The centre of Durham is a hill almost entirely circled by the loop of the River Wear, topped by the Cathedral and the Castle, which dominate the town. These two give a pleasing skyline, and the whole town centre is given a harmoniousness by the widespread use of the local brown stone. This page notes sculpture in Durham Cathedral, and in the Market Place which forms the town square.
This leaves us with three works for which I do not know the sculptor – a portrait head near the door which was unreachable on my visit, an unremarkable recumbent bishop in stone perhaps dating from early in the 19th Century, and the Matthew Woodifield monument dated 1826, notable for its architecture rather than the slight sculptured decoration. It consists of a Greek Temple-like structure, held up on four massive short pillars, with on top an oval coffin with wreaths. On the front, a relief of an owl on a branch, olives at one end, oakleaves on the other.
Before considering work from earlier and later centuries, we must note the rather superior stained glass by Clayton and Bell.
Turning to earlier work, a couple of biers in the nave hold the battered remnants of supine figures, and more complete ones flank the choir. Most interesting is the St Cuthbert shrine, with a figure of St Cuthbert holding the head of St Oswald (his own head lost), a draped rigid figure in stone, fully round at back so not previously attached to any wall. Apparently from the 14th Century, though the upper front appears to have been reworked.
As for later work, notable on one exterior wall of the St Cuthbert shrine is the large highly textured bronze panel to Charles Stewart and his wife Martha, kneeling in profile, d. 1915 and 1919 respectively, signed by [John] Tweed. And from the 1970s and 1980s, three monumental wood and metal statues by Fenwick Lawson.
Briefly on the architecture, the structure of the building is of course Norman, with impressively solid pillars in the nave especially, in a variety of characteristic designs, and arches both rounded and pointed, depending on the width to be spanned. The Cathedral is one of the oldest, dating in large part from shortly after the Conquest, with the central tower somewhat later. As usual, the 19th Century saw some changes, and we can note the rather splendid screen and pulpit dating from the 1870s by no less than George Gilbert Scott. The exterior of the building is largely bereft of sculpture, but there are two roundels, with a much decayed figure of a seated bishop in one, and another seated figure, likely another bishop, in the other – all rather crumbled but maybe poorly preserved 19th Century work, or something rather older.
Market Place, the central square of the town, has two impressive statues. The first is a large equestrian bronze of Charles William Vane Stewart, 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, Lord Lieutenant County of Durham etc etc. A serious and characterful work, by Raffaelle Monti, more familiar for statues of girls covered in diaphanous veils.
The second statue is a much older work; a stone figure of Neptune. He is, clad in only a wisp of cloth and a crown, and sporting a good forked beard, astride a small grotesque dolphin, and holding a bronze trident. The donor was George Bowes MP of Gibside and Streatlam, who gave it to the town as a symbol of the scheme to link Durham to the sea by improved navigation of the river Wear.
We may also note that the Church of St Nicholas, fronting on to Market Place, has a variety of small grotesque heads in stone under the clock and on the buttresses, and above the door, a harmless statue of St Nicholas, incongruously in white stone rather than the sand-coloured stone around it.