Around every corner in Durham City is something old and interesting. To see it all in one walk is not possible, but here is a start in getting to know the City’s rich history.
1 Durham Railway Station. The canopy over platform 2 is from 1871-2 and is a Listed Building (Grade 2). Pass through the gate into the park and up the steps to the Battery (the ornamental fort).
2 Wharton Park. William Wharton created this park for the public when the station was completed in 1857. Walk towards the Heritage centre, then down the steps to North Road.
3 The Viaduct. The 30-metre-high viaduct with 11 arches built in 1857 is an engineering triumph by the former North Eastern Railway. Cross carefully at the pedestrian refuge for Sutton Street.
4. The former County Hospital. The former County Hospital was built in 1851 in the Elizabethan style. It is now named Rushford Court after complete renovation of the interior to form student accommodation. Take the steep Flass Street up to the Miners’ Hall.
5. Durham Miners’ Association Hall. The ‘Pitman’s Parliament’ built in 1915 has since represented over 2 million miners. Beyond the Hall, go through the railway tunnel to Hawthorn Terrace. After the former Harrison & Harrison Organ Factory, turn right up the main road, crossing at the lights into Crossgate.
6. St. Margaret’s Workhouse was started in 1837 soon after the Poor Law Act made local parishes responsible for paupers. Up to 50 of the150 inmates living under harsh conditions were children. It is now in residential and community use.
7. St. Margaret of Antioch Church (Grade 1 Listed) is from the mid-12th century. Continue down past the junction with South Street, to cross Framwelgate Bridge. Enjoy the views, and then walk up Silver Street.
8. The Market Place. The City’s largest civic space is where the open-air market and events are held. It is dominated by the statue of the coal owner, the Marquis of Londonderry, on horseback.
9. The Town Hall is the civic heart of the City, it served as a meeting place for the City’s merchant guilds. The oldest parts of the building go back to 1535.
10. The Indoor Market. This popular market was established in 1851 to help regulate markets and fairs.
11. St Nicholas Church, rebuilt in 1858 is the City’s civic church, a spiritual and social centre and home to the UK’s first Fair Trade shop. Turn right from the Market Place up Saddler Street to the Magdalene Steps of 1860 leading down to Old Elvet Bridge.
12 Old Elvet Bridge is the second oldest bridge on the River Wear. One arch is from the late 12th century and the bridge has been wholly or partly rebuilt after 1225 including when damaged several times by floods. It once had chapels at each end and St. Andrews still exists as a shop on the bridge to right. Now pedestrianised, the bridge affords a fine view of the Cathedral. Descend the steep steps to the riverside to Brown’s Boathouse.
13 Brown’s Boathouse was originally Brown’s Boats, a company set up in the late 19th century by Joseph Brown to make traditional wooden rowing boats. Pass the Boathouse to Baths Bridge.
14 Baths Bridge. The Baths and Public Washhouse was built in 1855 and closed in 2008. This elegant bridge replaced the first wooden bridge and the earlier cast iron bridge of 1898. At Baths Bridge there is a choice of routes: 1. The main (shorter) trail: Cross the Baths Bridge and turn left along the river. After 150 metres take the path along the edge of the Racecourse sports ground OR 2. The Old Durham Gardens (longer) extension of the trail: Continue along the riverside path towards Old Durham Gardens to enjoy the landscape beauty and history of this part of the river.
15 The Racecourse was once a smithy, then a place for tethering pilgrims’ horses and became a racecourse in 1733 attended by huge crowds. Since 1873, the Racecourse has been the home of the annual Durham Miners’ Gala and of the Durham Regatta. The University began using the land as a sports field around the same time.
16 Durham Crown Court and Prison. The imposing building was opened by in 1819 replacing old North Gate Prison in Saddler Street. Great crowds gathered in front of the Court for public hangings until 1869. The prison has since been rebuilt and extended. Now walk along Old Elvet, one of Durham’s finest streets.
19. Kingsgate Bridge and Dunelm House. These reinforced concrete structures were constructed in the ‘Brutalist’ style of Modernism. The bridge is the work of Ove Arup (in 1962-3 and is a Grade 1 Listed Building. The Dunelm House student union building by Architects Co-Partnership completed in 1966 has long divided local opinion. Now as a Grade II Listed building. Spot the bust of Ove Arup on the wall of Dunelm House looking out on his favourite project. Cross the bridge, enjoy the views of the riverbanks and enter the wonderful World Heritage Site of the Cathedral and Castle on Bow Lane.
20 St Mary-le-Bow Church. At the top of Bow Lane stands this small church, now home to the Durham Museum where the story of the City’s people and heritage is told. Here is the east end of the Cathedral and its fine rose window, a glimpse of the grandeur to come. Turn right and follow North Bailey The Baileys with their 18th century appearance are Durham’s finest streets Some of the present facades have earlier timber framed structures beneath. Formerly occupied by those who served the church, they have been now mostly taken over by the University including the Assembly Rooms as a theatre. Hatfield College is on the right. Turn left into Owengate to take in the breath-taking view of the Cathedral.
21 Palace Green from 12th century was created by clearing an earlier market to make way for the grand ceremonial and administrative centre of the Prince Bishops.
22. Bishop Cosin’s Hall and Almshouses on the left (east) side were built as a two-story lawyer’s office in the 1690s, the extra story and lavish Rococo doorway being added in 18th century. It was gifted to the University in 1833 as ‘University House’ and renamed after Cosin in 1851 when briefly part of Hatfield College. The charitable purposes of the Almshouses ceased in 1837 when the University took it for accommodation, administration and later a café (recently closed).
23. Palace Green Library houses Bishop Cosin’s fine library which expanded into adjacent buildings. It is now home to the World Heritage Site visitor centre.
24. Durham Castle. Building began in 1072 only six years after the Norman conquest of England on the orders of King William and was carried out by the first four Bishops Walcher, St. Calais, Flambard and Le Puiset. The castle and walls were first constructed in wood and then in stone mostly quarried from the rock the Castle stood upon. The holder of the office of Bishop of Durham was appointed by the king to exercise royal authority on his behalf. The Castle became the Bishop’s Palace and home to a long line of powerful Prince Bishops. They ruled ‘a buffer state’ between England and Scotland and acted to control local rebellions. Their powers which matched those of the monarch (other than the power to declare war), included the right to raise an army, convene their own courts of justice, mint coinage, and levy taxes. These powers returned to the Crown in 1836. Since 1837, the Castle has been occupied by the University College.
25 Durham Cathedral – The Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham. The Normans often chose to build their huge cathedrals on the revered (and incomeearning) sites of Saxon Saints. Uniquely here in Durham, the Cathedral built on the site of the last of the three Saxon churches that contained the relics of St Cuthbert, also has a monastery and castle within a defensive wall on a rock. Starting in 1093, the Benedictine monks completed the Cathedral in 40 years and, remarkably, the core of the building from that time remains unaltered. There were, however, the additions of the 12th century of the Galilee Chapel and the western towers, and the Chapel of the Nine Altars in the13th century. The great central tower was the last major addition with its late 15th century perpendicular Gothic detail. The long history of prayer and of pilgrimage to the shrines of both Cuthbert for which the Cathedral was designed, and Bede continues today. However, the right of sanctuary for 37 days in the Cathedral by grasping the ring of the sanctuary knocker on the great oak door for those who were being pursued for certain crimes, did not survive after 1624. (This unfortunately is probably a myth but survives as a good story!). The Cathedral with all its treasures needs time to be enjoyed and explored to the full perhaps on another day. Walk round the Palace Green and exit onto North Bailey, turning right to find the College Gate archway on the right that gives access to the College.
26 The College is the Cathedral Close, its superb green is enclosed by the houses of the Cathedral’s Dean and canons. On the far side are the homes of the Cathedral clergy and the Choristers’ School. On the right is the Deanery which was formerly the Prior’s Lodging buildings with origins in the Middle Ages. There is also a small and peaceful memorial garden to the fallen of the legendary Durham Light Infantry. Back at the College Gate, turn right into South Bailey.
27 St Mary-The-Less Church. The tiny church was founded in the 12th century as a parish church for the South Bailey. Its name came from the need to distinguish it from St Mary-le-Bow. It is now the church of St. John’s College. Pass beneath the 1778 Water Gate to the riverbanks and bear left onto a path down to the river.
28 ‘The Count’s House’ from the early 19th century in the style of a Greek-Doric temple was a garden house for a local family. It was later wrongly thought to have been the home of the diminutive Polish Count Jósef Boruwlaski who never grew to more than one metre in height. He was a musician and a particular favourite of European and Turkish courts. He died in Durham in 1837 aged 97. Cross Prebends’ Bridge and follow the riverside path.
29 Prebends’ Bridge. This fine replacement bridge for the original of 1574 that was swept away in 1771 carries Sir Walter Scott’s poem to Durham: ‘Half church of God, half castle ‘gainst the Scot’. The bridge is named after the prebendary canons, the administrators of the Dean and Chapter.
30 The Corn Mill and the Fulling Mill. The romantic view of the Cathedral above the fulling mill and the tree-lined riverbanks reveals something of the historical defence of the City. The threat of Scottish occupation (it happened twice in the 1640s) meant that the riverbanks were cleared of trees giving a clear sight from the walls of attackers across the natural moat of the river. The weirs were originally built to provide power to the water wheels in the two mills for corn grinding and clothmaking but also helped to maintain water depth in dry seasons thereby improving defence. In the fulling mill, wool was cleaned and then worked on to increase the thickness and compactness of the cloth. Continue along the riverside path.
31 Milburngate Riverside. The large site was once the home of the National Savings’ unloved concrete building Milburngate House. It is now redeveloped as a huge new mixed development. The riverside on both sides has been a great magnet for developers seeking a prized location near the Cathedral.
32 Crook Hall. This is a good example of mixed styles that is often found in domestic English architecture. This medieval manor house probably dates from the early 14th century. The many additions in later times including a three-storey Georgian brick house, are surrounded by superb gardens. It has recently been acquired by the National Trust and there is a visitor centre and café by the road.
The trail is nearly 5 miles (7 km) and the longer route is 6 miles (10 km) and will take up to three hours or longer if you stop at the many places of interest and beauty. Despite a few short steep rises, it is an easy walk on pavements and paths. Good footwear is recommended.
Printed copies are available at Durham Town Hall, Clayport Library and the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre. The leaflet includes a map of the route and a wheelchair route option.
|2023 (1 Jan 2023 - 31 Dec 2023)|