Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Chester-le-Street / Cuncacester: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series ****



Chester-le-Street (pronounced /ˈtʃɛstərliːstriːt/ (CHESS-tər-lee-street) is the main town in the former Chester-le-Street district of County Durham, England. It has a history going back to Roman times when it was called Concangis. The town is located 7 miles (11 km) south of Newcastle upon Tyne and 8 miles (13 km) west of Sunderland on the River Wear. The Parish Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert is where the body of St Cuthbert was laid to rest for some 113 years before being transferred to Durham Cathedral, and is the site of the first translation of the Bible into English, Aldred writing the Old English gloss between the lines of the Lindisfarne Gospels there.





The district, recently abolished in the 2009 transition to a unitary council for County Durham, was formed by the amalgamation in 1974 of the former Chester-le-Street Urban and Rural Districts. Chester-le-Street 'town' had long since grown outside the boundaries of the Urban District to cover large parts of the Rural District as well. In a move that was considered controversial at the time, some parts of the Rural District that contained parts of the Chester-le-Street built-up area were transferred to Gateshead and Sunderland in the newly formed Tyne and Wear.

Etymology
The Romans called the town Concangis. The Northumbrian Angles called it Cuneceaster, meaning "the camp on the Cune Burn" (now known as the Cong Burn). One source suggests that in the 12th century the town was called Cestra, another claims that the Norman conquerors shortened the name from Cuneceaster to Ceastre, and later simply Chester.
In the Middle Ages it became "Cestrie in Strata" (1372, another source gives "Cestria in Strata", c.1400; meaning "fort on the Roman road"), and subsequently "Chester in the Strett" (1523). The Old English suggests "Ceaster + straet".
Norman influence is apparent in the definite article "le" remaining even after the loss of the preposition. There are other towns and villages in the area which incorporate "le" in their names, such as Houghton-le-Spring, Hetton-le-Hole and Witton-le-Wear.
By the seventeenth century the modern name of Chester-le-Street had been adopted, to distinguish it from the ancient city of Chester standing on the River Dee near the Welsh border. The "Street" is the paved way, the ancient Roman road running north and south, on which the town grew, and which was previously called Hermon Street, but is now known as "Front Street". Locally the town is often referred to simply as "Chester".

Landmarks
John Leland described Chester-le-Street in the 1530s as: 'Chiefly one main street of very mean building in height.' Daniel Defoe echoed the sentiment.


St.Mary and St. Cuthbert Church



St Mary and St Cuthbert church possesses a rare surviving anchorage, one of the best-preserved in the country. It is now a museum known as the Anker House.


Anker House Museum


An anchorite was an extreme form of hermit. His or her walled-up cell had only a slit to observe the altar and an opening for food. Outside was an open grave for when the occupant died. An anchorite lived here from 1383 to c. 1538.



Lumley Warriors


The north aisle is occupied by a line of Lumley family effigies, only five genuine, assembled c. 1590. Some have been chopped-off to fit and resemble a casualty station at Agincourt, according to Sir Simon Jenkins in his England's Thousand Best Churches.
The Civic Centre, designed by Faulkner Brown 1981 has been much praised.
The Jarrow March
In 1936 the Jarrow marchers stopped at the town centre after their first day's walk. The church hall was used to house them before they continued onward the following day.




Chester-le-Street was a local government district in County Durham, England.


Its council was based in Chester-le-Street. Other places in the district included Great Lumley and Sacriston.



Formation
The district was formed on 1 April 1974 as part of a general reorganisaton of local administration throughout England and Wales carried out under the Local Government Act 1972. Chester-le-Street was one of eight non-metropolitan districts into which County Durham was divided, and was formed form the areas of the abolished urban district of Chester-le-Street along with the bulk of Chester-le-Street Rural District, namely the parishes of Bournmoor, Birtley (reduced in size), Edmondsley, Great Lumley, Lambton, Little Lumley, North Lodge (created from the part of Harraton outside Washington New Town), Ouston, Pelton, Plawsworth, Sacriston, South Biddick (reduced in size), Urpeth and Waldridge. The remainder of the rural district was transferred to the metropolitan boroughs of Gateshead and Sunderland, in the new county of Tyne and Wear.
Insignia
The district council did not have a coat of arms, but instead used the design of the chairman's badge of office as its logo. the design consisted of a circle divided by a curved cross into four quarters.


Lambton Castle

In the centre of the cross was a lion, taken from the arms of the Lambton family of Lambton Castle.

Saint Cuthbert

In the top left quarter was a crosss of Saint Cuthbert. The saint's remains lay in Chester for more than a century, and the town was the see of a bishop. The saint's relics and the bishopric were subsequently transferred to Durham. The River Wear formed the background. In the top right quarter was a depiction of the pithead gear of a coal mine, illustrating the area's traditional source of wealth. Behind this was shown the Chester-le-Street Viaduct.


Lumley Castle


In the bottom left quarter was a falcon, with Lumley Castle in the background. In the bottom right quarter was a depiction of the legendary Lambton Worm.
Lambton Worm


The emblems in the upper left and lower left quarters were subsequently altered to a bishop's mitre and a Roman eagle standard.
Abolition
The district was abolished as part of the 2009 structural changes to local government in England being replaced by a new unitary authority called Durham County Council.

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