At first glance, this stately building looks like the ruins of a palatial countryside abode. But royals and elites weren’t the ones who called the house home. Instead, it was built with four-legged inhabitants in mind.
The Deer House is located within Auckland Park, which was created by the Prince Bishops of Durham more than 800 years ago. The park served as their own private hunting ground.
Maintained deer parks were common in medieval England (for the wealthy elite, that is). But structures built entirely for deer weren’t. This Deer House didn’t appear until the mid-1700s, when Bishop Richard Trevor was remodeling the land around Auckland Castle.
The Georgian Gothic building was mainly built as a place to shelter and feed the deer. Its architecture mimics the style of medieval buildings, taking the shape of a fake castle complete with pinnacles and pointed arches. A two-story tower overlooked the courtyard, allowing distinguished guests to gaze upon the deer as they grazed. The Bishop and his visitors could also picnic within the grass while taking respite from the day’s hunt.
Today, deer no longer cluster within the building’s centuries-old walls. Instead, it stands as a preserved example of 18th-century Gothic Revival architecture.
Update as of February 2020: The interior to the Castle Deer House is no longer accessible.
Know Before You Go
Admission is free. According to English Heritage, it’s open between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April through September and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. October through March.
You’ll find the Deer House in the park behind Auckland Castle. The path to the structure is rather uneven and passes over grassy terrain, so it may not be suitable for wheelchairs or strollers. Don’t be surprised to see some farm livestock wandering by as you walk!
You can park in Bishop Auckland and walk to the park, though be aware that the lots are not managed by English Heritage. From the tourist information center, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the Deer House. To walk from there, go east on Market Place toward Bakehouse Hill.
While in Bishop Auckland, be sure to check out its abundance of cafes. Public restrooms are available at the bus station. The train station offers services to various village throughout County Durham.