Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Bishop Aukland / Alclyt: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series

Bishop Auckland (pronounced /biʃəp ɔːklənd/) is a market town and civil parish in County Durham in North East England. It is located about 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Darlington and 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Durham City at the confluence of the River Wear with its tributary the River Gaunless.

River Wear

River Gaunless

Map of Northern Bishoprics in c.700

According to the 2001 census, Bishop Auckland has a population of 24,392.
Much of the town's early history surrounds the Bishops of Durham and the establishment of a hunting lodge, which later became the main residence of the Bishop of Durham. This link with the Bishops of Durham is reflected in the first part of the town's name.
During the Industrial Revolution, the town grew rapidly as coal mining took hold as an important industry. The subsequent decline of the coal mining industry in the late twentieth century has been blamed for a fall in the town's fortunes in other sectors. Today, the largest sector of employment in the town is manufacturing.
Since 2009-04-01, the town's local government has come from the Durham County Council Unitary Authority. The unitary authority replaced the previous Wear Valley District Council and Durham County Council. Bishop Auckland is located in the Bishop Auckland parliamentary constituency. The town has a town-twinning with the French town of Ivry-sur-Seine.


King Canute 'great' Penny

The first part of the name, "Bishop", refers to the town being the residence of the Bishop of Durham. However, the derivation of "Auckland" is less clear. One suggestion is that it is derived from "Alclit" or "Alcleat". This could be Celtic in origin referring to its position close to what is today known as the River Gaunless, or from it being extra land granted to the Bishop of Durham by King Canute in around 1020. A further suggestion is that "Oakland", has been used to refer to the presence of forests.

The earliest known reference to Bishop Auckland itself is in 1020 as a gift; King Canute gave it to the Bishop of Durham as a Bishop's borough. However, a village almost certainly existed on the town's present site long before this, with there being a church in South Church from as early as Saxon times. Furthermore, the Romans had a look-out post where Auckland Castle is sited today and a 10 acre (0.04 km²) fort at nearby Binchester. There is also evidence of possible Iron Age settlements around the town, together with finds of Bronze Age, Neolithic and Mesolithic artefacts.
Much of the town's earliest history surrounds its links with the Bishops of Durham. In 1083, monks were sent from Durham Cathedral to establish a collegiate church, and in around 1183 Bishop Pudsey established a manor house in the town. Bishop Bek, who preferred the town as his main residence over Durham Castle due to its proximity to hunting grounds, later converted the manor house into a castle.
After the dis-establishment of the Church of England, at the end of the first civil war, Auckland Castle was sold to Sir Arthur Hazelrig, who demolished much of the castle, including the chapel, and built a mansion. After the restoration of the monarchy, the new Bishop of Durham, John Cosin, in turn demolished Hazelrig's mansion and rebuilt the castle converting the banqueting hall into the chapel that stands today.
By 1801, the town had a population of 1861. At the end of the eighteenth century the town had no notable roads other than the Roman road and little trade beyond weaving. Although, coal mining existed, it was limited by the lack of an easy way to transport coal away from the area. All this changed with the arrival railways in the early nineteenth century, which allowed large scale coal mining. The railways allowed coal to be mined, and then transported to the coast before being put onto ships to London and even abroad.
By 1851 the population of the town had more than doubled to 5112. A great proportion of the population working in ironworks and collieries. By 1891, the population had doubled again. In the second half of the nineteenth century there were typically around 60 collieries in the area open at any one time. By the turn of the twentieth century 16,000 people were employed in the mining industry in the area.
The town also became an important centre for rail, with large amounts of minerals such as coal, limestone and ironstone mined in the surrounding area passing through the town on the way to the coast. In the neighbouring town of Shildon large numbers were employed in the railways, were a railway engine works were established.
By the early years of the twentieth century coal mining started to go into decline as coal reserves started to become exhausted. By the end of the 1920s unemployment had hit 27% and the population too had started to decline, as colliery employment had halved compared with ten years previously. With the onset of the Great Depression unemployment rose to 60% in 1932 before easing back to 36% in 1937. The Second World War offered a temporary reprieve for the coal industry, however, after the war the decline continued. The last deep colliery in the area closed in 1968, although the much more mechanised, and less labour intensive, surface level opencast mining did continue.
Equally, the railways that had also supported the area were also scaled back, ultimately culminating in the closure of Shildon's Wagon works in 1984 which resulted in the loss of thousands of jobsGeographyBishop Auckland is located at 54°39′36″N 1°40′48″W / 54.66°N 1.68°W / 54.66; -1.68 (British national grid reference system: NZ208294) on the Durham coalfield at the confluence of the River Wear with its tributary the River Gaunless. The River Gaunless was given its name by Norsemen in whose tongue it means useless. It is believed that this derives from the river's inability to power a mill, sustain fish or create fertile floodplains. The town nestles in the rivers' valley about 100 metres (330 ft) above sea level. Besides this the town is all but is surrounded on all sides by hills ranging in height from around 150 metres (490 ft) above sea level to over 220 metres (720 ft) above sea level.
Bishop Auckland is located about 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Darlington and 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Durham City. The town is served by Bishop Auckland railway station, which marks the point where the Tees Valley Line becomes the Weardale Railway. The town is not served directly by any motorways.
Notable wards include Cockton Hill, Woodhouse Close, and Henknowle. Additionally, once neighbouring villages such as South Church, Tindale Crescent, St Helen Auckland, and West Auckland now more or less merge seamlessly into the town.

Neighbouring settlements.
Escomb (village)
Willington (town)
Spennymoor (town)
Toft Hill (village)
Bishop Auckland East:
Coundon (village)
St Helen Auckland (suburb/village)
Tindale Crescent (suburb/village)
Shildon (town)

The nearest Met Office weather station to Bishop Auckland is located 8 miles (13 km) north-east of Bishop Auckland in Durham. The following local figures were gathered at this weather station between 1971 and 2000.
Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Bishop Auckland has a temperate climate. At 643.3 millimetres (25.33 in) the average annual rainfall is lower than the national average of 1,125 millimetres (44.3 in). Equally there are only around 121.3 days where more than 1 millimetre (0.039 in) 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 12.5 °C (54.5 °F) and 5.2 °C (41.4 °F) compared with a national averages of 12.1 °C (53.8 °F) and 5.1 °C (41.2 °F) respectively

Bishop Auklands economy was based heavily on coal mining. However, with the decline of the Durham coalfield, manufacturing has been left as the largest sector of employment in the town, accounting for 24.6% of the town's employment.
The town also traditionally had a strong retail sector, as one of the county's main population centre's shoppers were attracted from smaller settlements on the Durham coalfield for miles around. However, the affect of the decline in the coal mining industry has been felt in the retail sector. Together with competition from local shopping malls such as the MetroCentre in Gateshead, the decline in the mining industry has been blamed for a downturn in the fortunes of retailers, with commentators lamenting the number of down market stores and charity shops in the town centre. In response, numerous initiatives to regenerate the town centre have been proposed including the launch of the Bishop Auckland Town Centre Forum, and the 2006 regeneration master plan drawn up by Red Box Group, which was sponsored by Wear Valley District Council and the regional development agency One NorthEast.
Notable employers in the town include Ebac, which is headquartered in the town and employs 350 people.

The town has a number of Grade I listed buildings. The grounds of Auckland Castle alone contain seven such structures. Additionally Escomb Saxon Church, St Andrew's parish church, St Helen's church, West Auckland Manor House, the East Deanery and the 14th century Bishop Skirlaw bridge are all Grade I listed. Other notable buildings include the town hall, a Victorian railway viaduct and Binchester Roman fort.

Auckland Castle

Auckland Castle (often known locally as The Bishop's palace), has been the official residence of the Bishop of Durham since 1832. However, its history goes back much earlier, being established as a hunting lodge for the Prince Bishops of Durham
The castle is surrounded by 800 acres (3.2 km2) of parkland, which was originally used by the Bishops for hunting and is today open to the public. The castle and its grounds contain seven Grade I listed structures.
The castle's long dining room is home to 12 of the 13 17th century portraits of Jacob and his 12 sons painted by Francisco de Zurbarán, which were saved by Bishop Trevor in 1756. Trevor was unable to secure the 13th, Benjamin, so commissioned Arthur Pond to produce a copy, which hangs alongside the 12 other originals.
Auckland Castle also provides the setting for Lewis Carroll's story "A Legend of Scotland".

Binchester Roman Fort

Ruins of the roman Fort

The route of the Roman road Dere Street passes straight through the middle of the town on its way to the nearby Roman Fort at Binchester.

Map showing Dere Street in Red

Binchester Roman Fort, or Vinovia as it was known to the Romans, has the best preserved example of a Roman military bath house hypocaust in the country. Bishop Auckland's main shopping street, Newgate Street, together with Cockton Hill Road and Watling Road faithfully follow the route of Dere Street. Note that Watling Road should not be confused with the Roman road Watling Street, which is in the South of England.

Town Hall
The Town Hall is a "Gothic style" Victorian Building overlooking the town's market place and is Grade II* listed. After being abandoned and then condemned for demolition in the 1980s, the town hall was fully restored in the early 1990s. It now houses the town's main public library, a theatre, an art gallery, tourist information centre and a café-bar.

Newton Cap viaduct
The town also has a Grade II listed Victorian railway viaduct crossing the River Wear. The viaduct provides views of the surrounding countryside below as well as Auckland Castle, the Bishop's Park and the Town Hall on approaching the town from the Viaduct. It was originally built in 1857 to carry the Bishop Auckland to Durham City railway line across the River Wear and the Newton Cap Bank that leads down to the river. The railway closed in 1968 and the viaduct fell into a period of disuse and was at one point threatened with demolition.
Newton Cap Old Road Bridge
However, in 1995 the viaduct was converted to take road traffic relieving the fourteenth century single lane, Grade I listed, Bishop Skirlaw bridge that sits in the valley below it.

This beautiful saxon Church is a must to see. It now stands reverently in the centre of a housing estate but has lost none of its grace and spirituality.

Escomb Saxon church
The nearby village of Escomb is home to a complete Anglo-Saxon church. It is believed the church was built between the years 670 and 690. Much of the stone used to construct the church came from the nearby Roman fort at Binchester, with some stones having Roman markings on them. The church is a Grade I listed structure.

St Andrew's Church
St Andrew's church located in the adjoining village of South Church is the largest church in County Durham and a Grade I listed building. The church was built by Augustine monks in the thirteenth century and acted as a collegiate church.

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