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MARKET TOWNS OF DURHAM (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Barnard Castle in 1835

BARNARD CASTLE, otherwise called CASTLE BARNARD, a market-town in the parish of Gainsford in the county of Durham, 246 miles N.N.W. of London, and 23 miles S.W. of Durham, is situated on the southern acclivity of an eminence which rises with a steep ascent from the left or northern bank of the river Tees. The town derived its name and chief consequence, if not its origin, from a castle which was erected on the summit of a rock on the west side of the town by Bernard Baliol, son of Guy Baliol, one of the followers of William I. The forests of Teesdale and Marwood, and the rich lordships of Middleton and Gainsford, with all their royal franchises, liberties, and immunities, were granted by the Conqueror to Guy Baliol. The whole district under consideration appears to have been originally called Marwood, which also seems to have been the name of a town about half a mile from the castle, of which there are now no other traces than an old building, said to have been the church, but lately used as a barn. One of the descendants of Guy Baliol was John Baliol, king of Scotland, who was born at Castle Barnard, and founded a hospital there which survived the Dissolution, and still furnishes a scanty provision for three aged women. In his time the lordship passed from the family by forfeiture, and was claimed by Beke, bishop of Durham, as belonging to his palatinate ; but the king (Edward I), to humble this proud prelate, ultimately took the palatinate from him, and when it was restored to the see of Durham it was without the important additions which it had gained by the forfeitures of Baliol and Bruce. The king gave the castle and its liberties to Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, from whose heirs it passed to the Nevilles, and ultimately came into the hands of Richard III by right of his wife, Anne Neville, the daughter of the ‘king-making’ Earl of Warwick. Richard appears to have done much for the improvement of the place ; the boar, his cognizance, still exists in several parts of the town and castle ; and in many cases figures in relief of boars passant, taken from the castle, are fixed in the houses. It thus came into the possession of the crown, from which the castle, houses, parish-lands, and privileges were ultimately purchased by an ancestor of the Duke of Cleveland, who is the present proprietor.

The existing remains of this castle cover six acres and three-quarters. The parts of chief strength stand on the brink of a steep rock, on the north-east corner of the principal area commanding a most beautiful prospect up the river. The walls, which are in various degrees of preservation, seem to have been erected at different epochs, and with their apertures, bastions, and buttresses, together with a large circular tower, which stands on a cliff one hundred feet perpendicular above the river, are in parts mantled with ivy, and as contrasted with the brown rocks, fringed with brushwood, on which they stand, and the river at the base, form an object of great picturesque effect. Indeed, the environs of the castle are altogether remarkably beautiful, the vale of the Tees abounding with romantic landscapes. The outer area of Barnard Castle is now used as a pasture for sheep, and the other parts inclosed by the walls have long been converted into orchard grounds.

Leland, who visited it in the reign of Henry VIII, speaks of the town of Barnard Castle as ‘a meatly praty toun, having a good market, and meatley welle buildid,’ a description which very well applies to it now. It extends about a mile in length, and consists of several streets, the principal of which is very wide, and for the most part lined with good modern houses built with stone. It possesses one of the best corn-markets in the north of England ; but the market cross and shambles are very inconveniently situated, being in the middle of the way. The market cross itself is an octangular freestone building, open at the sides for public accommodation. The church, or rather chapel of ease, dedicated to St. Mary, is in the form of a cross, with a detached tower, which was originally surmounted by a lofty spire, but that, having become ruinous, was removed about fifty years since, and the tower itself was raised sixty feet higher than it was before. This tower contains four bells, one of which has an inscription around the rim in the Saxon character, which would seem to denote its being one of the oldest bells in the country. The inscription merely declares the dedication of the bell to the Trinity and all the saints. The living is a perpetual curacy, of which the vicar of Gainsford is patron. It is of the certified value of £30, 9 shillings, but the annual value is £130, according to parliamentary returns. The local government is administered by a steward and jury of the manor of Darlington. The inhabitants are employed to a considerable extent in the manufacture of Scotch camlets, and in the stocking and tanning business, which last produces a leather highly esteemed in the manufacture of white leather breeches. The market is on Wednesdays, and there are fairs on Easter Monday, Wednesday in Whitsun week, St. James’s day, and one on July 25th for horses, cattle, and sheep. The chapelry of Barnard Castle contains 513 houses, and the population in 1831 was 4,430, of whom 2,332 were females.

On account of the paramount authority of the bishop in the palatinate of Durham, not only the county, but all the towns, were exempted from the burden, as it was then considered, of sending members to parliament, until the reign of King James I, when the inhabitants began to think they had a right to representatives. The question was first considered in parliament in 1614 but, owing to the opposition of the bishop, nothing was decided until 1621, when, with the concurrence of Bishop Morton, the county, the city, and Barnard Castle were allowed two members each. Fourteen members for the whole county had been claimed in the first instance.