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Bishop Auckland is an ancient and historic market town, which has been the seat for country residence of the Prince Bishops and the official home of the Bishop of Durham since the 12th century. Bishop Auckland is the largest town in the south of County Durham and is located about 12 miles northwest of Darlington and 12 miles southwest of Durham.
The town has a strong commercial and retail core and the dominant surrounding development is residential, the majority of which is to the south of the town centre. Bishop Auckland has several unique selling points to potential visitors and tourists including Auckland Castle and the collection of Zurbaran paintings, the parkland, railway heritage, Binchester Roman fort, connections with Stan Laurel and the Saxon Church at nearby Escomb.
The town stands high above a meander in the River Wear, commanding spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Bishop Auckland is also the gateway into Weardale. The linear form of Bishop Auckland has developed from the growth of the town around its original Roman Road alignment along Newgate Street. The oldest part of the town is centred on the Market Place and the northern part of Newgate Street. In , monks were sent from Durham Cathedral to establish a collegiate church, and in around Bishop Pudsey established a manor house in the town. It retained its status as a Market Town, providing professional services and shopping for the many mining villages which surrounded it, and also the lead miners of Weardale.
Numerous changes to the road and rail infrastructure during the industrial boom period have dramatically altered some parts of the town. Today, the main railway station is located south of the conservation area, to the west of the foot of Newgate Street and the railway viaduct over the River Wear has been converted to carry road traffic. Stonework from the Fort was used in one of the finest examples of early Christian architecture in Northern Europe, the Saxon Church at nearby Escomb.
The settlement is the largest town within the County, representing the major employment, commercial and residential centre in south west Durham with a population of 25, and serving a wider catchment area of over , The main street of Bishop Auckland is Newgate Street. A mile from the town are the remains of Binchester Roman Fort, home to the best preserved Roman bath house in Britain. Escomb is one of the finest examples of early Christian architecture in Northern Europe in the restored 7th Century Escomb Saxon Church. One of the earliest Co-operative Societies was founded in Bishop Auckland in , which expanded throughout South Durham.
By the end of the 19th century, commercial and retail development had extended down Newgate Street, linking with the railway station and railway goods yard. Other industrial ventures within the town also included the Gas Works towards the end of Newgate Street, A brick and tile works and a steel works — all close to the railway goods yard. Smaller scale industry included linen weaving, tanning, shoemaking, clock and instrument making. By the midth century, the National School had been constructed just outside the southeast section of the Conservation Area adjacent to the cricket ground and by the end of the century, the Grammar School had been completed on South Church Road and extensions made to the original National School building.
Bishop Auckland is also home to the magnificent Auckland Castle, the official country residence of the Prince Bishops for centuries and still the official home of the Bishop of Durham. From Roman times, the area now known as Bishop Auckland was suggested to have been used as a lookout post for the Roman fort of Vinovium Binchester Fort , that was located on the key Roman road of Dere Street and built in about 79 AD above the north bank of the River Wear.
Bishop Auckland was to become an important market town. With the rapid development of industry, the building of the railways and expansion of coal mining in the 19th century, Bishop Auckland developed as an industrial town, with extensive construction and expansion. As with other industrial centres of the time, industrial development had both positive and negative effects, with the positive expansion of the town with new buildings and new facilities, but with also a rapid expansion in population and resultant problems of overcrowding.
There has been a gradual decline in the industry of the area and by the midth century, Bishop Auckland had changed substantially, becoming more a service hub for the district and a centre for shops and other infrastructure. No conclusive archaeological evidence has been found but its known alignment further south suggests that it ran on the line now taken by it Newgate Street.
The road led to the fort at Binchester Vinovium , located one mile north of Bishop Auckland. As well the base for a substantial garrison Binchester was also a ificant civilian settlement, probably the largest within the boundaries of the modern county, and likely to have served as the administrative centre for the area. Binchester continued as some form of community for more than five hundred years after Britain ceased to be part of the Roman Empire c. Some historians consider that the Battle of Alutthelia, fought AD in which Raedwulf of Northumbria was killed fighting a large Viking incursion, took place somewhere in the vicinity of Bishop Auckland.
Little excavation has occurred in the historic centre of Bishop Auckland and as a consequence knowledge of its early development is severely limited. There could have been some settlement along Dere Street or possibly an outlying military installation associated with or perhaps pre-dating the fort at Binchester.
As a natural ridge above the River Wear it may also have been an attractive location for settlement in the prehistoric period as perhaps indicated by archaeological features in the Castle Park. The early history of Bishop Auckland is centred on the park and castle of Auckland, which has been the principal residence from the 12th century of the Bishops of Durham and officially recognised residence since The lands were granted to the See of Durham in the 11th century at about the time of the Norman Conquest, and during medieval times, the Bishop was the largest landholder in the area.
Auckland Castle also known as Auckland Palace began as a manor house, the first recorded building constructed about , by Bishop Pudsey. The house was converted into a castle in the 14th century when the stone wall surrounding Auckland Park was constructed. The first map reference to the Castle is found in the Gough Bodleain Map of c During the 15th century, the College of St. The Park to the north, east and south of Auckland Castle was originally stocked for game hunting by the Bishops.
The Park has contained during its lifetime, deer, fish ponds, rabbit warrens and wild white cattle. One key crossing point of the River Wear to the medieval settlement was the location of the current Newton Cap Bridge also known as Skirlaw Bridge.
The bridge was built by Bishop Skirlaw in the late 14th century at what had probably become established as an important crossing point. The core of the medieval settlement stretched from the Town Head at the top of Newton Cap Bank in the west, across to Auckland Castle in the east. The Market Place and Bondgates originally formed a continuous, open village green between the north side of the existing Back Bondgate and the south side of the existing Fore Bondgate.
The first houses seem to have been built along High Bondgate and Fore Bondgate. Originally, the wealthiest houses developed around the Market Place, with others spread throughout the area. Poorer accommodation was also spread between the wealthy inhabitants. More wealthy houses expanded to the west, away from the palace end towards the other end of the village green.
The village green and Market Place were filled in with additional buildings well before the midth century. The alignment of the Bondgates with the topography of the ridge and their focus on the castle show the original relationship between the castle precinct and external settlement. An of Bishop Auckland in the Boldon Book from mentions 22 villagers, including a cobbler, a miller and a smith. It can be assumed that at least some of the workshops were located close to a source of running water.
It is assumed that the River Gaunless that runs through the park area would have offered suitable milling and other industrial sites. It is likely there would have been several mills located on the Gaunless in medieval times. The River Gaunless forms a valley to the south west of Bishop Auckland with interesting sub-Pennine countryside interspersed with former mining settlements and farming villages of earlier times. Perhaps it was too slow to work a mill or was a little short on fish at the time it was named.
The village growth was gradual but constant. Development stretched from the Bondgates, perpendicular and to the south along Newgate Street. Access from the eastern end was by Wear Chare that wound itself up from the curve of the River Wear at the Batts on the southern river bank. The Batts area down by the River Wear was for a long period heavily populated, but was severely affected by a flood in that destroyed many structures on the banks of the Wear. There is little housing and few residents there today. Just across the River Wear north of Bishop Auckland is the colliery village of Toronto — named from its Canadian counterpart.
It was once the home to the Newton Cap Colliery — also called Toronto Colliery — initially operated by the Stobarts and in production until The earliest known surviving house in Bishop Auckland is located on the south side of High Bondgate, dating to the 16th century. It used to be the only building in the centre of Bondgate Green and consisted of an inn and stables. It was rebuilt, as you see it today, in and is Grade II listed. The Bay Horse, d in the reign of King Charles I, is said to hold the oldest licence in the county.
Development in the Market Place and surrounds during the Post-Medieval period appears to have been strong, particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries, when much building took place at the Castle, as well as around the Market Place. Development in the Castle area during the 17th century included the Castle Lodge on the south side of the Gatehouse and within the Market Place area, a of inns survive from this period, despite extensive alterations to the fabric of the individual hotels.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Bishop Auckland was a flourishing market town with a market hall, market cross and a mix of more industrial businesses such as tanners, coopers, and yarn manufactures that were supplemented by the local cottage industry. The contrast between market town and industrial workshops seem to have led to a social split with the castle and Market Place attracting wealthier settlement towards the east and houses of lower social status concentrated in the area to the west around Town Head.
During the 18th century, there were even more marked improvements within the Castle complex, with the construction of the Gothic Revival Gatehouse at the entrance to the Castle, the wall by Bishop Wyatt within the Castle grounds and the walled gardens on the east side of Durham Road.
The space was used for a variety of purposes, from ballroom dancing to public meetings, and even a magistrates court. There was also a notorious tunnel behind the Assembly Rooms. It was very dark in the middle, and boys told stories of someone being murdered there. The lock-up for the town was in the base of the tower. With the Market Place and Bondgates containing a mixture of residential and commercial, the gradual development along Newgate Street seems to have been mainly commercial during the Post-Medieval period.
With the diminishing feudal powers of the Bishops in the 18th century, the village had developed into a market town with about houses by , and attracted weekly markets. The manufacturing of besoms and other wickerwork using heather seems to have been a particular speciality, with businesses in the Town Head area.Bishop auckland new zealand
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