Durham, England facts for kids
City of Durham
|City and non-metropolitan district|
Durham Cathedral and Castle above the River Wear
|Motto: Faith, foresight, and industry.|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Region||North East England|
|Ceremonial county||Template:Country data County Durham|
|Admin HQ||County Hall, Durham|
|• Total||186.68 km2 (72.08 sq mi)|
|• Density||257/km2 (670/sq mi)|
|Postcode||DH1, DH6, DH7, DH8|
Durham (//, locally //) is a historic city and the county town of County Durham in North East England. The city lies on the River Wear, to the west of Sunderland, south of Newcastle upon Tyne and to the north of Darlington. Founded over the final resting place of St Cuthbert, its Norman cathedral became a centre of pilgrimage in medieval England. The cathedral and adjacent 11th-century castle were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. The castle has been the home of Durham University since 1832. HM Prison Durham is also located close to the city centre.
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The name "Durham" comes from the Celtic element "dun", signifying a hill fort, and the Old Norse "holme", which translates to island. The Lord Bishop of Durham takes a Latin variation of the city's name in his official signature, which is signed "N. Dunelm". Some attribute the city's name to the legend of the Dun Cow and the milkmaid who in legend guided the monks of Lindisfarne carrying the body of Saint Cuthbert to the site of the present city in 995 AD. Dun Cow Lane is said to be one of the first streets in Durham, being directly to the east of Durham Cathedral and taking its name from a depiction of the city's founding etched in masonry on the south side of the cathedral. The city has been known by a number of names throughout history. The original Nordic Dun Holm was changed to Duresme by the Normans and was known in Latin as Dunelm. The modern form Durham came into use later in the city's history. The north eastern historian Robert Surtees chronicled the name changes in his History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham but states that it is an "impossibility" to tell when the city's modern name came into being.
Archeological evidence suggests a history of settlement in the area since roughly 2000 BC. The present city can clearly be traced back to AD 995, when a group of monks from Lindisfarne chose the strategic high peninsula as a place to settle with the body of Saint Cuthbert, that had previously lain in Chester-le-Street, founding a church there.
Legend of the Dun Cow and city origins
Local legend states that the city was founded in A.D. 995 by divine intervention. The 12th century chronicler Symeon of Durham recounts that after wandering in the north, Saint Cuthbert's bier miraculously came to a halt at the hill of Warden Law and, despite the effort of the congregation, would not move. Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Street and leader of the order, decreed a holy fast of three days, accompanied by prayers to the saint. During the fast, Saint Cuthbert appeared to a certain monk named Eadmer, with instructions that the coffin should be taken to Dun Holm. After Eadmer's revelation, Aldhun found that he was able to move the bier, but did not know where Dun Holm was.
The legend of the Dun Cow, which is first documented in The Rites of Durham, an anonymous account about the Durham Cathedral, published in 1593, builds on Symeon's account. According to this legend, by chance later that day, the monks came across a milkmaid at Mount Joy (southeast of present-day Durham). She stated that she was seeking her lost dun cow, which she had last seen at Dun Holm. The monks, realising that this was a sign from the saint, followed her. They settled at a wooded "hill-island" – a high wooded rock surrounded on three sides by the River Wear. There they erected a shelter for the relics, on the spot where the Durham Cathedral would later stand. Symeon states that a modest wooden building erected there shortly later was the first building in the city. Bishop Aldhun subsequently had a stone church built, which was dedicated in September 998. It no longer remains, having been supplanted by the Norman structure.
The legend is interpreted by a Victorian relief stone carving on the south face of the cathedral and, more recently, by the bronze sculpture 'Durham Cow' (1997, Andrew Burton), which reclines by the River Wear in view of the cathedral.
During the medieval period the city gained spiritual prominence as the final resting place of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Bede the Venerable. The shrine of Saint Cuthbert, situated behind the High Altar of Durham Cathedral, was the most important religious site in England until the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury in 1170.
Saint Cuthbert became famous for two reasons. Firstly, the miraculous healing powers he had displayed in life continued after his death, with many stories of those visiting the saint's shrine being cured of all manner of diseases. This led to him being known as the "wonder worker of England". Secondly, after the first translation of his relics in 698 AD, his body was found to be incorruptible. Apart from a brief translation back to Holy Island during the Norman Invasion the saint's relics have remained enshrined to the present day. Saint Bede's bones are also entombed in the cathedral, and these also drew medieval pilgrims to the city.
Durham's geographical position has always given it an important place in the defence of England against the Scots. The city played an important part in the defence of the north, and Durham Castle is the only Norman castle keep never to have suffered a breach. The Battle of Neville's Cross, which took place near the city on 17 October 1346 between the English and Scots, is the most famous battle of the age.
The city suffered from plague outbreaks in 1544, 1589 and 1598.
Owing to the divine providence evidenced in the city's legendary founding, the Bishop of Durham has always enjoyed the title "Bishop by Divine Providence" as opposed to other bishops, who are "Bishop by Divine Permission". However, as the north-east of England lay so far from Westminster, the bishops of Durham enjoyed extraordinary powers such as the ability to hold their own parliament, raise their own armies, appoint their own sheriffs and Justices, administer their own laws, levy taxes and customs duties, create fairs and markets, issue charters, salvage shipwrecks, collect revenue from mines, administer the forests and mint their own coins. So far-reaching were the bishop's powers that the steward of Bishop Antony Bek commented in 1299 AD: "There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham wearing a mitre in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham". All this activity was administered from the castle and buildings surrounding the Palace Green. Many of the original buildings associated with these functions of the county palatine survive on the peninsula.
Every Bishop of Durham from 1071 to 1836 was a Prince Bishop except for the first Norman appointment, Bishop Walcher (in office ca. 1071-1080), who was styled an Earl-Bishop. Although the term "prince bishop" has been used as a helpful tool in the understanding the functions of the Bishops of Durham it is not a title they would have recognised. The last Prince Bishop of Durham, Bishop William Van Mildert, is credited with the foundation of Durham University in 1832. Henry VIII curtailed some of the Prince-Bishop's powers and, in 1538, ordered the destruction of the shrine of Saint Cuthbert.
The Prince Bishops also had their own court system, most notably the Court of Chancery of the County Palatine of Durham and Sadberge. The county also had its own attorney general, whose authority to bring an indictment for criminal matters was tested by central government in the case of R v Mary Ann Cotton (1873). Certain courts and judicial posts for the county were abolished by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873. Others were abolished by section 2 of the Durham (County Palatine) Act 1836 and section 41 of the Courts Act 1971.
Civil War and Commonwealth (1640 to 1660)
The city remained loyal to King Charles I throughout the English Civil War. Charles I came to Durham twice during his reign. Firstly, he came to the cathedral for a majestic service in which he was entertained by the Chapter and Bishop at great expense at the start of his reign. His second visitation to the city came towards the end of the civil war, escaping from the city as Oliver Cromwell's forces got closer. Local legend
stated he escaped down the Bailey and through Old Elvet. Another local legend has it that Cromwell stayed in a room in the present Royal County Hotel on Old Elvet during the civil war. The room is reputed to be haunted by his ghost. Durham suffered greatly during the civil war and Commonwealth. This was not due to direct assault by Cromwell but the abolition of the Church of England and the closure of religious institutions pertaining to it. The city has always relied upon the Dean and Chapter and cathedral as an economic force.
The castle suffered considerable damage and dilapidation during the Commonwealth due to the abolition of the office of bishop whose residence it was. Cromwell confiscated the castle and sold it to the Lord Mayor of London shortly after taking it from the bishop. A similar fate befell the cathedral, it being closed in 1650 and used to incarcerate 3,000 Scottish prisoners. Graffiti left by them can still be seen today etched into the interior stone.
At the Restoration in 1660, John Cosin (a former canon) was appointed bishop and set about a major restoration project. This included the commissioning of the famous elaborate woodwork in the cathedral choir, the font cover and the Black Staircase in the castle. Other renovations were carried out to both the city and cathedral by his successor Bishop Lord Nathaniel Crewe.
In 1720 it was proposed that Durham could become a sea port by digging a canal north to join the River Team, a tributary of the River Tyne near Gateshead. Nothing came of the plan, but the statue of Neptune in the Market Place was a constant reminder of Durham's maritime possibilities.
The thought of ships docking at the Sands or Millburngate remained fresh in the minds of Durham businessmen. In 1759, a new proposal hoped to make the Wear navigable from Durham to Sunderland by altering the river's course, but the increasing size of ships made this impractical. This was further compounded by the fact Sunderland had grown as the north east's main port and centre for shipping.
The 18th century also saw the rise of the trade union movement in the city.
The Great Reform Act 1832 saw the removal of the Prince Bishop's powers, although he still has the right to a seat in the House of Lords and is regarded as the second most senior bishop and fourth most senior clergyman in the Church of England. The Court of Claims of 1953 granted the traditional right of the bishop to accompany the sovereign at the coronation, reflecting his seniority.
The first census, conducted in 1801, states that Durham City had a population of 7,100. The Industrial Revolution mostly passed the city by. However, the city was well known for carpet making and weaving. Although most of the mediaeval weavers who thrived in the city had left by the 19th century, the city was the home of Hugh MacKay Carpets’ factory, which produced the famous brands of axminster and tufted carpets until the factory went into administration in April 2005. Other important industries were the manufacture of mustard and coal extraction.
The Industrial Revolution also placed the city at the heart of the coalfields, the county's main industry until the 1970s. Practically every village around the city had a coal mine and, although these have since disappeared as part of the regional decline in heavy industry, the traditions, heritage and community spirit are still evident.
The 19th century also saw the founding of Durham University thanks to the benevolence of Bishop William Van Mildert and the Chapter in 1832. Durham Castle became the first college (University College, Durham) and the bishop moved to Auckland Castle as his only residence in the county.
The first Durham Miners' Gala was attended by 5,000 miners in 1871 in Wharton Park, and remains the largest socialist trade union event in the world.
During the 20th century the University expanded greatly. St John's College and St Cuthbert's Society were founded on the Bailey, completing the series of colleges in that area of the city. From the early 1950s to early 1970s the university expanded to the south of the city centre. Trevelyan, Van Mildert, Collingwood, and Grey colleges were established, and new buildings for St Aidan's and St Mary's colleges for women, formerly housed on the Bailey, were created. The final 20th century collegiate addition came from the merger of the independent nineteenth-century colleges of the Venerable Bede and St Hild, which joined the university in 1979 as the College of St Hild and St Bede. The 1960s and 70s also saw building on New Elvet. Dunelm House for the use of the students' union was built first, followed by Elvet Riverside, containing lecture theatres and staff offices. To the southeast of the city centre sports facilities were built at Maiden Castle, adjacent to the Iron Age fort of the same name, and the Mountjoy site was developed, starting in 1924, eventually containing the university library, administrative buildings, and facilities for the Faculty of Science.
Durham was not bombed during World War II, though one raid on the night of 30 May 1942 did give rise to the local legend of 'St Cuthbert's Mist'. This states that the Luftwaffe attempted to target Durham, but was thwarted when Cuthbert created a mist that covered both the castle and cathedral, sparing them from bombing. The exact events of the night are disputed by contemporary eyewitnesses. The event continues to be referenced within the city, including inspiring the artwork 'Fogscape #03238' at Durham Lumiere 2015.
Durham was created a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, under the title 'Durham Castle and Cathedral'. Among the reasons given for the decision were 'Durham Cathedral [being] the largest and most perfect monument of "Norman" style architecture in England', and the cathedral's vaulting being an early and experimental model of the gothic style.
Durham is situated 13 miles (21 km) to the south west of Sunderland and 18 miles (29 km) to the south of Newcastle. The River Wear flows north through the city, making an incised meander which encloses the centre on three sides to form Durham's peninsula.
At the base of the peninsula is the Market Place, which still hosts regular markets; a permanent indoor market, Durham Indoor Market, is also situated just off the Market Place. The Market Place and surrounding streets are one of the main commercial and shopping areas of the city. From the Market Place, the Bailey leads south past Palace Green; The Bailey is almost entirely owned and occupied by the university and the cathedral.
Durham is a hilly city, claiming to be built upon the symbolic seven hills. Upon the most central and prominent position high above the Wear, the cathedral dominates the skyline. The steep riverbanks are densely wooded, adding to the picturesque beauty of the city. West of the city centre, another river, the River Browney, drains south to join the Wear to the south of the city.
The county town of County Durham, until 2009 Durham was located in the City of Durham local government district, which extended beyond the city, and had a total population of 87,656 in 2001, covering 186.68 square kilometres in 2007. In 2001, the unparished area of Durham had a population of 29,091, whilst the built-up area of Durham had a population of 42,939.
There are three old roads out of the Market Place: Saddler Street heads south-east, towards Elvet Bridge, the Bailey and Prebends Bridge. Elvet Bridge leads to the Elvet area of the city, Durham Prison and the south; Prebends Bridge is smaller and provides access from the Bailey to south Durham. Heading west, Silver Street leads out of the Market Place towards Framwellgate Bridge and North Road, the other main shopping area of the city. From here, the city spreads out into the Framwelgate, Crossgate, Neville's Cross and viaduct districts, which are largely residential areas. Beyond the viaduct lie the outlying districts of Framwellgate Moor and Neville's Cross. Heading north from the Market Place leads to Claypath. The road curves back round to the east and beyond it lie Gilesgate, Gilesgate Moor and Dragonville.
Many of the inner city areas are now inhabited by students living in shared houses.
The historical city centre of Durham has changed little over the past 200 years. It is made up of the peninsula containing the cathedral, palace green, former administrative buildings for the palatine and Durham Castle. This was a strategic defensive decision by the city's founders and gives the cathedral a striking position. So much so that Symeon of Durham stated:
"To see Durham is to see the English Sion and by doing so one may save oneself a trip to Jerusalem"
Sir Walter Scott was so inspired by the view of the cathedral from South Street that he wrote "Harold the Dauntless", a poem about Saxons and Vikings set in County Durham and published on 30 January 1817. The following lines from the poem are carved into a stone tablet on Prebends Bridge:
Grey towers of Durham
Yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles
Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot
And long to roam those venerable aisles
With records stored of deeds long since forgot.
The old commercial section of the city encompasses the peninsula on three sides, following the River Wear. The peninsula was historically surrounded by the castle wall extending from the castle keep and broken by two gatehouses to the north and west of the enclosure. After extensive remodelling and "much beautification" by the Victorians the walls were removed with the exception of the gatehouse which is still standing on the Bailey.
The medieval city was made up of the cathedral, castle and administrative buildings on the peninsula. The outlying areas were known as the townships and owned by the bishop, the most famous of these being Gilesgate (which still contains the mediaeval St Giles Church), Claypath and Elvet.
The outlying commercial section of the city, especially around the North Road area, saw much change in the 1960s during a redevelopment spearheaded by Durham City Council; however, much of the original mediaeval street plan remains intact in the area close to the cathedral and market place. Most of the mediaeval buildings in the commercial area of the city have disappeared apart from the House of Correction and the Chapel of Saint Andrew, both under Elvet Bridge. Georgian buildings can still be found on the Bailey and Old Elvet most of which make up the colleges of Durham University.
The table below gives the average temperature, rainfall and sunshine figures taken between 1981 and 2010, and extreme temperatures back to 1850 for the Met Office weather station in Durham:
|Climate data for Durham 102m asl, 1981–2010, extremes 1850–|
|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
|Source #1: Met Office|
|Source #2: NEForum|
Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Durham has a temperate climate. At 651.1 millimetres (26 in) the average annual rainfall is lower than the national average of 1,125 millimetres (44 in). Equally there are only around 122 days where more than 1 millimetre (0.04 in) of rain falls compared with a national average of 154.4 days. The area sees on average 1445.4 hours of sunshine per year, compared with a national average of 1125.0 hours. There is frost on 51.5 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. The highest temperature recorded at Durham was 32.5 °C (90.5 °F) during August 1990.
The whole of the centre of Durham is designated a conservation area. The conservation area was first designated on 9 August 1968, and was extended on 25 November 1980. In addition to the Cathedral and Castle, Durham contains over 630 listed buildings, 569 of which are located within the city centre conservation area. Particularly notable properties include:
Grade I listed
- Chorister School
- Crook Hall
- Durham Castle
- Durham Cathedral
- Elvet Bridge
- Framwellgate Bridge
- Kepier Hospital
- Kingsgate Bridge
- Prebends Bridge
- St Giles Church, Gilesgate
- Church of St Margaret of Antioch, Crossgate
- Church of St Mary-le-Bow (now Durham Heritage Centre)
- St. John's College Chapel, formerly the Church of St Mary the Less
- St. John's College, Linton House, 1 South Bailey
Grade II* listed
- St. Anne's Court, Castle Chare
- Aykley Heads House (now Bistro 21)
- Bishop Cosin's Hall, Palace Green
- Cosin's Library (now part of University Library, Palace Green)
- Crown Court, Old Elvet
- St Cuthbert's Society, 12 South Bailey
- St John's College, 3 South Bailey
- St Oswald's Church
- Railway viaduct, North Road
- Town Hall and Guildhall, Market Place
- Durham Marriott Hotel Royal County, Old Elvet
Grade II listed
- Durham Observatory
- The Chapel of the College of St Hild and St Bede
- The Victoria, a public house at 86 Hallgarth Street
- and a great many others
The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham, commonly referred to as Durham Cathedral was founded in its present form in AD 1093 and remains a centre for Christian worship today. It is generally regarded as one of the finest Romanesque cathedrals in Europe and the rib vaulting in the nave marks the beginning of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. The cathedral has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with nearby Durham Castle, which faces it across Palace Green, high above the River Wear.
The cathedral houses the shrine and related treasures of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and these are on public view. It is also home to the head of St Oswald of Northumbria and the remains of the Venerable Bede.
The castle was originally built in the 11th century as a projection of the Norman power in Northern England, as the population of England in the north remained rebellious following the disruption of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is an excellent example of the early motte and bailey castles favoured by the Normans. The holder of the office of Bishop of Durham was appointed by the King to exercise royal authority on his behalf and the castle was the centre of his command.
It remained the Bishop's Palace for the Bishops of Durham until the Bishop William Van Mildert made Bishop Auckland their primary residence. A founder of Durham University, Van Mildert gave the castle as accommodation for the institution's first college, University College. The castle was famed for its vast Great Hall, created by Bishop Antony Bek in the early 14th century. It was the largest great hall in Britain until Bishop Richard Foxe shortened it at the end of the 15th century. However, it is still 46 feet high and over 33 yards long. The castle is still the home of University College, Durham (which is, as a result, known informally as "Castle"). It has been in continuous use for over 900 years and is the only castle in the United Kingdom never to have suffered a breach.
Durham railway station is situated on the East Coast Main Line between Edinburgh and London; rail travellers coming from the south enter Durham over a spectacular Victorian viaduct high above the city. A second station, Durham Elvet, operated until 1954. By road, the A1(M), the modern incarnation of the ancient Great North Road, passes just to the east of the city. (Its previous incarnation, now numbered A167, passes just to the west.) Newcastle Airport lies to the north and Durham Tees Valley Airport to the south, both being about 25 miles (40 km) away. The Market Place and peninsula form the UK's first (albeit small) congestion charging area, introduced in 2002.
Durham County Council operate a bus-based park and ride service to the city centre from three sites on the periphery of the city. The service operates every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday between 7am and 7pm.
Durham bus station
Durham bus station serves the city of Durham. The bus station is managed by Durham County Council. There are 11 stands and the main operators from the bus station are Go North East, Arriva North East,Scarlet Band, Stanley Travel, Weardale Motor Services and National Express.
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Durham, England Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.