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Bishop Auckland
A square with three deciduous trees visible in the foreground. At the back of the square is the Town Hall, a neo-gothic style building. The town hall has two visible stories externally, together with a pitched roof with a number of dormers. In the centre of the roof area is a spire with a clock at its base. To the right of the Town hall is St Anne's church. The front of the church has a cylindrical cone spire.a large statue of John Murphy is constructed .
Bishop Auckland Town Hall
Population 16,276 (2011)
OS grid reference NZ208294
• London 227 mi (365 km) SbE
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district DL14
Dialling code 01388
Police Durham
Fire County Durham and Darlington
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament
  • Bishop Auckland
List of places
County DurhamCoordinates: 54°39′24″N 1°40′36″W / 54.6566°N 1.6768°W / 54.6566; -1.6768

Bishop Auckland /ˈbɪʃəp ˈɔːklənd/ is a market town and civil parish in County Durham in north east England. It is located about 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Darlington and 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Durham at the confluence of the River Wear with its tributary the River Gaunless. According to the 2001 census, Bishop Auckland has a population of 24,392, recounted at 16,296 for the 2011 Census.

Much of the town's early history surrounds the bishops of Durham and the establishment of a hunting lodge, which later became the main residence of the Bishops of Durham. This link with the Bishops of Durham is reflected in the first part of the town's name.

During the Industrial Revolution, the town grew rapidly as coal mining took hold as an important industry. The subsequent decline of the coal mining industry in the late twentieth century has been blamed for a fall in the town's fortunes in other sectors. Today, the largest sector of employment in the town is manufacturing.

Since 1 April 2009, the town's local government has come from the Durham County Council Unitary Authority. The unitary authority replaced the previous Wear Valley District Council and Durham County Council. Bishop Auckland is located in the Bishop Auckland parliamentary constituency. The town has a town-twinning with the French town of Ivry-sur-Seine.


The first part of the name, "Bishop", refers to the land being owned by and the town being the residence of the Bishop of Durham. However, the derivation of "Auckland" is more complex.

The present form of the name almost certainly comes from Old Norse Aukland meaning 'additional land'. This could refer to the area being extra land granted to the Bishop of Durham by King Canute in around 1020. (Though another suggestion is that Auckland derives from "Oakland", referring to the presence of forests.)

However, the name is attested in an earlier, Cumbric form, Alclit, (or Alcluith or Alcleat). This is similar to Alclut, an early, Cumbric name for Dumbarton which means "rock on the Clyde" or "cliff on the Clyde". It is believed that 'Clyde' may have been an earlier Celtic name for the river today known as the Gaunless, which flows close to the town. Thus before being Norseified as Aukland, Alclit meant 'rock of the [river] Clut'.

Auckland is also used in the settlements of St Helen Auckland, West Auckland and St Andrew Auckland, an old name for South Church, all of which are along the path of the Gaunless. The name Gaunless itself is of later Norse origin, meaning useless. It is believed that this derives from the river's inability to power a mill, sustain fish or create fertile floodplains.

Earliest history

The earliest known reference to Bishop Auckland itself is around 1000AD as land given to the Earl of Northumberland for defending the church against the Scots. It is also mentioned in 1020 as a gift given to the Bishop of Durham by King Canute. However, a village almost certainly existed on the town's present site long before this, with there being evidence of church on the site of St Andrew's Church in South Church as early as the seventh century. Furthermore, the Romans had a look-out post where Auckland Castle is sited today and a 10 acre (0.04 km²) fort at nearby Binchester. There is also evidence of possible Iron Age settlements around the town, together with finds of Bronze Age, Neolithic and Mesolithic artefacts.

The Bishops of Durham

Much of the town's history surrounds its links with the Bishops of Durham. In 1083, Bishop William de St-Calais expelled a number of canons from Durham. Some of these settled in the area and established a collegiate church. Around 1183 Bishop Pudsey established a manor house in the town, with a great hall being completed in 1195 on the site occupied by St Peter's Chapel today. Bishop Bek, who preferred the town as his main residence over Durham Castle due to its proximity to hunting grounds, later converted the manor house into a castle. The grounds of the castle were noted as being large enough to contain 16000 men ahead of the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346.

Between 1283 and 1310, Bek was also responsible for ordering the replacement of the collegiate church established in 1183 with the Church of St Andrew that stands in South Church today, together with accommodation for the canons; the building known today as the East Deanery.

The collegiate church also appears to have supported a school. The collegiate church was re-organised under Bishop Langley in 1428 and at some point in the same century moved to the castle grounds. The college and its school were finally dissolved in the 15th century.

The school was not revived until the reign of King James I when in 1604 Anne Swifte petitioned the King to found a school and the Free Grammar School of King James, the direct descendant of today's King James I school, was established. Although, the school's early location is unknown, in 1638 Bishop Morton granted the school space in an old chapel in the Market Place.

Also in 1604, James's son, the future King Charles I made the first of three visits he would make to the town during his life. On this visit, his first to England, he was entertained by Bishop Matthew. James himself stayed in Auckland Castle between 17 and 19 April 1617. Later, on 8 May, at Durham Castle King James is reputed to have rebuked Bishop William James so badly that the Bishop returned to Auckland Castle and died three days later.

Charles's second visit to the town was on his way to Scotland on 31 May 1633, when he was entertained by Bishop Morton. His third visit on 4 February 1647 was in less lavish circumstances, as a prisoner. Morton had fled the town in 1640 and the castle was empty. Consequently, the king had to stay in a public house off the Market Place owned by Christopher Dobson.

Sir Arthur Hazelrig
Auckland Castle - Chapel
St Peter's chapel. Originally the castle's great hall, it was converted to a chapel after the restoration of the monarchy.

After the dis-establishment of the Church of England, at the end of the first civil war, Auckland Castle was sold to Sir Arthur Hazelrig, who demolished much of the castle, including the chapel, and built a mansion. After the restoration of the monarchy, the new Bishop of Durham, John Cosin, in turn demolished Hazelrig's mansion and rebuilt the castle converting the banqueting hall into the chapel that stands today.

Industrial Revolution

By 1801, the town had a population of 1861. At the end of the eighteenth century the town had no notable roads other than the Roman road and little trade beyond weaving. Although, coal mining existed on a small-scale had existed as early as 1183 when it is mentioned in the Boldon Book, it was limited by the lack of an easy way to transport coal away from the area. All this changed with the arrival of railways in the early nineteenth century, which allowed large scale coal mining. The railways allowed coal to be mined, and then transported to the coast before being put onto ships to London and even abroad.

Bishop Barrington

Around the same time, the Bishop, Shute Barrington was a keen proponent of the use of education to improve the social and moral circumstances of the lower social classes. He used £70,000 received from lead mining royalties in Weardale to fund the establishment of a number of schools in the area. One of these schools was the Bishop Barrington School, one of the town's three comprehensive schools today. The Bishop Barrington School opened on 26 May 1810, the Bishop's own birthday. The school even allowed girls to attend until the age of 11 years. Barrington's support of education for the poor was not without controversy. Some suggested education of the poor would lead people to question their position in society, others even blamed it for the French Revolution.

Barrington's successor, William van Mildert was involved in the creation of Durham University. Durham Castle was donated to the new university and Auckland Castle, usually the preferred residence by successive Bishops, became the Bishop of Durham's official residence in 1832. However, the influence of the Prince Bishops of Durham was on the wane and there was pressure for reform. Van Mildert would be the last Prince Bishop. Shortly after his death, in 1836, the position was stripped of its ancient powers and wealth.

By 1851 the population of the town had more than doubled to 5112. A great proportion of the population working in ironworks and collieries. By 1891, the population had doubled again. In the second half of the nineteenth century there were typically around 60 collieries in the area open at any one time. By the turn of the twentieth century 16,000 people were employed in the mining industry in the area.

The town also became an important centre for rail, with large amounts of minerals such as coal, limestone and ironstone mined in the surrounding area passing through the town on the way to the coast. In the neighbouring town of Shildon large numbers were employed in the railways, where a railway engine works were established.

Industrial decline

By the early years of the twentieth century coal mining started to go into decline as coal reserves started to become exhausted. By the end of the 1920s unemployment had hit 27% and the population too had started to decline, as colliery employment had halved compared with ten years previously. With the onset of the Great Depression unemployment rose to 60% in 1932 before easing back to 36% in 1937. The Second World War offered a temporary reprieve for the coal industry, however, after the war the decline continued. The last deep colliery in the area closed in 1968, although the much more mechanised, and less labour-intensive, surface level opencast mining did continue.

Equally, the railways that had also supported the area were also scaled back, ultimately culminating in the closure of Shildon's Wagon works in 1984 which resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs.


Bishop Auckland is located at 54°39′36″N 1°40′48″W / 54.66°N 1.68°W / 54.66; -1.68 (British national grid reference system: NZ208294) on the Durham coalfield at the confluence of the River Wear with its tributary the River Gaunless. The town nestles in the rivers' valley about 100 metres (330 ft) above sea level. Besides this the town is all but is surrounded on all sides by hills ranging in height from around 150 metres (490 ft) above sea level to over 220 metres (720 ft) above sea level.

Bishop Auckland is located about 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Darlington and 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Durham. The town is served by Bishop Auckland railway station, which marks the point where the Tees Valley Line becomes the Weardale Railway. The town is not served directly by any motorways.

Notable wards include Cockton Hill, Woodhouse Close, and Henknowle. Additionally, once neighbouring villages such as South Church, Tindale Crescent, St Helen Auckland, and West Auckland now more or less merge seamlessly into the town.


Weather chart for Bishop Auckland
temperatures in °C
precipitation totals in mm

The nearest Met Office weather station to Bishop Auckland is located 8 miles (13 km) north-east of Bishop Auckland in Durham. The following local figures were gathered at this weather station between 1971 and 2000.

Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Bishop Auckland has a temperate climate. At 643.3 millimetres (25.33 in) the average annual rainfall is lower than the national average of 1,125 millimetres (44.3 in). Equally there are only around 121.3 days where more than 1 millimetre (0.039 in) of rain falls compared with a national average of 154.4 days. The area sees on average 1374.6 hours of sunshine per year, compared with a national average of 1125.0 hours. There is frost on 52 days compared with a national average of 55.6 days. Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures are 12.5 °C (54.5 °F) and 5.2 °C (41.4 °F) compared with a national averages of 12.1 °C (53.8 °F) and 5.1 °C (41.2 °F) respectively.

Climate data for Durham 102m asl, 1981–2010, extremes 1850–
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.7
Average high °C (°F) 6.6
Average low °C (°F) 0.9
Record low °C (°F) -17.2
Rainfall mm (inches) 52.3
Sunshine hours 58.6 80.3 115.5 150.3 181.7 164.8 172.3 167.3 134.5 102.8 66.4 51.2 1,445.4
Source #1: Met Office
Source #2: NEForum


Bishop Auckland Compared
UK Census 2001 Bishop Auckland County Durham England and Wales
Total population 24,392 493,484 52,041,916
Foreign born 1.5% 2.0% 8.9%
Buddhist 0.2% 0.1% 0.3%
Christian 84.8% 83.5% 71.7%
Hindu 0.2% 0.1% 1.1%
Muslim 0.2% 0.2% 3.0%
No religion 7.3% 9.3% 14.8%
Over 65 years old 17.2% 16.7% 15.46%
Unemployed 5.0% 4.8% 4.3%

According to the 2001 census, Bishop Auckland has a population of 24,392, living in 10,336 dwellings. Of these dwellings, around 44% are terraced houses, 33% semi-detached houses, and 17% detached houses. As shown in the graph, the distribution of ages in Bishop Auckland was broadly in-line with that of County Durham and England and Wales, although there is a slightly smaller proportion of people between 20 and 24 years old.

Compared with the national average, the town's population performs poorly with regard to qualifications. At 31.9%, the proportion of the town's population with no qualifications is significantly higher than the national average of 23.2% and 29.1%. Similarly, only 13.8% have a degree level qualification (or higher) compared with the national average of 21.1%.

84.8% of the town's population identify themselves as Christian, compared with a national average of 71.7%. There are below averages numbers identifying themselves as belonging to other religion. The people of the town are also more likely to be religious than the national average with only 7.3% stating they had no religion compared with the national average of 14.8%.

At 1.5% of the population, the town has a below average population of foreign born individuals, compared with a national average of 8.9%.

Bishop Auckland Population Pyramid
"Population pyramid" showing the breakdown of the Bishop Auckland's population vs Age compared with the figures for County Durham and England and Wales. Source:


Auckland Castle - Gatehouse
Auckland Castle's Gatehouse
Binchester Roman Fort
Binchester Roman Fort
Newton Cap Viaduct-by-Neville-Davison
Newton Cap Viaduct
Escombe Church
Escomb Saxon Church
South Church
St Andrew's Parish Church
Church of St Helen-by-Vivienne-Smith
St Helen's Church

The town has a number of Grade I listed buildings. The grounds of Auckland Castle alone contain seven such structures. Additionally Escomb Saxon Church, St Andrew's parish church, St Helen's church, St Helen Hall, West Auckland Manor House, the East Deanery and the 14th century Bishop Skirlaw bridge are all Grade I listed. Other notable buildings include the town hall, a Victorian railway viaduct and Binchester Roman fort.

Auckland Castle

Auckland Castle (often known locally as The Bishop's palace), has been the official residence of the Bishop of Durham since 1832. However, its history goes back much earlier, being established as a hunting lodge for the Prince Bishops of Durham. The castle is surrounded by 800 acres (3.2 km2) of parkland, which was originally used by the Bishops for hunting and is today open to the public. The castle and its grounds contain seven Grade I listed structures.

The castle's long dining room is home to 12 of the 13 17th century portraits of Jacob and his 12 sons painted by Francisco de Zurbarán, which were saved by Bishop Trevor in 1756. Trevor was unable to secure the 13th, Benjamin, so commissioned Arthur Pond to produce a copy, which hangs alongside the 12 other originals.

Auckland Castle also provides the setting for Lewis Carroll's story "A Legend of Scotland".

Binchester Roman Fort

The route of the Roman road Dere Street passes straight through the middle of the town on its way to the nearby Roman Fort at Binchester. Binchester Roman Fort, or Vinovia as it was known to the Romans, has one of the best preserved examples of a Roman military bath house hypocaust in the country. Bishop Auckland's main shopping street, Newgate Street, together with Cockton Hill Road and Watling Road faithfully follow the route of Dere Street. Note that Watling Road should not be confused with the Roman road Watling Street, which is in the South of England.

Town Hall

The Town Hall is a "Gothic style" Victorian Building overlooking the town's market place and is Grade II* listed. After being abandoned and then condemned for demolition in the 1980s, the town hall was fully restored in the early 1990s. It now houses the town's main public library, a theatre, an art gallery, tourist information centre and a café-bar.

The Town Hall has held three exhibitions for mining artist Tom Lamb. The first was held in 1999 for his 'Fading Memories' exhibition, then in 2004 for Lamb's 'The Footprints Of My Years' exhibition and in 2008 the last exhibition called 'My Mining Days' was held.

Newton Cap viaduct

The town also has a Grade II listed Victorian railway viaduct crossing the River Wear. At 105 feet (32 m) high, the viaduct provides views of the surrounding countryside below as well as Auckland Castle, the Bishop's Park and the Town Hall on approaching the town from the Viaduct. It was originally built in 1857 to carry the Bishop Auckland to Durham City railway line across the River Wear and the Newton Cap Bank that leads down to the river. The railway closed in 1968 and the viaduct fell into a period of disuse and was at one point threatened with demolition. However, in 1995, the viaduct was converted for vehicle use to take traffic on the A689 between Bishop Auckland and Crook, relieving the Grade I listed fourteenth century single lane Bishop Skirlaw bridge which sits in the valley below it.

Escomb Saxon church

The nearby village of Escomb is home to a complete Anglo-Saxon church. It is believed the church was built between the years 670 and 690. Much of the stone used to construct the church came from the nearby Roman fort at Binchester, with some stones having Roman markings on them. The church is a Grade I listed structure.

St Andrew's Church

St Andrew's church located in the adjoining village of South Church is the largest church in County Durham and a Grade I listed building. The church was built in the thirteenth century and acted as a collegiate church.


Bishop Auckland Railway Station
Bishop Auckland railway station

The town has links with the birth of the railways, with the original 1825 route of the Stockton and Darlington Railway passing through West Auckland and Timothy Hackworth, a well-known locomotive builder, built steam locomotives in the neighbouring town of Shildon.

Today, Bishop Auckland railway station still provides passenger services being located at the end of the Wear Valley Line. Since May 2010 it has been re-connected with the Weardale Railway which provides passenger services up the valley to Stanhope. The town centre had a large railway goods yard until the 1972. Freight traffic ceased to use the line between completely in 1993 when Blue Circle cement stopped using the line to transport cement from its works in Eastgate.

The nearest airport to the town is Durham Tees Valley Airport at around 19 miles (31 km) drive South-East of Bishop Auckland. The nearest motorway junction is Junction 60 of the A1(M), which is around 8 miles (13 km) away.

The town has a bus station with a number of bus-routes serving the town. Following the withdrawal of the Go-Ahead Group from the town on 8 April 2006, most of these services are provided by Arriva. However, a number of smaller firms such as Weardale buses also serve the town.


Bishop Auckland Methodist Church
Bishop Auckland Methodist Church

The town has 3 Grade I listed churches, the Church of St Helen, the Church of St Andrew, and St Peter's chapel at Auckland Castle. Another Grade I listed church, the Saxon church at Escomb is also close to the town.

Additionally, the town has 3 grade II listed churches, Bishop Auckland Methodist Church on Cockton Hill Road,
St Anne's church next to the town hall in the Market Place,  and St Peter's Church on Princes Street.

The town is in the located within the Auckland Deanery and Archdeaconry of the Anglican Diocese of Durham. The Diocese has its administrative offices at Auckland Castle in the town. In the Roman Catholic faith the town is located in the St William Deanery of the Cleveland and South Durham Episcopal Area of the Hexham and Newcastle Diocese.

Other denominations are also represented in the town. For example, the Baptist Church is next door to the hospital. Bishop Auckland Baptist Church is part of the family of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. and is part of the Northern Association of Baptist churches

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