Historic Durham



Durham was founded by monks. Cuthbert was once Bishop of Lindisfarne. However after he died in 687 people claimed that miracles took place by his grave (people believed that dead bodies could work miracles). In 698 his body was exhumed and they discovered that it had not decomposed. Afterwards many people came to visit the body.

When in the 10th century the Vikings raided the coast of England in 985 the monks who kept Cuthbert's body decided to move from Lindisfarne to a safer location. For 10 years they wandered from place to place but eventually they settled at Durham then called Dunelm.

The name Durham means hill on an island. It's derived from the words dun meaning hill and holmr meaning island. The body of Cuthbert still attracted visitors and a town grew up around it. It was a good location for a town as it was easy to defend. It also had an important attraction for visitors. The Scots attacked Durham twice, in 1006 and 1038 but both times they were driven away.



In 1069 William the Conqueror sent 700 men to Durham. However the next day the native Anglo Saxons marched into the town and massacred the Normans. Afterwards the North of England rebelled against William. He took a terrible revenge. His men killed peasants and burned their crops and homes. They also killed livestock. The monks who looked after Cuthbert's body fled from Durham in 1069 but they returned in 1070.

In 1072 the Normans built a castle in Durham to control the people. In 1083 they founded a Benedictine priory (a small abbey) to replace the community who looked after Cuthbert's body. Then in 1093 the Norman bishop of Durham, William of Calais began building a cathedral in Durham. Cuthbert's body was finally buried there in 1104. Durham Cathedral was finished in 1133.

In 1076 the new Norman bishop was made the Earl of Bamburgh and was given the castle for his home. In 1091 King William Rufus gave the Bishop special powers. From then on the Bishop had the right to mint coins, raise an army and create barons. He could also raise taxes. He was called the Prince Bishop. In the Middle Ages the Bishop controlled the town of Durham. However his powers were later reduced and they were abolished in the early 19th century.

 In the Middle Ages the centre of Durham was on the peninsula formed by a bend in the river. There stood Durham cathedral, the castle. In the 12th century new areas were added to the town. Northeast of the peninsula St Giles borough grew up around St Giles hospital which was founded in 1112.

Meanwhile early in the 12th century Bishop Flambard built an area called Bishops Borough north of the cathedral. He also built Framwellgate bridge in 1120. Later in the century the Borough of Elvet was founded east of the town. Elvet bridge was built in 1160.

The Fulling Mill

In Medieval Durham there were watermills grinding grain into flour. Mills were also used for fulling. After wool was woven it was cleaned and thickened. This was done by pounding it in a mixture of water and special clay called fullers earth. The wool was pounded by wooden hammers worked by a water mill. The whole process was called fulling. Apart from making wool the most important industry in Medieval Durham was leather and there were many tanners in the town.

Before the Norman conquest there was probably an earth rampart around Durham with a wooden palisade on top. In the early 12th century it was replaced by a stone wall. However in 1312 Robert the Bruce attacked Durham and burned the suburbs. Afterwards a new wall was built north of St Nicholas's Church.

In Durham in the Middle Ages there was a hospital dedicated to St Giles. There was also a hospital dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. Durham also had a leper hostel dedicated to St Leonard, north of the town.

The first town hall in Durham was built in 1356.

By the mid 14th century a school called the Almoners school existed by the priory. By the early 15th century the monks of the priory had also founded a choir school. Two other schools were founded for teaching music and grammar on Palace Green.


In 1538 Henry VIII's men destroyed the shrine of St Cuthbert. This was a serious blow to Durham. The shrine drew large numbers of pilgrims to the town and they spent money there. That was all lost. Fortunately Durham grammar school which had been founded in 1414 remained. In 1661 it was rebuilt and became a famous public school.

In 1536 Henry VIII removed some of the Bishop of Durham's powers. Nevertheless the Bishop retained the title Prince Bishop and he still controlled Durham. In 1565 the bishop created a corporation of a mayor and aldermen but they had little power.

Like all 16th century towns Durham suffered outbreaks of plague. It struck in 1544, 1589 and 1598.

Then in 1640 the Scots rebelled when Charles I tried to force them to accept bishops (the Church of Scotland does not have bishops). The Scots occupied Durham but the townspeople were, generally, sympathetic to them.

In 1642 civil war started between king and parliament and in 1644 the Scots joined in on the side of Parliament. In 1644 they occupied Durham again. Also that year there was an outbreak of plague in the town. Later the English Parliament and the Scots argued and they fought the battle of Dunbar. Afterwards 4,000 Scottish prisoners were held in Durham castle.

At the end of the century a writer called Celia Fiennes described Durham:  'Durham city stands on a great hill. The cathedral and the castle (which is the bishops palace) with the college are built of stone and are encompassed with a wall full of battlements. There is a steep descent into the rest of the town where is the market place which is a spacious place. There is a very fair town hall on stone pillars and a very large conduit to bring water from the river to the townspeople. She also said that Durham had 'clean and pleasant buildings'. Walter Scot wrote " Grey towers of Durham! ... Yet well I love thy mix'd and massive piles, Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot." Yet the towers are golden sandstone as we can see from any picture.

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During the 18th century life in Durham gradually became more comfortable. A blue coat charity school was opened in Durham in 1718. (It got its name from the color of the school uniforms). In the early 18th century a mustard making industry started in Durham. The first theater in Durham opened in 1722 in Saddler Street on the site of Jack Wills shop in Saddler Street interestingly the players used to meet in the local pub, that pub is the Shakespeare and it is still going strong today. Then in 1729 a statue of Neptune was erected in the Market Place.

In the middle of the 18th century Durham probably had a population of around 4,000 to 5,000 and it was growing steadily. By 18th century standards Durham was quite a large town the town continued to thrive. Durham infirmary opened in 1787. Then in 1790 a body of men was created to pave and light the streets of Durham (using oil lamps).

19th Century

At the time of the first census in 1801 Durham had a population of about 7,500. In the 19th century Durham was known for organ making and carpet making. Other industries in the town were brewing and paper mills.

Meanwhile the population of Durham rose steeply in the early 19th century. By 1821 it was 9,800. By the mid 19th century it had reached 14,000. However the population only grew slowly in the second half of the century.

   Durham University opens in 1832 first college is Castle (university college) followed by Hatfield college founded in 1846 there has been of course Ushaw college founded in the in 1808 as a catholic teaching school. However the oldest school is Durham School founded by Thomas Langley in 1414


In 1901 the population of Durham was about 16,000. It continued to grow rapidly and Durham continued to thrive.

In the 1920s science laboratories were built in South Road.

In the 1930s slum clearance took place in Millburngate and Framwellgate. To rehouse the people from the slums a new estate was built at Sherburn Road. Slum clearance also took place in Old Elvet. In the 1920s and 1930s private houses were built North End, Gilesgate Moor and Whinney Hill.

Durham University expands

In the 20th century Durham university expanded. St Marys College was built in 1952. Then in 1960 the School of Oriental Studies opened. Grey College followed in 1961. Then came St Aidans College in 1965. Then Van Mildert College opened in 1966, Trevelyan College followed in 1967 and Collingwood College opened in 1973.

Interesting Shops in 1967 The Mugwump opened Meander was also around in the 1970's but closed in 1983 and Eric the co owner then opened The A;ms house coffee shop on Palace green. In 1981 I Norman Longstaff opened The Georgian Window Gift and Clothing Shop in Saddler Street which has the biggest selection of ladies scarves north of Liberty's of London. 1992 saw Vennel's cafe open near Skorpio Shoes who sell Doc Martins boots, 2014 Anderson Shoes opened Anderson Designer Ladies Clothes shop in Sadder Street Flat White and Bill's cafes came circa 2014 -15.

Settlement in Viking times

It is only after 995 that Durham begins to feature prominently in the historical record. 

Durham University college founded 1832  (Castle)

Hatfield in 1846

St Chad’s College 

St Cuthbert’s Society

St John’s College 

The above colleges are all within the peninsula

near the cathedral

St Marys 1899, one of Durham's oldest Colleges

Trevelion 1966

St Aidens 1947

Van Mildert College

Collingwood College 

Trevelyan College
Grey College 

Van Mildert College
John Snow College (Queen’s Campus) 
College of St Hild and St Bede 
Ustivov College postgraduates only
George Stephenson College 

New College  is teacher training and tourism



Il y a beaucoup à voir et à être surpris lorsque vous visitez le nord-est, en particulier la ville antique de Durham. La cathédrale et le château sont situés dans un méandre de la rivière, sur un monticule naturel, de sorte que chaque bâtiment qui l'entoure soit historique, la cathédrale fêtant ses 900 ans à la fin des années 1990. Green Palace La zone dans laquelle se trouvent la cathédrale et le château fait partie du patrimoine mondial. La cathédrale de Durham a été élue bâtiment préféré de la Grande-Bretagne dans le cadre d'une étude du meilleur de l'architecture britannique. La cathédrale a recueilli plus de 50% des suffrages des auditeurs du programme Today de la chaîne BBC Radio 4. Le site classé au patrimoine mondial de la cathédrale et du château de Durham a également été l’un des premiers à être désigné, avec le Taj Mahal (Inde) et le palais de Versailles (France). La cathédrale normande avec le château de Durham est une belle scène intemporelle qui n’a pas changé au cours des siècles. alors n’oubliez pas d’apporter votre appareil photo. Également sur Palace Green, vous passerez devant la bibliothèque, un lieu fascinant à visiter, puis à l'entrée du château normand. Cette zone connue sous le nom de Green Palace est classée au patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO en 2017 et classée patrimoine mondial par le patrimoine mondial.

Voici quelques faits

      Les travaux sur la cathédrale ont commencé en 1093 en tant qu'église pour les restes de saint Cuthbert, évêque de Lindisfarne au 7ème siècle. La cathédrale abrite également la tombe de Jarrow’s Bede, le chroniqueur de la vie de Cuthbert Bead de Jarrow, qui fut le premier historien anglais. L’architecture normande de la cathédrale de Durham a traversé les siècles alors que de nombreux édifices normands importants d’Angleterre ont été modifiés, mais la cathédrale et le château de Durham n’ont pas perdu de vue depuis des siècles. Plus de 600 000 personnes y passent chaque année. Le marteau du sanctuaire se trouve à la porte principale de la cathédrale de Durham. Tout fugitif qui le touchait se voyait accorder un refuge pour 37 jours. Ils pourraient alors faire face à leurs accusateurs ou être conduits en toute sécurité sur la côte.
  En 1523, le conseiller en chef d’Henry VIII, le cardinal Thomas Wolsey, devint évêque de Durham. Curieusement, vous voudrez peut-être visiter Bishop Auckland, car c'est ici que les évêques de Durham ont vécu au château d'Auckland. En 2016, Kynren s'est rendu sur ce site situé au château d'Auckland, à environ 20 km au sud de la cathédrale de Durham. https://elevenarches.org/