There are around twenty separate events that the Meet Committee asserts 'reach every corner of the community'. In recent years the committee has staged its own music event showcasing local and national talent on the Sunday and Monday, with all technical and musical support from Teesdale Community Resources (TCR).

The TCR Hub[35] is a community centre on the edge of the town with a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities.

The Barnard Castle Band, founded in 1860, is a brass band based in the town, well known outside the area as a result of the march Barnard Castle by Goff Richards.[36]

Notable people[edit]

  • Anne Fine – children's writer. Twice Whitbread Prize winner
  • Arthur Henderson – Winner of Nobel Peace prize (1934). Former MP for Barnard Castle and first Labour cabinet minister[37]
  • David Harper - BBC TV Antiques Presenter
  • Glenn Hugill – television presenter and producer
  • David Jennings – composer
  • Ian Usher – traveller, adventurer, writer and speaker. Sold "entire life" on eBay in 2008

Former residents[edit]


  1. ^ "Town population 2011". Archived from the original on 14 July 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  2. ^ "Home :Barnard Castle Town Council". Barnardcastletowncouncil.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 22 January 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  3. ^ "GSK Barnard Castle". Devereux Architects. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014.
  4. ^ "BBC – Domesday Reloaded: A BARNARD CASTLE FACTORY". domesday. Archived from the original on 2 January 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  5. ^ "Teesdale Mercury". teesdalemercury.co.uk. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014.
  6. ^ Lilley, Charles (2000). Old Barnard Castle. Catrine, Ayrshire: Stenlake Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 9781840331059. Archived from the original on 2 November 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  7. ^ Historic England (24 February 1950). "The Castle (Grade I) (1218822)". National Heritage List for England.
  8. ^ Historic England (22 May 1973). "Former chapel at north west corner of garden to number 7 former chapel in outer ward of the castle, with wall attached (Grade II) (1282722)". National Heritage List for England.
  9. ^ All in due time: the collected essays and broadcast talks of Humphry House By Humphry House p283
  10. ^ "History of Barnard Castle, in Teesdale and County Durham – Map and description". visionofbritain.org.uk. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
  11. ^ "BBC News – Exhibition explores Charles Dickens' links with County Durham". BBC News. 6 February 2012. Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  12. ^ Jordan, John O.; John, Jordan O. (18 June 2001). The Cambridge Companion to Charles Dickens. ISBN 9780521669641. Archived from the original on 18 April 2024. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Barnard Castle Blue Plaque Trail". teesdalediscovery.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Places Visited and Letters Written: 1798–1800". Wordsworth.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  15. ^ "Vision of Britain – Daniel Defoe – Letter 8, Part 4: Leeds and North Yorkshire". Bisionofbritain.org.uk. Archived from the original on 28 May 2020. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  16. ^ "XI. English Traits. Aristocracy. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. 1909–14. Essays and English Traits. The Harvard Classics". Bartleby.com. Archived from the original on 2 June 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  17. ^ Belloc, Hilaire. "On getting respected in inns and hotels". Quotidiana.org. Archived from the original on 13 November 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  18. ^ Dickinson, Katie (25 September 2016). "How kind will Bill Bryson be on the North East?". nechronicle. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  19. ^ "Barnard Castle: The Castle and Bridge looking Upstream, Joseph Mallord William Turner – Tate". Tate.org.uk. Archived from the original on 28 May 2020. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  20. ^ "A site for sore eyes? How Dominic Cummings put Barnard Castle on the map". The Guardian. 26 May 2020. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 28 May 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  21. ^ "No 10 'chaos' as 'defiant' PM defends Cummings". BBC News. UK: BBC. 25 May 2020. Archived from the original on 26 May 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  22. ^ Keating, Joshua (26 May 2020). "Why Is the U.K. in an Uproar Over a Boris Johnson Adviser's COVID Road Trip?". Slate Magazine. Archived from the original on 28 May 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  23. ^ "Your Councillors". Durham County Council. 17 August 2010. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  24. ^ "Barnard Castle UD". A Vision of Britain. Archived from the original on 3 August 2021. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  25. ^ "Barnard Castle". GlaxoSmithKline. Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
  26. ^ "Glaxo expansion meeting held". The Advertiser Series. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Also here Archived 26 May 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Community Contribution". Barnard Castle School. Archived from the original on 19 March 2024. Retrieved 19 March 2024.
  28. ^ Historic England (24 February 1950). "Barnard Castle bridge (that part in Barnard Castle civil parish) and attached wall to south-east (Grade I) (1201056)". National Heritage List for England.
  29. ^ Historic England (12 January 1967). "Barnard Castle bridge (Grade I) (1121647)". National Heritage List for England.
  30. ^ "Disused Stations – Barnard Castle". Disused Railway Stations. Archived from the original on 29 August 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  31. ^ "St Mary's RC Primary School". St Mary's RC Primary School. Archived from the original on 14 November 2021. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  32. ^ "The Bowes Museum > Home". Thebowesmuseum.org.uk. Archived from the original on 24 July 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  33. ^ "Bowes Museum's Silver Swan seizes up during lockdown". BBC News. 15 May 2021. Archived from the original on 17 June 2023. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  34. ^ "The Witham". thewitham.org.uk. Archived from the original on 3 March 2022. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  35. ^ "County Durham Venue | Parties & Events| Businesses| Schools". TCR Hub. Archived from the original on 17 July 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  36. ^ "Barnard Castle Band". Archived from the original on 22 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-26.
  37. ^ "Arthur Henderson: a Labour pioneer". Northern Echo. 3 April 2013. Archived from the original on 24 June 2020. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  38. ^ Fraser, C. M. "Hutchinson, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14291. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

External links[edit]