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MARKET TOWNS OF DURHAM (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Durham in 1837

DURHAM, a city and borough, the capital of the county palatine of Durham, 67 miles east-south-east from Carlisle, 67 west-north-west from York, and 259 north-by-west from London.

We have no evidence of any town having existed where Durham now stands before the end of the tenth century, when the monks of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, rested there with the remains of St. Cuthbert. According to the legend, when they arrived at Dunholme, the cart, in which the saint’s body was carried, by some miraculous interposition, became immovable, and the monks proceeded to build a sort of tabernacle wherein they deposited the relics ; but soon after a stone church was built by Bishop Aldun, and dedicated to St. Cuthbert, whose remains were removed, and enshrined in it. The town of Dunholme, or Durham, was besieged by Duncan of Scotland in 1040 ; but was so well fortified and defended, that, after several fruitless assaults on the part of the assailants, the besieged made a successful sally and completely routed the enemy. By Leland it is called Duresme (the Norman name, whence Durham). ‘The towne self of Duresme,’ says Leland, ‘stondith on a rocky hille ; and stondith as men cum from the south cuntre on the ripe of Were, the which water so with his course naturall in a botom windeth about, that from Elvet, a great stone bridge of 14 arches, it crepeth about the towne to Trainegate bridge of 3 arches, also on Were, that betwixt these two bridges, or a little lower at St. Nicholas, the towne, except the length of an arrowshot, is brought in insulam.’

In 1069, Robert Cumin was appointed governor by William the Conqueror ; but, in consequence of the excesses committed by the Norman soldiers under his command, the inhabitants set fire to his house, and murdered the whole garrison, with the exception of one man who escaped. William, greedy of revenge, marched an army northward, and the terrified inhabitants fled from the city ; the monks retired to Holy Island : but when tranquillity was restored, they again returned to Durham with their sacred relics, which they had carried with them. In 1072 a strong castle was built here, and Walcher, a Norman, was appointed to the bishopric. This prelate purchased the earldom of Northumberland, and assumed the title of Count Palatine. In 1093 the old church built by Aldun was pulled down, and the present magnificent edifice begun by King Malcolm, Carilepho the bishop, and Turgot the prior. Durham was often the head-quarters of Edward III, and of other monarchs and commanders on their excursions against Scotland. After the battle of Newburn, the city of Durham became almost depopulated.

By the 6th and 7th William IV, chap. 19, the whole of the palatine jurisdiction of the bishops of Durham is taken away, and is vested in the crown as a separate franchise and royalty. Before the passing of that act, the bishop of Durham, as count palatine and earl of Sadberg, was custos rotulorum of the county ; he presided at the assizes, with his Majesty’s judges, and the sheriff was accountable to him, and not to the king.

The city sends two members to parliament. The first charter was granted by Hugh Percy, and was confirmed by Pope Alexander ; the governing charter is that of Bishop Egerton, dated 1780. The limits of the parliamentary borough have been extended by the Reform and Boundary Acts, and now include part of the township of Crossgate part of the parish of St. Giles, part of the township of Elnet, the whole of St. Mary-le-Bow, and the whole of St. Mary-the-Less. There are now three wards, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. The revenue of the corporation is small, but they have no debt.

The corporation hold a court-leet and a court-baron as lessees of the bishop, for the recovery of debts under 40 shillings. The court of the county of Durham (not the ordinary county court) was abolished by the 6th and 7th William IV, c. 19. The assizes for the county are held here twice a-year by the judges going the northern circuit.

The city is nearly surrounded by the river Wear, and, as Leland remarks, forms a peninsula, the centre of which rises to a lofty eminence, partially enclosed by the ancient walls, and skirted with hanging gardens descending to the river, on each side of which are delightful public walks called The Banks. The cathedral and castle crown the summit.

At the northern extremity of the city is Framwell-gate bridge, erected about the year 1120 by Bishop Flambard. Elvet bridge, which crosses the river opposite Framwell-gate bridge, was originally built by Bishop Pudsey, in 1170, but it has lately been considerably widened and improved. A handsome bridge, consisting of three arches, was erected in the end of the last century at the extremity of the South Bailey.

The castle, which forms the occasional residence of the bishops of Durham, is supposed to have been built by William the Conqueror. The north gateway was till lately, when a new gaol, county courts, and house of correction were erected at an expense of nearly £120,000, used as a county gaol. In the market-place is the, guildhall, erected by Bishop Tunstall in 1555 ; and on the Palace Green is the exchequer, containing offices for the auditor, cursitor, prothonotary, treasurer, registrar, &c.

The town is lighted with gas, and well paved. A public fountain stands in the centre of the market-place ; the water is conveyed to the reservoir through pipes from a spring granted to the city for ever in 1450, by Thomas Bellingham, Esq. There is a theatre, as well as a subscription library, news-room, and assembly-rooms. Races are held here in May. The population of Durham in 1831 was 9,269. There were 806 voters registered in 1832, the first registration after the Reform Act.

The trade of Durham was formerly much more considerable than it is at present. There are manufactories of stuffs and carpets, for spinning and combing wool, and for making hats, a brass-foundry, and two iron-foundries. A market for corn and other provisions is held on Saturday. There are fairs for cattle and horses on the 29th, 30th and 31st of March, on Whit Tuesday, on the Saturday before the 13th of May, on September 15th, and on the Saturday before the 23rd of November. The March fair is very celebrated for its horses.

The city comprises six parishes : St. Giles, St. Margaret, St. Mary-le-Bow, St. Mary (in South Bailey), St. Nicholas, and St. Oswald, the livings of which are respectively of the clear annual value of £99, £409, £111, £119, £87, £272. There are places of worship for Quakers, Independents, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists, and Roman Catholics. A mechanics’ institute was established in 1825. There is a grammar-school connected with the cathedral which has four exhibitions for the sons of clergymen, of £25 each at the school, and of £50 each at either of the universities ; it has also five scholarships of £10 per annum each at Peter House, Cambridge, founded by Bishop Cosins, and one scholarship of £16 per annum at Emanuel College, Cambridge jointly with the school at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There are about 60 boys educated at the school, exclusive of 18 on the foundation. There is a blue-coat and Sunday school, as well as infant schools and a charity-school in Gravel-lane. It is said that upwards of 1,000 children are gratuitously educated in Durham and its suburbs. An infirmary, erected in 1791, is supported by voluntary contributions. On Palace Green are almshouses for four poor men and four poor women, who receive an annuity of £70. In addition to the charitable institutions mentioned, there is a numerous list of benefactors to the poor of the city and its vicinity.

About three-quarters of a mile from Durham is the site of the Maiden Castle, a fortress ascribed to the Romans, as also some remains of the lknield-street. Saline, chalybeate and sulphureous springs are found in the neighbourhood.