Durham Introduction Walking Tour, Durham

Durham Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Durham

The monks from Lindisfarne were on the run in 995, the Vikings hot behind. The monks were carrying the body of Saint Cuthbert. The Saint's bier stopped. Along came a milkmaid who had lost her dun cow. The coffin moved and the monks followed the maid to a high hill by the River Wear. The bier stopped again and, despite the effort of the monks, would not move. The monks had found their place.

Bishop Aldhun built a chapel in 998 on the future site of Romanesque Durham Cathedral. Today the Cathedral holds relics of Saint Cuthbert, the head of Saint Oswald, and the remains of Venerable Bede. The nearby Durham Castle, built in 1072, was once the seat of Durham's Prince-Bishops. It is now the University College of Durham.

Near the University is Durham Botanic Garden. The garden features 25 acres of bamboo, pine and woodlands, a worldwide collection of plants, and a cafe and exhibition space.

Durham Cathedral is cheek-by-jowl with the castle. It is a light-filled, Romanesque refuge with tranquil cloisters and a chapel. It holds ancient artifacts and a high tower with an incredible view. The cloisters were "Hogwarts" in the Harry Potter films. Durham Market Hall has been in business and a festive venue since the Middle Ages.

The old city center of Durham has changed little in the past 1000 years. Most of the Norman and medieval features are still intact. The 12th-century chronicler, Symeon of Durham, wrote, "To see Durham is to see the English Sion, and by doing so, one may save oneself a trip to Jerusalem."

It is said that the body of Saint Cuthbert was not corruptible. On opening his tomb after several years, monks were stunned to see his body was perfect. After many generations of wars, plagues, and invasions by Scots, Old Durham's city center still overlooks the winding River Wear, always perfect and waiting to be discovered again.
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Durham Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Durham Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: England » Durham (See other walking tours in Durham)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Durham Cathedral
  • Durham Castle
  • Elvet Bridge
  • High Street and Prince Bishops Place
  • St. Nicholas Church
  • Durham Town Hall
  • Durham Market Hall
  • Crook Hall
  • St. Margaret's Church
  • Framwellgate Bridge
Durham Cathedral

1) Durham Cathedral (must see)

Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, is a tidal island off the northeast coast of England. Its recorded history dates from the 6th century AD. Several saints came from Lindisfarne. Among them was Saint Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, who died in 687. In 875, monks carrying Cuthbert's body fled Lindisfarne to escape repeated Viking incursions.

While looking for a safe place to settle, the monks followed two milkmaids, the saying goes, who were looking for their lost cow. The search led them to a high peninsula of the Wear River. It was here that Cuthbert's coffin could be moved no further. It was a sign, without a doubt. They founded the shrine that would become the City of Durham.

Protected by the Earl of Northumbria, the monks built a chapel to house Saint Cuthbert. It was wood and wattle. They called it the White Church. It was replaced in 998 by a stone structure also called White Church. Durham became a popular pilgrim site where King Canute was a frequent visitor. The White Church became a cathedral in 1018.

The Norman monk, William de St-Calais, was appointed Bishop of Durham by the first king of England, William the Conqueror, in 1080. In August 1093, St-Calais, together with Prior Turgot of Durham, began the construction of the new cathedral. The new building was intended, among other things, to house the bodies of Saint Cuthbert and the English monk Venerable Bede.

The interior features rib vaults in the choir aisle and the nave. Pointed arches are supported on piers and massive columns. The triforium gallery over the aisles masks lateral abutments. The main features are pre-Gothic, but the cathedral overall is considered Romanesque.

Saint Cuthbert's tomb is at the east end of the chapel feretory. Fragments of his coffin are on display. Twenty-two other bodies are entombed within the cathedral: in the chapter house, the transepts, and the chapels, in front of the high altar and outside the cathedral.

In 1986 the Durham Cathedral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and placed among the significant monuments of the Norman Conquest of Britain. It is also one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Europe.
Durham Castle

2) Durham Castle (must see)

In Durham, on a peninsula overlooking the wooded banks of the River Wear, sits Durham Castle. Its construction began in 1072 under the orders of William the Conqueror. The Earl of Northumbria, Waltheof, was tasked with building the Durham Castle until he rebelled against William and was executed in 1076. The castle then came under the control of the Bishop of Durham, Walcher, who became the first of the Prince-Bishops of Northumbria, a title that was to remain until the 19th century.

The Durham Castle is of typical Norman design. It consisted of a motte (mound) and inner and outer baileys (walled areas). During the rule of Henry VIII, the building was morphing into a palace. James VI, King of Scotland, was entertained there in 1617. Charles I of England visited in 1633 and again in 1639. The Durham Castle had become a Royal watering hole.

In 1832 The Castle became housing for students of the newly founded University of Durham. The building is dominated by its keep, erected in the 14th century. The greater part is built around the courtyard, entered through a gatehouse by the defensive moat.

Within the courtyard, there are the keep and the Great Hall of the west wing. In the Hall is a 500-year-old working kitchen. The Great Hall holds the imposing dining area used for scenes in the Harry Potter films. The Black Staircase of 1662 is one of the most impressive in England.

The Palace Green between the Castle and Durham Cathedral was once the location of the central market of Durham. The Green, linked to the town center by Owengate street, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a university don.

Designated in 1986 as a cultural World Heritage Site, Durham Castle is open to the general public.
Elvet Bridge

3) Elvet Bridge

Hugh de Puiset, Prince-Bishop of Durham and known as "Bishop Pudsey" to his friends, did a heap of building in Northern England in the 12th century. In 1160 AD, he started construction on the Elvet Bridge over the Wear River to connect Durham with the suburb of Elvet. The work was still going on in 1228, even with the granting of indulgences.

The bridge has ten arches that can be seen. Its style is mostly like the old Roman arched bridges, although the Elvet Bridge arches are slightly pointed. It has stood the test of time very well. In the Middle Ages, it was guarded by gates and towers. There were buildings on the bridge with chapels at either end.

Of the chapels, St James' and St Andrews', only St Andrews' at the eastern end has survived. The pedestrianized bridge is reputed to be the narrowest row-through bridge in Europe. It leads from the Cathedral peninsula to the Elvet side, east of Durham. Exceptionally fine views of the Wear River and the Durham Cathedral can be enjoyed from the bridge. A footpath runs around the Cathedral.
High Street and Prince Bishops Place

4) High Street and Prince Bishops Place

Durham's High Street and Prince Bishops Place offer a vibrant shopping experience for locals and tourists alike. The High Street, which curves in a horseshoe shape eastward from Silver Street towards the river and then turns back to Saddler Street, is a bustling thoroughfare lined with hundreds of stores. The area has a constant turnover of new businesses, with a rapidly developing economic scene of new business starts fueled by the patronage of students, locals, and visitors.

Within a few minutes walk from Durham Castle, Prince Bishops Place is situated in the center of Durham and is one of the main shopping venues. It was built in 1998, replacing a concrete multi-story car park, and houses over forty retail outlets, including alternative boutiques. The mall is at the eastern end of the horseshoe-shaped High Street and offers a diverse range of shopping options. Additionally, the center hosts a large car park and offers easy access to public transport.

Whether you're looking for high-street brands or unique boutiques, Durham's High Street and Prince Bishops Place have something for everyone. With a mix of traditional and contemporary architecture, the area offers a pleasant shopping experience that reflects Durham's rich history and dynamic present.
St. Nicholas Church

5) St. Nicholas Church

In the early 12th century, Ranulf Flambard, Prince-Bishop of Durham, cleared the green between his castle and Durham Cathedral. The area became a marketplace and the site of Saint Nicholas Church. Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of merchants, sailors, archers, reformed thieves, prostitutes, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students, also known as "St Nic."

The first Saint Nicholas church had a buttressed nave, chancel, and a square, crenelated tower. One wall was part of the city walls. There was one cemetery between the church and the marketplace; another at the rear of the church. The building underwent extensive changes over the years. In 1857 it was demolished and rebuilt.

Only the 18th-century font and five bells from the 17th century were salvaged. The new church was built following a similar plan to the original. It was completed in 1858 by architect J. B. Pritchett of Darlington. The London News claimed it was "the most beautiful specimen of church architecture in the north of England."

The church, made with snecked sandstone with ashlar dressings, has a slate roof with stone gable copings. The nave and chancel are aisled. There are a south porch and tower and an octagonal stone spire with lucarnes. Above the ornate double doors is a niche with a statue of Saint Nicholas, who holds a ship in his left hand.
Durham Town Hall

6) Durham Town Hall

The historic Town Hall is on the west side of old Durham's marketplace. Although it is sometimes also called the Guild Hall, the Town Hall and the Guild Hall are separate buildings. The Town Hall is only recently open to the public after the latest renovations. It has been the civic center of the town since the 14th century.

The Town Hall is a complex of attached buildings. The earliest building was erected in 1356 as a meeting place for merchant guilds. A plain wooden structure was rebuilt by Prince-Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall in 1535 and again by Prince-Bishop John Cosin in 1665.

In the rear of Cosin's rebuilt hall is the so-called "new" Town Hall, built in 1851. The new Town Hall, designed by architect Philip Charles Hardwick, features Perpendicular Gothic-style architecture. Inside, the 72-foot-long Great Hall has a hammer-beam roof. The roof is 56 feet high. The walls are lined with commemorative plaques of notable citizens.

The Council Chamber of the Hall is now the meeting place of the mayor and aldermen of Durham. The indoor markets, installed in 1852, go around and underneath the Town Hall complex.

Since November 2018, the personal belongings of Josef Boruwlaski, a court dwarf and self-styled Count, have been on display in the Town Hall. Boruwlaski performed at many royal courts of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. He was known as "the Little Count." The Town Hall also contains the original city charter; and the civic sword and pikes.
Durham Market Hall

7) Durham Market Hall

The City of Durham has long had an association with markets going back to Saxon and Norman times. The Market Place became the focal point for traders to sell their wares alongside farmers, butchers, greengrocers, shoemakers, street peddlers and entertainers.

The area set aside for the new Market Hall was part of the site of New Place, the former palace and gardens built in the Middle Ages for the Nevilles of Raby and Brancepeth, the Earls of Westmoreland, who had forfeited the property to the Crown after their involvement in the ill-fated Rebellion of the North in 1569.

The palace was eventually bought from King James II in 1612 by Henry Smith's Charity and was used as a factory, workhouse and charity school before being demolished to ultimately make way for the present Market Hall.

The Market Hall is described by Nikolaus Pevsner as "interior mostly with the usual cast-iron roof in a series of pitches on cast-iron columns, but stone vaulted at the north end. The back elevation, exposed to Leazes Road, has no Gothic pretences, just a massive retaining wall and plain segmental-headed windows under a row of gables".

By the start of the nineteenth century, overcrowding in the Market Place became a real problem with the various trades being widespread and disorganised throughout that part of the City. Traders banded together with local businessmen to petition for both the building of a purpose built Market Hall and for a more organised running of the Markets.

In May 1851, The Durham Markets Company Act was passed for establishing new Markets and Market Places in the City of Durham, for abolishing the Corn Tolls and "for regulating the Markets and Fairs within the said City and Suburbs therof and for other Purposes."

In the late nineteenth Century, fairs for horses, sheep and horned cattle were regularly held in the Market Hall and twice a year servants' hirings were held. Originally the Market was only open on a Saturday, when trading finished at 11pm with the ringing of the Market Bell, an example of which can still be seen today hanging in the Balcony Bistro.

It has a giant mural of the City painted on an inner wall by Durham University's Student Community Action group in 2010.
Since its reopening, it has entertained a number of famous guests including Sir Ming Campbell, Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP and writer Terry Deary and has played host to a number of live radio and TV broadcasts.

Durham Market Hall plays the lead role in organising the award-winning annual City of Durham Christmas Festival, the busiest retail weekend of the year in the City Centre.

Durham Markets Company, which operates the Durham Market Hall, also runs a Saturday Outdoor Retail Market and the City's twice-yearly Continental Market in the Market Place. Durham Indoor Market plays the leading role in organising the Durham Christmas Festival and Durham City Food Festival.

In 2010, the Indoor Market's mezzanine level was extended to provide greater facilities for retailers and a larger café bistro.

In January 2011, Durham Market Hall received the award "Best Private Market" from NABMA, the National Association of British Market Authorities.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Crook Hall

8) Crook Hall (must see)

Crook Hall began as an ordinary hall-style house built in the 13th century. Only the great hall and a screen passage remained from that early medieval building. There have been add-ons from the 14th to the 18th centuries. The earlier medieval house built in sandstone had a Welch slate roof. In the 17th century, the building was extended as a Jacobean manor house.

In the 18th century, a brick Georgian house was added, making the whole an 11-bay house surrounded by English country gardens. Crook Hall gets its name from its original owner Peter del Croke. Peter's ancestor Aimery, was granted the manor of Sydgate (as Crook Hall was then known) in 1217.

The current Crook Hall has views of the River Wear up to Durham Cathedral. The gardens, covering five acres, have been described as a "tapestry of colorful blooms" laid out as a series of rooms. They are the Shakespeare garden, the Cathedral lawn, a secret walled garden, a fruit tree orchard, the silver and white garden, and a vegetable garden with a greenhouse.

On a lot all its own, there is a hedge maze. It looks challenging. And one more thing, the house is said to have a ghost. She is a mysterious White Lady ghost who rings bells and playfully overturns dinner tables.
St. Margaret's Church

9) St. Margaret's Church

St Margaret's Church was founded in the 12th century as a Chapel of Ease (backup church) in the parish of Saint Oswald in Durham. Those parishioners who found it too difficult to attend Saint Oswalds could congregate at Saint Margaret's. The full name of the Church is Saint Margaret of Antioch. It is at Crossgate, within view of Durham Cathedral. The land of Saint Margaret's was not consecrated as a burial ground until 1431.

It is thought that Nave, South Aisle, and Chancel date from 1150. A North Aisle and North Nave, built in the Norman style, were added by the end of the 12th century. Two Norman windows survived from that time, one in the Chancel and one in the South Nave. The Lady Chapel dates from the 15th century. Before that date, another chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary stood on the site.

The church has quite a several memorial plaques and a pipe organ. A striking and unusual 20th-century statue of the Madonna and Child by art teacher Brian Scraton adorns a niche in a 12th-century column. The church tower contains three bells, two medieval and one from the 16th century.

Saint Margaret Church is one of the oldest churches in the City of Durham. The religious edifice is a Grade II listed building on the National Heritage List for England.
Framwellgate Bridge

10) Framwellgate Bridge

In the 12th century, Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham, built a bridge over the Wear River. It was a good bridge, with five or six arches. Yet it was swept away by a flood. A record of 1437 claims Ranulf's bridge "was broken by a flood during the Festival of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1400."

It wasn't all bad, as the Bishop of Durham and the Prior of Durham Cathedral split a tidy profit from a ferry service they ran until the new bridge appeared. The new bridge stands today and has two shallow arches visible instead of four or five. Each of the arches has reinforcing ribs.

The third arch, mentioned in records of the 16th century, perhaps surviving from Flambart's bridge, may be concealed by buildings at the end of the bridge. Both ends of the replacement bridge had fortified towers and gates at each end. The tower and gateway at the east end were demolished to improve the traffic in 1760.

In the 18th century, the bridge was widened on the upstream side. Today it is 27 feet wide, maximum. Five reinforcing ribs under the arches are from the 15th century, and two are from the 19th century.

Until 1969, with the building of the Milburngate Bridge, the Framwellgate Bridge was the main traffic thoroughfare eastward through old Durham. Today Framwellgate Bridge is pedestrianized.