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MARKET TOWNS OF DURHAM (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Bishop Auckland in 1835

BISHOP’S AUCKLAND, a market-town and township in the parochial chapelry of St. Andrew Auckland, 248 miles N.N.W. from London, and 10 miles S.W. from Durham.

It is situated on an eminence, bounded on the north by the river Wear, and on the east by the little stream, the Gaunless, which falls into the Wear near the town. It is on the old Roman road, Watling-street. The eminence on which it is built is nearly 140 feet above the level of the plain below, and the descent is occupied chiefly by gardens, which, from. their steep declivity, may be termed hanging gardens. The town is well built, and there is a spacious square market-place. A grammar-school was founded here by King James I in the second year of his reign, at the petition of Dame Anne Swyfte of the city of Durham, by whom the school was endowed with an income of £10 annually. The school seems to have been further endowed by Bishop Neile ; and it appears also that the old chapel was appropriated to its use by Bishop Morton. The former of these prelates held the see of Durham from 1617 to 1627. and the latter from 1632 till the dissolution of the see in the time of the Commonwealth. In the course of the last century the chapel was rebuilt by subscription, and divine service restored. The school is now taught in apartments on the ground-floor. There is a school for 20 boys, founded by a Mr. Walton; also one on Dr. Bell’s system, for 200 boys ; and a school of industry for girls. The last two institutions seem to owe their origin chiefly to the liberality of the late bishop, Shute Barrington. There is an almshouse founded by Bishop Cosins, who came to the see on the restoration of Charles II. The market is on Thursday. Two ancient fairs, on Ascension Day and Corpus Christi Day, have been given up : but fairs of recent origin are, according to some accounts, held in the months of March and October. Some muslins and other cotton goods are made here.

The town derives its designation of Bishop’s Auckland from the residence of the bishops of Durham. It is said to have been chosen as an episcopal residence by Bishop Antony Beck, mentioned in the preceding article, who is also said to have built a castle here in a very magnificent style : but there are no remains of it left. The present palace, which has lost all the appearance of a castle, and is an irregular pile rather resembling a magnificent abbey, lies at the N.E. end of the town. The entrance to it from the town is through a new Gothic gateway and screen, extending 310 feet. The palace chapel, which was built by Bishop Cosins, is a very fine edifice, with lofty piers and arches of the early English character. It is 84 feet in length and 48 broad. This chapel has been repaired at various times. The windows of the aisles are in the decorated style ; and the east window is very fine. The altar-piece is a painting of the resurrection, by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Bishop Cosins lies buried under the floor. A plain stone, with a modest epitaph, points out. the spot. There is a handsome monument, by Nollekens, to the memory of Bishop Trevor, who died in 1771. The palace contains some good paintings : among them are full-length paintings, by Ribera (otherwise Spagnoletto), of Jacob and the twelve patriarchs, and a picture of the Cornaro family, by Titian. There is also a portrait of Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer. The park (through which the Gaunless flows) is very extensive, including 800 acres, and the part near the house is laid out so as to command a great variety of prospect. A stone bridge crosses the Gaunless.

The episcopal palace was granted, on the overthrow of Charles I and his party, and the suppression of the see, to Sir Arthur Hazelrig, who determined to make it his residence. He pulled down almost all the buildings which he found there, and out of their ruins erected a magnificent house. On the restoration of Charles II the bishops came again into possession : but Bishop Cosins declined to occupy the house built by Sir Arthur, on the ground that he had used in building it the stone of the ancient chapel. He accordingly pulled it down, and restoring the stone to its original destination, built the present chapel.