Category Archives: Community

Open Treasure turns two!

Two years on from opening its doors, Open Treasure has welcomed over 75,000 visitors of all ages from across the globe, and has housed many fascinating exhibitions and hosted a Royal guest. It’s been an exciting 24 months! We’ve picked out some of the highlights. Continue reading Open Treasure turns two!


Canon Rosalind Brown Retires


Canon Rosalind Brown, Nave Canon and Canon Librarian of Durham Cathedral, is retiring.  She has been at Durham Cathedral for the last 13 years.  Her final Sunday at the Cathedral as a member of its Chapter is Sunday 8 July. She has answered some questions about her ministry at Durham Cathedral and her plans for the future.

Continue reading Canon Rosalind Brown Retires

Team Durham Cathedral are getting ready to race!

Twelve members of Team Durham Cathedral are hard at work training for the third annual Durham City Run on 18 July. The team of staff from the Cathedral and Durham’s Barclays Branch and local supporters are running in support of Foundation 2020. All the funds raised will go towards the maintenance and upkeep of the Cathedral; it is especially appropriate then that the race should start and end outside Durham’s most iconic landmark! Continue reading Team Durham Cathedral are getting ready to race!

It’s the final countdown!

On 11 July 2013, the first brick was laid on Durham Cathedral in LEGO, an ambitious project which sought to recreate Durham Cathedral from 300,000 LEGO bricks to raise funds for Open Treasure, the Cathedral’s new world-class exhibition experience open from 23 July 2016.

Exactly three years later the model is almost complete, with only 15,000 bricks to go! We are hoping to complete the model in just two weeks and you can help by visiting the Cathedral in person, texting LEGO16 £2 to 70070 or donating online at

And if you’re still not convinced about the awesomeness of this project, here are ten surprising facts about Durham Cathedral in LEGO which might just change your mind!

  1. Durham Cathedral in LEGO has been designed by Bright Bricks, a UK-based company licensed by LEGO to design large-scale LEGO models. Other creations by Bright Bricks include a gigantic working scale model of the Rolls Royce Dreamliner aero engine and a world record breaking 35 foot high Christmas tree!
  2. The first brick was laid on the model by TV presenter and historian Jonathan Foyle on 11 July 2013, marking the start of an epic three-year LEGO build.
  3. Durham Cathedral in LEGO will eventually contain almost 300,000 bricks and over 1,450 individual modules.
  4. Durham Cathedral in LEGO has taken 1097 days to build so far (including today), with only 14 days left to go!
  5. When complete, Durham Cathedral in LEGO will be 1.7m tall, 3.84m long and 1.53m wide.
  6. Durham Cathedral in LEGO is the first large-scale LEGO model to have been built by the general public.
  7. Durham Cathedral in LEGO has been built by visitors across the globe, including visitors from as far afield as Alaska, the Seychelles, the Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands!
  8. Over 27,000 volunteer hours have gone into the making of Durham Cathedral in LEGO, which has been open almost every day for the last three years.
  9. An online mini-series has been produced inspired by Durham Cathedral in LEGO, retelling the story of Durham Cathedral through LEGO animation. You can watch the videos here:
  10. The final brick will be added to the model on Monday 25 July 2016 by Pearl Richardson from Newcastle who won our LEGO Lottery, but don’t worry if you can’t visit the Cathedral before the model is complete! Durham Cathedral in LEGO will remain on display at Durham Cathedral for visitors to admire for many years to come.

To find out more about Durham Cathedral in LEGO, please visit

To find out more about Open Treasure, please visit

Behind the Pages – Discovering the hidden treasures of Durham Cathedral Library

I have recently been fortunate enough to participate in Behind the Pages, a special programme being offered to groups as a series of discussions and visits to Durham Cathedral. The project is linked to Open Treasure, the Cathedral’s exhibition experience open from 23 July 2016.

As a volunteer at Durham Cathedral, I first saw the project advertised in the Volunteers Newsletter and felt it was too good an opportunity to ignore!

Behind the Pages gives existing book groups the opportunity to study a book before being invited to the Cathedral’s Refectory Library (not normally open to the public) to examine rare texts, supported by informed staff.

My U3A Book Club were equally enthusiastic about the prospect of engaging with the Cathedral’s collections – it was our first experience of such a project!

A number of books spanning across different genres were selected by the Cathedral’s Head of Collections and Assistant Librarian. We were asked to select a title that we felt was appropriate to our group, with each title being linked to an object or artefacts held in the Cathedral’s hidden treasure collection.

We chose ‘English Passengers’ by Matthew Kneale almost by default, having previously read several of the other books suggested. We were then free to read the book at our leisure before being invited to visit the Cathedral and view the hidden treasures. It proved to be a very good decision!

‘English Passengers’ is an ambitious novel spanning 40 years of colonial history, told in the first person by 20 narrators. The action takes place in England, on the high seas and in Tasmania, taken over by the British as a penal settlement.

In Tasmania, British actions completely wiped out the indigenous people, through disease and murder, with the last person dying in 1879. Surprisingly against this background there is hilarity in the book as well as absolute horror.

Overall, ‘English Passengers’ is a satisfying read which races along and subjects us to the full range of emotions, and we would happily recommend the book to other readers.

After reading the book, we were invited to the Cathedral’s Refectory Library for a fascinating ‘Show and Tell’ session. We were shown books which predated the 19th century and others contemporary with it. Books of hand-coloured maps used by travellers in the 18th and 19th centuries were especially beautiful.

We also saw etchings made from drawings done during Captain Cook’s voyage to New Zealand and could imagine the wonder felt by those who saw the people, plants and animals shown, for the first time. The library staff were both enthusiastic and knowledgeable and happy to share their passion for the books with us. We felt privileged to be there surrounded by the many treasures and would love to be involved in further outreach projects.

This experience has made us more aware of Open Treasure and we look forward to visiting the exhibition space when it opens in July.

Maria Mekins, Cathedral Volunteer and Member of Sedgefield U3A Book Group

*Behind the Pages is a new and exciting project, which aims to transform access to the Cathedral’s collections and previously hidden wonders including never before seen objects and artefacts.

For more information, please contact or call 0191 374 4070.

Open Treasure – How I See It!

For this month’s blog post, we’ve asked our Young Curators to share their thoughts and experiences of Durham Cathedral and Open Treasure.

Young Curators provides unique opportunities for young people aged 11 to 16 to engage with the Cathedral and its collections. Over the last few months, our Young Curators have enjoyed a Show-and-Tell session in the Cathedral Library as well as workshops with local artists including Mick Stevenson, who created Litre of Light for Lumiere 2015, and Northern Print, who are helping the Young Curators produce lino prints inspired by the architecture of Durham Cathedral.

The Young Curators have also been developing a new guide book for younger visitors to Open Treasure, the Cathedral’s new world-class exhibition experience due to open in summer 2016.  So this blog post is not about how we see Durham Cathedral and Open Treasure – it’s about how our Young Curators see it!

What does Durham Cathedral mean to you?

  • Durham Cathedral is more than just a church. It’s rare that I walk in and don’t just stare in awe or learn something new. Most importantly, one feels at home here (James, age 13)
  • Durham Cathedral is a place of remembrance and infinite possibilities (Caitlin, age 14)
  • It’s all about peace for me. I come to get peace and happiness. I’m not religious but I love to sit and think (Abigail, age 13)

 What is your favourite fact about Durham Cathedral?

  •  It may not be a fact but a myth, however the story that the Cathedral was going to be bombed in WWII but clouds covered it (Harry, age 13)
  • Possibly the different stories behind the stained glass windows… there are too many to list! (Daniel, age 15)

What is your favourite thing about being a Young Curator?

  • Being able to make a lasting imprint on the history of Durham Cathedral (Harry, age 13)
  • Being a Young Curator, you are able to contribute to the Cathedral and learn new things every session (Declan, age 15)
  • Getting to see precious objects and explore the most wonderful building in the world (possibly the universe: still pending discussion) (Daniel, age 15)

 Why did you want to become a Young Curator?

  • It was suggested by my history teacher whilst I was on holiday with my school and I thought it could be fun. I love being involved in different projects (Abigail, age 13)
  • To discover more about the Cathedral and to broaden my horizon of knowledge (Harry, age 13)

What skills have you learnt since becoming a Young Curator?

  • How to develop ideas from an early stage into a polished and finished piece of work (Harry, age 13)
  • I have learnt how to take prints and learnt how to store artefacts (Lauren, age 13)
  • Handling artefacts, art skills, everything really! (James, age 13)

What did you enjoy most about the ‘Show-and-Tell’ session?

  • I loved seeing the old books which had hand-drawings of unicorns and griffons among real creatures like lions and whales. It was nice to think how strange and un-explored the world was back then (Daniel, age 15)
  • Being able to see the beautiful books and the images inside them (Declan, age 15)
  • Looking at a nineteenth-century geological survey (Mackenzie, age 12)

 What did you learn from your session with artist Mick Stevenson?

  • How awesome recycled things can be and what you can make from them (Lauren, age 13)
  • I learn that anything can become a master piece (Abigail, age 13)
  • That art can be made from anything and nothing is a waste (Caitlin, age 14)

What did you learn from your session with Northern Print?

  • To experiment and try new things which may be outside your comfort zone. To take your time with a project in order to develop your skills (Harry, age 13)
  • I learnt how different inks can produce very different results and that you can use more than just one type of ink. There are no rules! (Daniel, age 15)

 What have you enjoyed most about creating a new guide book?

  • To be able to learn and then teach others what I’ve learnt (Abigail, age 13)
  • Being able to have my own ideas for it (Lauren, age 13)
  • Looking at other guides and taking ideas from them (Declan, age 15)

What aspects of Open Treasure are you most looking forward to?

  • Being able to say ‘I did that’ (Harry, age 13)
  • All the artefacts being more accessible (James, age 13)
  • I am looking forward to being able to add my own labels and descriptions to items (Caitlin, age 14)

 How have you been inspired by Young Curators? Has it changed your attitude towards Durham Cathedral and its collections?

  • Yes it has because the Cathedral didn’t interest me before but now I am anxiously anticipating my next visit! (Caitlin, age 14)
  • My attitude towards Durham Cathedral and its collections have remained the same as I knew they were fantastic. However the Young Curators has made me want to take part in more projects (Harry, age 13)

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

  • I see myself in University studying archaeology, forensics, history or geography (Abigail, age 13)
  • Academic work in the humanities (James, age 13)
  • Being a policeman or a detective (Nathan, age 13)

Lilian Groves – A National Treasure!

Here at Durham Cathedral we are blessed with the support of over 700 volunteers, who work tirelessly and selflessly to create the best possible experience for those visiting Durham Cathedral. With Open Treasure due to open in summer 2016, our need for volunteers continues to grow!

Every single volunteer at Durham Cathedral is a superstar in their own right but one of our volunteers, Lilian Groves, has recently stepped into the lime light as one of only 11 people short-listed for VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar Award 2016!

Lilian epitomises the commitment and dedication of all our volunteers and last summer Lilian’s invaluable support was recognized when she was crowned the Durham Tourism Superstar 2015. Now Lilian has been short-listed for the national award and with your help could be crowned the nation’s superstar, an accolade which she thoroughly deserves.

We hope the following facts will convince you to vote for Lilian, an incredible lady who is an asset not only to Durham Cathedral, but to Durham, the North East, and the whole nation. She truly is a national treasure!

  1. Lilian has volunteered at Durham Cathedral for over 25 years, making her one of our longest-serving volunteers.
  2. Despite being 87 years-old, Lilian delivers over 100 tours each year.
  3. Lilian’s tours are in such high demand that they are often booked up to two years in advance!
  4. Lilian is well-loved by everyone she meets and regularly receives thank you letters from admiring visitors and fans from across the globe.
  5. Lilian has given tours to many well-known guests during her time at Durham Cathedral, including Princess Anne, P D James, Sheila Hancock, Jeremy Vine, Sting and Bill Bryson.
  6. When Bill Bryson heard that Lilian had been voted Durham’s Tourism Superstar he sent a card saying that he’d always known she was a superstar.
  7. Lilian was awarded an MBE for services to education amongst other accolades, and for 20 years was honorary Secretary of the Friends of Durham Cathedral.
  8. Lilian is a former Vice-Principal of Hild Bede College, Durham University, and the gym at Hild Bede College is even named after Lilian!
  9. Lilian is a former PE lecturer and a former President of the Physical Education Association of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  10. Lilian holds a Durham MEd for research into PE for children with special needs.

Lilian is one of the most generous, selfless, and inspirational people you could ever meet. In the words of Lilian herself, winning the Tourism Superstar Award will be wonderful, not only for her, but ‘for the Cathedral, for Durham City, and for the North East’.

So what are you waiting for? Please #Vote4Lilian today at

If you are interested in volunteering for Open Treasure, the new visitor experience opening at Durham Cathedral in summer 2016, please contact our Volunteers Manager at

For other volunteering opportunities at Durham Cathedral, please visit