1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Durham (county)

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DURHAM, a northern county of England, bounded N. by Northumberland, E. by the North Sea, S. by Yorkshire, and W. by Westmorland and Cumberland. Its area is 1014.6 sq. m. It is wholly on the eastern slope, the western angle being occupied by spurs of the Pennine chain, exceeding 2300 ft. in height at some points on the Cumberland border. West of a line from Barnard Castle by Wolsingham to the neighbourhood of Consett the whole of the land, excepting narrow valleys, lies at elevations exceeding 1000 ft. This area represents roughly one quarter of the total. The principal rivers rising in these hills are the Derwent, tributary to the Tyne, forming part of the county boundary with Northumberland, the Wear and the Tees, which forms almost the whole of the boundary with Westmorland and Yorkshire. The dales traversed by these rivers in their upper parts, though sufficiently strongly contrasted with the dark, barren moors surrounding them, yet partake of somewhat the same wild character. Lower down, however, are beautiful and fertile valleys, the main rivers flowing between steep, well-wooded banks; while the lesser streams of the coastal district have carved out denes or ravines on the steep flanks of which vegetation is luxuriant. Castle Eden Dene, 7 m. N.W. of Hartlepool, is famous for its beautiful trees and wild flowers. The coastward slope is fairly steep in the northern half of the county, but it is steady, and the coast itself has no striking scenic features, save where the action of the waves upon the magnesian limestone has separated great masses, leaving towering fragments standing, and fretting the face of the rock with caverns and arches. The cluster of rocks named the Black Halls, 6 m. N.W. of Hartlepool, best exhibits these features. Other natural phenomena include the Linnkirk caves near Stanhope in Weardale in which numerous fossils and bones, with evidence of habitation by man, have been discovered; and the Hell Kettles, S. of Darlington, near the junction of the Tees and the Skerne, four cavities filled with water, reputed to be unfathomable, and measuring from 80 to 120 ft. in diameter. The water is sulphurous.

Except in the moorlands of the west only a few scraps of the county have been left in their natural state; but these portions are of great interest to the student of natural history. The ballast-hills at Shields, Jarrow and Hartlepool, formed by the discharge of material from ships arriving in ballast from foreign countries, are overgrown with aliens, many of which are elsewhere unknown in this country. Nearly fifty different species have been found. Stockton was almost the last retreat in England of the native black rat. Of the former abundance of deer, wild ox and boar every peat bog testifies by its remains; the boar appears to have existed in the reign of Henry VIII., and records of red deer in the county may be traced down to the middle of the 18th century.

Geology.—The uplift of the Pennine hills causes nearly all the stratified rocks of Durham to dip towards the east or south-east. Thus the oldest rocks are to be found in the west, while in passing eastward younger rocks are continually met. In the hilly district of Weardale and Teesdale the Carboniferous Limestone series prevails; this is a succession of thick beds of limestone with intervening sandstones and shales. Some of the calcareous beds are highly fossiliferous; those at Frosterley near Stanhope are full of the remains of corals and the stone is polished as a marble. Much of the higher ground in the west is capped by Millstone Grit, as at Muggleswick and Walsingham commons. The outcrop of this formation broadens eastward until it is covered by the Durham coalfield which occupies the centre of the county from Newcastle and South Shields to Barnard Castle. The Coal Measures are about 2000 ft. thick and contain upwards of 100 seams of coal, including many of great importance—the Brockwell coal, Low Main coal and High Main coal are some of the well-known seams. Fireclays of great value are obtained from beneath many of the coal seams. Apart from the coals, the Coal Measures are made up of beds of sandstone and shale, the former called “post” and the latter “plate” by the local miners. Permian magnesian limestone succeeds the Coal Measures on the east, it reaches from the Tees to South Shields in a broad tract and occupies the coast between that town and Hartlepool. Remarkable concretionary forms are found in the Fulwell Quarries simulating honeycomb and coral structures. The stone is quarried at Marsden for the manufacture of Epsom salts; it is also used for lime-making and building. Fish remains are not uncommon in it. The sandstones and marls seen between the magnesian limestone and the Coal Measures at South Shields, Newbottle and several miles farther south are usually classed as Permian, but they may possibly prove to belong to the lower series. In the south-east corner of the county, by Darlington, Stockton and Seaton Carew, the low ground is made of Triassic rocks, red marls and sandstones with beds of gypsum and rock salt. Coal Measures undoubtedly underlie the Permian and Triassic strata. Normal faults traverse the district, mostly from east to west. Great dykes and sills of basalt lie in the Tees valley above Middleton and one, the Great Whin Sill, may be followed in an easterly direction for over 120 m. The Cockfield dyke and Little Whin Sill are similar intrusions of basalt. Lead mines have been extensively worked in the limestone districts of Weardale and Teesdale; the limestone itself is quarried on a large scale for fluxing in the ironworks. Glacial deposits obscure the older rocks over much of the county, they contain travelled stones from the Pennines and Cheviots. Submerged forests appear off the coast at West Hartlepool and other points. A small patch of Silurian occurs near Cronkley on the Tees; here slate pencils were formerly made.

Agriculture.—Near the river Tees, and in some places bordering on the other rivers, the soil is loam or a rich clay. At a farther distance from these rivers it is of inferior quality, with patches of gravel interspersed. The hills east of the line from Barnard Castle to Consett are covered with a dry loam, the fertility of which varies with its depth. West of the line the summits and flanks of the hills are in great part waste moorland. Only some two-thirds of the total area of the county are under cultivation, and nearly two-thirds of this are in permanent pasture. There are also nearly 60,000 acres of hill-pasture. Of the diminished area under corn crops oats occupy more than one-half, and barley much exceeds wheat. Nearly two-thirds of the average under green crops are occupied by turnips, as many cattle are raised and have a long-standing reputation. The cows are especially good yielders of milk. The sheep are also highly esteemed, particularly the Teesdale breed. Those of Weardale are small, but their mutton is finely flavoured.

Mining.—The mountain limestone contains veins of lead ore and zinc ore. The beds of coal in the Coal Measures have long been a source of enormous wealth. The mines are among the most extensive and productive in the kingdom. At Sunderland the coal trade furnishes employment for hundreds of vessels, independently of the “keels” or lighters which convey the coal from the termini of the railways and tramways to the ships. The seams worked extend horizontally for many miles, and are from 20 to 100 fathoms beneath the surface. The Frosterley marble has been quarried for many centuries near Stanhope for decorative purposes, in Durham cathedral and elsewhere taking the place of Purbeck marble, while in modern houses it is used chiefly for chimney-pieces. Ironstone is worked in the neighbourhood of Whickham and elsewhere. Excellent slate is quarried at several places. The neighbourhood of Wolsingham abounds in fine millstones. The Newcastle grindstones are procured at Gateshead Fell; and firestone for building ovens, furnaces and the like is obtained in various parts of Durham, and exported in considerable quantity.

Other Industries.—The manufacturing industries are extensive, and all are founded upon the presence of coal, of which, moreover, large quantities are exported. The industrial and mining districts may be taken to lie almost wholly east of a line from Darlington through Bishop Auckland to Consett. Textile industries are not carried on to any great extent, but a large number of hands are employed in the manufacture of machines, appliances, conveyances, tools, &c. Of this manufacture the branch of shipbuilding stands first; the yards on the Tyne are second only to those on the Clyde, and the industry is prosecuted also at Sunderland, the Hartlepools and Stockton-on-Tees. The founding and conversion of metal stands next in importance; and other industries include the manufacture of paper, chemicals (chiefly on the Tyne), glass and bottles and earthenware (at Gateshead and Sunderland). The output of limestone is greater than that of any other county in the United Kingdom. As regards iron, the presence of the coal and the proximity of the Cleveland iron district of North Yorkshire enable the county to produce over one million tons of pig-iron annually, though the output of iron from within the county itself is inconsiderable. There is a large production of salt from brine. The sea fisheries of Sunderland and Hartlepool are valuable.

Communications.—Railway communication is provided entirely by the North Eastern company. The main line runs northward through Darlington, Durham and Gateshead, and there are a large number of branches through the mining and industrial districts, while the company also owns some of the docks. From Stockton to Darlington ran the railway engineered by George Stephenson and opened in 1825. The chief ports of Durham are Jarrow and South Shields on the Tyne, Sunderland at the mouth of the Wear, Seaham Harbour, Hartlepool East and West and Stockton-on-Tees.

Administration and Population.—Durham is one of the Counties Palatine, the others being Lancashire and Cheshire. The area of the ancient county is 649,352 acres, and that of the administrative county 649,244 acres. There were formerly three outlying portions of the county, known as North Durham (including Norhamshire and Islandshire), Bedlingtonshire and Crayke. These were attached to the county as having formed parcels of the ancient “patrimony of St Cuthbert,” of which the land between Tyne and Tees was the chief portion. The population in 1891 was 1,016,454 and in 1901 1,187,361. The birth-rate is much above, the death-rate also above, but the percentage of illegitimacy considerably below, the average. The county is divided into 4 wards. The following are municipal boroughs: Darlington (pop. 44,511), Durham, city (14,679), Gateshead, county borough (109,888), Hartlepool (22,723), Jarrow (34,295), South Shields, county borough (97,263), Stockton-on-Tees (51,478), Sunderland, county borough (146,077), West Hartlepool (62,627). The other urban districts may be distributed so as to indicate roughly the most populous and industrial districts:

1. In the Tyne district (where Gateshead, Jarrow and South Shields are the chief centres)—Blaydon (19,623), Felling (22,467), Hebburn (20,901), Ryton (8452), Whickham (12,852).

2. North-western district—Annfield Plain (12,481), Benfieldside (7457), Consett (9694), Leadgate (4657), Tanfield (8276), Stanley (13,554).

3. Durham and Bishop Auckland district (continuation south of the preceding)—Bishop Auckland (11,969), Brandon and Byshottles (15,573), Crook (11,471), Shildon and East Thickley (11,759), Spennymoor (16,665), Tow Law (4371), Willington (7887).

4. Durham and Sunderland district (N.E. of preceding)—Hetton (13,673), Houghton-le-Spring (7858), Seaham Harbour (10,163), Southwick-on-Wear (12,643). The township of Chester-le-Street (11,753) is also in this district.

The only other urban districts are Barnard Castle (4421) in Teesdale and Stanhope (1964) in Weardale. Durham is in the north-eastern circuit, and assizes are held at Durham. It has one court of quarter sessions and is divided into 16 petty sessional divisions. All the boroughs have separate commissions of the peace. The ancient county, which is in the diocese of Durham, excepting part of one parish in that of York, contains 243 ecclesiastical parishes wholly or in part. There are 288 civil parishes. The county is divided into eight parliamentary divisions, each returning one member—Jarrow, Chester-le-Street, Houghton-le-Spring, Mid, North-west, Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, South-east. It also includes the parliamentary borough of Sunderland, returning two members, and the boroughs of Darlington, Durham, Gateshead, Hartlepool, South Shields and Stockton-on-Tees, returning one member each. Among educational establishments there may be mentioned the university and the grammar school in the city of Durham, and the Roman Catholic college of Ushaw near Durham.

History.—After the death of Ida in the 6th century the kingdom of Northumbria was divided into the two states of Bernicia and Deira, separated from each other by the Tees, the latter including the district afterwards known as Durham. The post-conquest palatinate arose by a process of slow growth from the grant of land made by Egfrith to St Cuthbert on his election to the see of Lindisfarne in 684. On the transference of the see to Chester-le-Street in the 9th century, Guthred the Dane endowed it with the whole district between the Tyne and the Wear, stretching west as far as Watling Street, a grant confirmed by Alfred; and when in 995 the see was finally established at Durham, the endowment was again largely enriched by various donations. Durham continued, however, to form part of the earldom of Northumbria, and not until after the purchase of the earldom by Bishop Walcher in 1075 did the bishops begin to exercise regal rights in their territory. The term palatinus is applied to the bishop in 1293, and from the 13th century onwards the bishops frequently claim such rights in their lands as the king enjoys in his kingdom. At the time of the Conquest the bishop’s possessions included nearly all the district between the Tees and the Tyne, except Sadberge, and also the outlying districts of Bedlingtonshire, Norhamshire, Islandshire and Crayke, together with Hexhamshire, the city of Carlisle, and part of Teviotdale. Henry I. deprived the bishopric of the last three, but in compensation made over to it the vills of Burdon, Aycliffe and Carlton, hitherto included in the earldom of Northumberland. The wapentake of Sadberge also formed part of the earldom of Northumberland; it was purchased for the see by Bishop Pudsey in 1189, but continued an independent franchise, with a separate sheriff, coroner and court of pleas. In the 14th century Sadberge was included in Stockton ward and was itself divided into two wards. The division into the four wards of Chester-le-Street, Darlington, Easington and Stockton existed in the 13th century, each ward having its own coroner and a three-weekly court corresponding to the hundred court. The diocese was divided into the archdeaconries of Durham and Northumberland. The former is mentioned in 1072, and in 1291 included the deaneries of Chester-le-Street, Auckland, Lanchester and Darlington.

Until the 15th century the most important administrative officer in the palatinate was the steward. Other officers were the sheriff, the coroners, the chamberlain and the chancellor. The palatine exchequer was organized in the 12th century. The palatine assembly represented the whole county, and dealt chiefly with fiscal questions. The bishop’s council, consisting of the clergy, the sheriff and the barons, regulated the judicial affairs, and later produced the Chancery and the courts of Admiralty and Marshalsea. The prior of Durham ranked first among the bishop’s barons. He had his own court, and almost exclusive jurisdiction over his men. The quo warranto proceedings of 1293 exhibit twelve lords enjoying more or less extensive franchises under the bishop. The repeated efforts of the crown to check the powers of the palatinate bishops culminated in 1536 in the Act of Resumption, which deprived the bishop of the power to pardon offences against the law or to appoint judicial officers; indictments and legal processes were in future to run in the name of the king, and offences to be described as against the peace of the king, not against that of the bishop. In 1596 restrictions were imposed on the powers of the chancery, and in 1646 the palatinate was formally abolished. It was revived, however, after the Restoration, and continued with much the same power until the act of 1836, which provided that the palatine jurisdiction should in future be vested in the crown. There were ten palatinate barons in the 12th century, the most important being the Hiltons of Hilton Castle, the Bulmers of Brancepeth, the Conyers of Sockburne, the Hansards of Evenwood, and the Lumleys of Lumley Castle. The Nevilles owned large estates in the county; Raby Castle, their principal seat, was built by John de Neville in 1377. Owing to its isolated position the palatinate took little part or interest in any of the great rebellions of the Norman and Plantagenet period. During the Wars of the Roses Henry VI. passed through Durham, and the novelty of a royal visit procured him an enthusiastic reception. On the outbreak of the Great Rebellion Durham inclined to support the cause of the parliament, and in 1640 the high sheriff of the palatinate guaranteed to supply the Scottish army with provisions during their stay in the county. In 1642 the earl of Newcastle formed the western counties into an association for the king’s service, but in 1644 the palatinate was again overrun by the Scottish army, and after the battle of Marston Moor fell entirely into the hands of the parliament.

Durham has never possessed any manufactures of importance, and the economic history of the county centres round the growth of the mining industry, which employed almost the whole of the non-agricultural population. Stephen possessed a mine in Durham which he granted to Bishop Pudsey, and in the same century colliers are mentioned at Coundon, Bishopwearmouth and Sedgefield. Cockfield Fell was one of the earliest Landsale collieries in Durham. Edward III. issued an order allowing coal dug at Newcastle to be taken across the Tyne, and Richard II. granted to the inhabitants of Durham licence to export the produce of the mines, without paying dues to the corporation of Newcastle. Among other early industries lead-mining was carried on in the western part of the county, and mustard was extensively cultivated. Gateshead had a considerable tanning trade and shipbuilding was carried on at Jarrow.

In 1614 a bill was introduced in parliament for securing representation to the county and city of Durham and the borough of Barnard Castle. The movement was strongly opposed by the bishop, as an infringement of his palatinate rights, and the county was first summoned to return members to parliament in 1654. After the Restoration the county and city returned two members each. By the Reform Act of 1832 the county returned two members for two divisions, and the boroughs of Gateshead, South Shields and Sunderland acquired representation. The boroughs of Darlington, Stockton and Hartlepool returned one member each from 1868 until the Redistribution Act of 1885.

Antiquities.—To the Anglo-Saxon period are to be referred portions of the churches of Monk Wearmouth (Sunderland), Jarrow, Escomb near Bishop Auckland, and numerous sculptured crosses, two of which are in situ at Aycliffe. The best remains of the Norman period are to be found in Durham cathedral and in the castle, also in some few parish churches, as at Pittington and Norton near Stockton. Of the Early English period are the eastern portion of the cathedral, the fine churches of Darlington, Hartlepool, and St Andrew, Auckland, Sedgefield, and portions of a few other churches. The Decorated and Perpendicular periods are very scantily represented, on account, as is supposed, of the incessant wars between England and Scotland in the 14th and 15th centuries. The principal monastic remains, besides those surrounding Durham cathedral, are those of its subordinate house or “cell,” Finchale Priory, beautifully situated by the Wear. The most interesting castles are those of Durham, Raby, Brancepeth and Barnard. There are ruins of castelets or peel-towers at Dalden, Ludworth and Langley Dale. The hospitals of Sherburn, Greatham and Kepyer, founded by early bishops of Durham, retain but few ancient features.

See W. Hutchinson, History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham (3 vols., Newcastle, 1785-1794); R. Surtees, History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham (4 vols., London, 1816-1840); B. Bartlet, The Bishoprick Garland, Collection of Legends, Songs, Ballads ... of Durham (London, 1834); J. Raine, History and Antiquities of North Durham (London, 1852); Perry and Herman, Illustrations of the Medieval Antiquities of the County of Durham (Oxford, 1867); G. T. Lapsley, The County Palatine of Durham (New York, &c., 1900); Victoria County History, Durham. See also the Surtees Society’s Publications, and Transactions of the Architectural Society of Durham and Northumberland.