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Discover the link between the Tudors and mathematics in new Durham Castle exhibition


A brand-new Tudor exhibition has been installed at Durham Castle to celebrate the life of Cuthbert Tunstall.

Cuthbert was the Prince Bishop of Durham from 1530-1559. He was one of the few figures from the period to have a personal relationship with all the Tudor monarchs – respected and promoted to positions of power by Henry VIII, sent to the Tower of London by Edward VI, praised by Mary I and treated with suspicion and imprisoned again by Elizabeth I.

As well as being a bishop, Cuthbert was also an author and wrote the first mathematics book published in England called On the Art of Counting, and this year marks the 500th anniversary of the publication of the book.

Gemma Lewis, Curator of Durham Castle said: “The creation of this exhibition has been a collaborative project with Durham University, whose Department of Maths wanted to celebrate the first English Maths book.

“Guided by academics at the University, we have been able to explore this remarkable man and retell his story in a fun and interactive way, bringing Tudor history back to life.

“Thousands of people would have passed through the Tudor Gallery, worshipped in the Chapel or maybe even read his book, so it is fascinating how so few people have heard of him.

“We’re hoping that this all-encompassing exhibition will change that and will allow people to discover how Tunstall was able to survive one of the most turbulent periods in British history.”

The exhibition will take place in the gallery of the Castle, built by Tunstall alongside a new tower and chapel, and will explore how Cuthbert navigated his relationships with the Tudor monarchs from his home at Durham Castle.

As well as these important connections, the exhibition reveals Cuthbert’s work in County Durham and his forward-thinking scholarly activity. This includes his math’s book, a first edition of which will be on display at the exhibition alongside new research from Durham University which reveals the contemporary significance of the work.

Visitors will also get to see a coin struck by Cuthbert at the Mint of Durham and a rare pamphlet published in France, reporting on the death of Cuthbert’s great friend Sir Thomas More.

In the centre of the gallery hangs a portrait of Cuthbert, owned by Durham Castle. For years, Castle legend has stated that the portrait was altered to remove Cuthbert’s rosary beads during Henry VIII’s religious reforms. Visitors will be able to discover what new x-ray analysis of the painting carried out by Durham University’s Department of Archaeology reveal about the portrait.

As part of the exhibition, visitors can also put themselves in Cuthbert’s shoes with our Cuthbert’s Conundrums gallery game and test their numeracy skills in our Calculations of a Clergyman maths quiz.

The exhibition is included in the entrance fee and runs until 31 March, 2023. Throughout August and September, Durham Castle has free entry on several days. Further information can be found on their website.