[dur-uhm, duhr-]
Durham, John George Lambton, 1st earl of, 1792-1840, British statesman. A stormy liberal career in Parliament (1813-32), which earned him the nickname Radical Jack, culminated in the important role he played in drafting the Reform Bill of 1832 and forcing it through the House of Lords. After the Canadian rebellion of 1837-38 he was appointed high commissioner and governor-general of Canada, with the mission of winning back disaffected Canadian opinion by recommending political reforms. Durham submitted (1839) the Report on the Affairs of British North America, which has been called the Magna Carta of the British colonies. Its chief proposal was for the creation of an executive council responsible to the colonial assembly, which would allow Canada self government within the British empire. Other recommendations included reform of the land laws, railroad building to unify the country, and the union of Upper and Lower Canada to improve administration and finance and to extinguish the nationalism of the French Canadians.
Durham, county (1991 pop. 589,941), 1,015 sq mi (2,629 sq km), NE England, on the North Sea between the Tees and Tyne rivers; administratively, Durham is a unitary authority (since 2009). The administrative center is Durham, site of one of England's finest Norman cathedrals. The region is low-lying along the coast, rising inland to the Pennines. A large portion of the land area is devoted to agriculture. Dairy farming is common; cattle and sheep are raised. Oats, wheat, barley, potatoes, and turnips are grown. Industry is concentrated along the Tyne and the Tees. Shipbuilding (also along the Wear River) and coal mining were historically important. Electrical goods, clothing, textiles, paint, organs, and plastics are the chief products of Durham's light industry. The area was occupied by the Romans and subsequently became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. From pre-Norman times until 1836, the bishops of Durham intermittently exercised palatine powers over the county. The powers were most important during the Middle Ages.
Durham, town (1991 pop. 38,105), county seat of Durham, NE England, on the sides of a hill nearly encircled by the Wear River. The town's small factories produce organs and carpets. Noteworthy is the castle (1072), now occupied by part of the Univ. of Durham (founded 1832). In 995 the relics of St. Cuthbert were brought to Durham (then Dunholme), and a church was built as his shrine. The present cathedral, begun on the same site in 1093, is considered the finest example of Norman architecture in the country. It contains the tomb of the Venerable Bede (d. 735).
Durham, city (1990 pop. 136,611), seat of Durham co., N central N.C., in the Piedmont area; inc. 1867. Once a major tobacco and textile center, Durham is a research and education center. Manufacturers include medical, computer, electronic, and telecommunications equipment; plastic, paper, and lumber products; and aircraft components. The area was settled c.1750. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrendered nearby to Gen. William T. Sherman during the Civil War. After the war the tobacco industry began with James B. Duke as the leading manufacturer. Economic growth was spurred with the establishment (1959) of the Research Triangle Park, in the triangular area between Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, which utilizes the concentration of university research talent in those three cities. Durham is the seat of Duke Univ., North Carolina Central Univ., and Durham Technical Community College. Of interest are the Sarah P. Duke Memorial Gardens and the Children's Nature Museum. The American Dance Festival is held in the city each summer.
Durham (in RP, locally ˈdʏrəm) is a small city and main settlement of the City of Durham district of County Durham, England.

It is well-known for its Norman Cathedral and Castle, and is home to Durham University. HM Prison Durham is also located close to the city centre.


The name "Durham" comes from the Old English "dun", meaning hill, and the Old Norse "holmer", which translates to island. The Lord Bishop of Durham takes a Latin variation of the city's name in his apostolic signature, which is signed "N. Dunelm. Some attribute the city's name to the legend of the Dun Cow and the milkmaid who in legend guided the monks of Lindisfarn carrying the body of Saint Cuthbert to the site of the present city in 995 AD. Dun Cow Lane is said to be one of the first streets in Durham, being directly to the east of Durham Cathedral and taking its name from a depiction of the city's founding etched in masonry on the south side of the cathedral. The city has been known by a number of names throughout history. The original Nordic Dun Holm was changed to Duresme by the Normans and was known in Latin as Dunelm. The modern form Durham came into use later in the city's history. The north eastern historian, Robert Surtees chronicled the name changes in his History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham but states that it is an "impossibility" to tell when the city's modern name came into being.


Early history

Archeological evidence suggests a history of settlement in the area since roughly 2000 BC. The present city can clearly be traced back to 995 AD, when a group of monks from Lindisfarne chose the strategic high peninsula as a place to settle with the body of Saint Cuthbert, that had previously lain in Chester-le-Street, founding a church there.

Legend of the Dun Cow and city origins

Local legend states that the city was founded in 995 AD by divine intervention. The 12th Century chronicler Symeon of Durham recounts in his Libellus de exordio atque procurso istius, hoc est Dunhelmensis that after wondering in the north, Saint Cuthbert’s bier came to a miraculous halt at the hill of Warden Law and, despite the effort of the congregation, would not move. Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Street and leader of the order decreed an holy fast of three days, accompanied by prayers to the saint. Saint Bede recounts that during this fast Saint Cuthbert appeared to the monk Eadmer with instructions that the coffin should be taken to Dun Holm.

After Eadmer’s revelation, Aldhun found that he was able to move the bier, but did not know where Dun Holm was. By chance later that day the monks came across a milkmaid at Mount Joy who stated to she was seeking her lost dun cow which she had last seen at Dun Holm. The monks, realising that this was a sign from the saint, followed her. They settled at a: "wooded hill-island formed by a tight gorge-like meander of the River Wear When they arrived at the destination they erected the vestiges of Durham Cathedral, a "modest building none of which survives today having been suplanted by the Norman structure. Symeon states that this was the first building in the city.

Mediaeval history

In mediaeval times the city found spiritual prominence because it was the final resting place of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Bade the Venerable. Before the Reformation the shrine of Saint Cuthbert, situated behind the High Altar of Durham Cathedral, was the most important religious site in England until the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury.

Saint Cuthbert was famed for two reasons: Firstly, the miraculous healing powers he had displayed in life extended into death with many stories of those visiting the saint’s shrine being cured from all manner of diseases. This lead to him being known as the “wonder worker of England”. Secondly, after the first translation of his relics in 698 AD, his body was found to be incorruptible. Despite a brief translation back to Holy Island during the Norman Invasion the saint’s relics remain enshrined to the present day. Saint Bade’s bones are also entombed in the cathedral, drawing the mediaeval pilgrim to the city.

Durham’s geographical position has always given it an important position in the defence of England against the Scots. The city has played an important part in the defence of the north and Durham Castle is the only Norman castle keep never to have suffered a breech. The Battle of Neville’s Cross which took place near the city on October 17, 1346 AD between the English and Scots is the most famous battle of the age.

Prince Bishops

Owing to divine providence of the city’s founding, the Bishop of Durham has always enjoyed the title “Bishop by Divine Providence” opposed to all other bishops who are “Bishop by Divine Right”. However, as the north east was so far from Westminster the bishops of Durham enjoyed extraordinary powers such as the ability to hold their own parliament, raise their own armies, appoint their own sheriffs and Justices, administer their own laws, levy taxes and customs duties, create fairs and markets, issue charters, salvage shipwrecks, collect revenue from mines, administer the forests and mint their own coins. So far reaching were the bishop’s powers that the steward of Bishop Anthony Bek commented in 1299 AD: “There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham wearing a mitre in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham” All this activity was administrated from the castle and buildings surrounding the Palace Green. Many of the original buildings associated with these functions of the County Palatine are still to be found on the peninsular.

Every Bishop of Durham from 1071 to 1836 was a Prince Bishop except for the first Norman-appointed Bishop Walcher who was styled an Earl-Bishop. Although the term prince bishop has been used as a helpful tool in the understanding the functions of the Bishops of Durham it is not a title they would have recognised. The last Prince Bishop of Durham Bishop William Van Mildert credited with the foundation of Durham University. Henry VIII curtailed some of the Prince-Bishop's powers and, in 1538, ordered the destruction of the shrine of Saint Cuthbert.

Civil War and Commonwealth (1640 to 1660)

The city remained loyal to King Charles I throughout the Civil War. Charles I came to Durham two times during his reign. Firstly, he came to the cathedral for a majestic service in which he was entertained by the Chapter and Bishop at great expense at the start of his reign. His second visitation to the city came towards the end of the Civil War, escaping from the city as Oliver Cromwell’s forces got closer. Local legend stated he escaped down the The Bailey and through Old Elvet. Another local legend has it that Cromwell stayed in a room in the present Royal County Hotel on Old Elvet during the Civil War. The room is reputed to be haunted by his ghost. Durham suffered greatly during the Civil War and Commonwealth. This was not due to direct assault by Cromwell but the abolition of the Church of England and the closure of religious institutions pertaining to it. The city has always relied upon the Dean and Chapter and cathedral as an economic force.

The castle suffered considerable damage and dilapidation during the Commonwealth due to the abolition of the office of bishop who’s residence it was. Cromewell confiscated the castle and sold it to the Mayor of London shortly after taking it from the bishop. A similar fate befell the Cathedral, it being closed in 1650 and used to incarcerate 3,000 Scottish prisoners. Graffiti left by them can still be seen today etched into the interior stone.

At the Restoration in 1616, John Cosin (a former Canon) was appointed bishop and set about a major restoration project. This included the commissioning of the famous elaborate woodwork in the cathedral choir and the Black Staircase in the castle. Other renovations were carried out to both the city and cathedral by his successor Bishop Lord Nathaniel Crewe.

19th century onwards

Finally, the public climate surrounding the Great Reform Act of 1832 removed the Bishop's extraordinary powers.

In 1832 the University of Durham was founded, which has several buildings on the peninsula and on Elvet Hill on the other side of the river. The 19th century also saw Durham grow as a centre of the coal mining industry. The first Durham Miners' Gala was held in 1871, and remains a popular annual event.

Notable buildings

Durham Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham, commonly referred to as Durham Cathedral was founded in its present form in AD 1093 and remains a centre for Christian worship today. It is generally regarded as one of the finest examples of a Norman cathedral in Europe and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with nearby Durham Castle, which faces it across Palace Green, high above the River Wear.

The Cathedral houses the shrine and related treasures of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and these are on public view. It is also home to the head of St Oswald of Northumbria and the remains of the Venerable Bede. One can also climb the 325 steps to the top of the tall tower to enjoy an outstanding view of Durham and the surrounding area.


The municipal borough was formerly known as 'Durham and Framwelgate', until it was merged with Durham Rural District and Brandon and Byshottles urban district to form the City of Durham district. Durham's MP is Roberta Blackman-Woods (Labour).


General geography

Durham is situated to the south west of Sunderland, England. The River Wear flows north through the city, making an incised meander which encloses the centre on three sides to create Durham's "peninsula". Durham is a hilly city, claiming to be built upon the symbolic seven hills. Upon the most central and prominent position high above the Wear, the cathedral dominates the skyline. The steep riverbanks are densely wooded, adding to the picturesque beauty of the city. West of the city centre, another river, the River Browney, drains south to join the Wear to the south of the city.

Durham won the Large Town award in the Britain in Bloom awards of 2005.

The county town of County Durham, Durham is located in the City of Durham local government district, which extends beyond the city, and has a total population of 87,656, and covers 186.68 square kilometres. The unparished area of Durham had a population of 29,091, whilst the built-up area of Durham had a population of 42,939.

The centre of Durham sits on a peninsula created by the River Wear. At the base of the peninsula is the Market Place, which still hosts regular markets; a permanent indoor market is also situated just off the Market Place. The Market Place and surrounding streets are one of the main commercial and shopping areas of the city. From the Market Place, The Bailey leads south past Palace Green: The Bailey is almost entirely owned and occupied by University and Cathedral.

There are three old roads out of the Market Place. Saddler Street heads South-Easterly, towards Elvet Bridge, The Bailey and Prebends Bridge. Elvet Bridge leads to the Elvet area of the city, Durham Prison and the South; Prebends Bridge is smaller and provides access from The Bailey to South Durham. Heading west, Silver Street leads out of the Market Place towards Framwellgate Bridge and North Road, the other main shopping area of the city. From here, the city spreads out into the Framwelgate, Crossgate, Neville's Cross and viaduct districts, the other main shopping area of the city. Beyond the viaduct lie the outlying districts of Framwellgate Moor and Neville's Cross. Heading north from the Market Place leads to Claypath. The road curves back round to the east and beyond it lie Gilesgate, Gilesgate Moor and Dragonville.

Many of the inner city areas are now inhabited by students living in shared houses. In some roads as many as 70% of the dwellings are occupied by students.

Historical geography

The historical city centre of Durham has changed little over the past 200 years. It is made up of the peninsula containing the cathedral, palace green, former administrative buildings for the palatine and Durham Castle. This was a strategic defensive decision by the city's founders and gives the cathedral a striking position. So much so that Symeon of Durham stated:
"To see Durham is to see the English Sion and by doing so one may save oneself a trip to Jerusalem

Sir Walter Scott was so inspired by the view of the cathedral from South Street that he wrote Harold the Dauntless a poem about Saxons and Vikings set in County Durham which remarks:

"Grey towers of Durham
Yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles
Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot
And long to roam those venerable aisles
With records stored of deeds long since forgot.

The old commercial section of the city encompasses the peninsula on three sides, following River Wear. The peninsula was historically surrounded by the castle wall extending from the castle keep and broken by two gatehouses to the north and west of the enclosure. After extensive remodelling and “much beautification” by the Victorians the walls were removed with the exception of the gatehouse which is still standing on the Bailey.

The mediaeval city was made up of the cathedral, castle and administrative buildings on the peninsula. The outlaying areas were known as the townships and owned by the bishop. The most famous of these being Gilesgate (which still contains the mediaeval Saint Giles’ Church), Claypath and Elvet.

The outlying commercial section of the city, especially around the North Road area, saw much change in the 1960s during a redevelopment spearheaded by Durham City Council, however, much of the original mediaeval street plan remains in tact in the area close to the cathedral and market place. Most of the mediaeval buildings in the commercial area of the city have disappeared apart from the House of Correction and the Chapel of Saint Andrew, both under Elvet Bridge. Georgian buildings can still be found on the Bailey and Old Elvet most of which make up the colleges of Durham University.


Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Durham has a temperate climate. At the average annual rainfall is lower than the national average of . Equally there are only around 121.3 days where more than of rain falls compared with a national average of 154.4 days. The area sees on average 1374.6 hours of sunshine per year, compared with a national average of 1125.0 hours. There is an air frost on 52 days compared with a national average of 55.6 days. Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures are and compared with a national averages of and respectively.

The table below gives the average temperature and rainfall figures taken between 1971 and 2000 at the Met Office weather station in Durham:


This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of County Durham at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 4,063 47 1,755 2,261
2000 4,783 40 1,840 2,904
2003 5,314 39 1,978 3,297


The whole of the centre of Durham is designated a conservation area. The conservation area was first designated on 9 August 1968, and was extended on 25 November 1980. In addition to the Cathedral and Castle, Durham contains over 630 listed buildings, 569 of which are located within the city centre conservation area. Particularly notable properties include:

Grade I listed

Grade II* listed


Durham railway station is situated on the East Coast Main Line between Edinburgh and London; rail travellers coming from the south enter Durham over a spectacular Victorian viaduct high above the city. By road, the A1(M), the modern incarnation of the ancient Great North Road, passes just to the east of the city. (Its previous incarnation, now numbered A167, passes just to the west.) Newcastle Airport lies to the north, and Durham Tees Valley Airport to the south, both being about 25 miles away. The Market Place and peninsula form the UK's first (albeit small) congestion charging area, introduced in 2002.

A park and ride service is also available.


The town's football club Durham City AFC once boasted a membership of the Football League between 1921 and 1928 but has long been a non-league club. The 2008/09 season will see them make a step up the pyramid to play in the Unibond League. Their home ground is New Ferens Park, known as The Arnott Stadium for sponsorship reasons.

Notable people

Sister cities

Durham has one sister city, as designated by the Sister Cities International, Inc.:

See also


External links

Search another word or see Durhamon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature