Durham Cathedral: Cloister


Durham cathedral is described as “the finest and most complete of all the Norman cathedrals surviving in Britain” (Tatton-Brown, 1989). The location of the building is high above the River Wear making its magnificent setting very striking. Bishop William of St Calais decided to build a new cathedral in 1092 resulting in the complete demolition of the existing church on the site which had been built almost a century before. The first foundation trenches for the new church were dug on 29th July 1093, in the presence of the bishop and the prior, and on 11 August the first stones were ceremoniously laid. When Bishop William died in 1096 the monks carried on the building work and after Rannulf Flambard was made bishop in 1099, the church was “made as far as the nave” (Chronicle of Simeon of Durham, c1104-1108). The coffin of St Cuthbert was moved to its new resting place within the eastern apse on 29th August 1104 and the 12th century English historian William of Malmesbury tells us that “there was a premature but harmless collapse of the centring upon which the vault over the east end was erected.” The walls of the nave were complete “up to the covering” (Chronicle of Simeon of Durham, c1104-1108) when Bishop Flambard died in 1128 and work was completed during the course of the next five years. It is thought likely that Durham was the first great cathedral in Europe to be vaulted throughout and the spectacular structure was constructed within a period of forty years ((Tatton-Brown, 1989).


The plan of Durham cathedral is uniform throughout and is based on the plan of Lanfranc’s cathedral at Canterbury some twenty years earlier. The technological high point of English Romanesque architecture was fully embodied at Durham. At a time when many new ideas were reaching north west Europe from the east, and following the period of the First Crusade, the masons skilfully introduced remarkable innovations. With the introduction of new building techniques, the massive solid early Norman structures were gradually enhanced with much more decorated and beautiful buildings of the High Romanesque architecture of the 12th century. Benedictine cathedral monasticism drew to a close at the beginning of the 12th century and was followed by the Cistercians who started to build churches in a very different way.


Needless to say, the materials that a building is constructed from will play an important part in its visual impact. Durham cathedral is constructed of dressed sandstone and as Clifton-Taylor (1983) notes, a building of stone “has something of the monument about it.” The Conquest effected a revolution in English stone building when the Norman prelates required enormous churches and the stonemasons of the Middle Ages were among the best paid and most highly regarded of all workers. These trained craftsmen were needed in huge numbers during an incredible age for building and with many of the finest cathedrals and castles dating to the Norman period, numerous masons were Norman French arriving in England to undertake the vast scale of architectural work of the period. Many architectural terms are of French origin and are a direct result of the introduction of the Norman stonemasons’ words. The standardization of building units is of Norman influence and the glorious art and architecture of the 700 years that followed was equally met by the craftsmanship of the stonemasons. The master mason was for many centuries considered the key figure of building construction. Supervising the works and often assuming the role of architect before architecture became a separate profession, the master masons were under direct control of the Crown, the church and high dignitaries. They were responsible for overseeing the quarrying of the stone, arranging transportation to site, preparing full scale layouts (drawings) and working the building stone entirely by hand (Clifton-Taylor, 1983).


On the south side of Durham Cathedral is the cloister. From the Latin ‘claustrum’, meaning enclosed space, the word cloister generally refers to the covered ambulatory around a monastery or college quadrangle. Benedictine and Cistercian cloisters were very often majestic in scale compared to those of the Franciscans which were of more modest proportions (Jenner, 1993). Although construction began in 1093, when the cathedral was begun, the buildings contained within the cloister date from the 15th century and later. In monastic cathedrals such as Durham, the cloister was at the heart of a complex of buildings which included the chapter house, dormitory and refectory. Once built, a cathedral would have been profusely decorated with stained glass, sculpture and wall paintings (Tatton-Brown, 1989). Window tracery was an exacting task for banker masons with nearly all designs rooted in geometry. At the Reformation, and again during the Cromwellian period, such ornamentation was considered to be heretical and idolatrous resulting in widespread destruction. Clifton-Taylor (1974) describes the destruction of medieval stained glass as “the greatest calamity that has ever befallen English art.” The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century by Henry VIII was far more than an act of ecclesiastical reform. The period also saw the most radical redistribution of land ownership since the Norman Conquest despite Henry VIII’s principle policy of destroying monastic buildings being motivated by his desire to acquire their valuable fittings (Jenner,1993). As it was not possible to destroy all the hundreds of abbeys, priories and friaries which had been built over so many centuries, thankfully the ruinous beauty and majesty of monastic architecture can still be appreciated.


Often covering the intersection of vaulting or a ceiling intersect, roof bosses are a prolific feature at Durham Cathedral. The wooden ceiling above the arcades in the cloister is richly ornamented with these beautiful architectural features which would originally have been brightly coloured. With the advent of Gothic architecture, these decorative bosses became widespread and are often elaborately carved with foliage, heraldic shields, animals and grotesques. Not only was their purpose to cover a joint, in stone or wood, the boss could be applied when the structure was complete or be an integral part of the structure. The bosses, capitals and ornamentation surrounding windows was the responsibility of the carver who was usually trained in a masons’ yard (Clifton-Taylor, 1983). Several wooden benches are all that now furnish the cloister yet walking along the arcades and looking out onto the grass courtyard, there’s an ambience that takes you back to the hustle and bustle of times long since passed.

The lack of comfort and extremely cold temperatures in some of our religious buildings is humourously noted in 1771 by Tobias Smollett in The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: 

“the builder’s intention fhould be to keep the people dry and warm – For my part, I never entered the Abbey church at Bath but once, and the moment I flept over the threfhold, I found myself chilled to the very marrow of my bones – When we confider, that in our churches, in general, we breathe a grofs ftagnated air, furcharged with damps from vaults, tombs, and charnel-houfes, may we not term them fo many magazines of rheums, created for the benefit of the medical faculty? and fafely aver, that more bodies are loft, than souls faved, by going to church, in the winter efpecially, which may be faid to engrofs eight months in the year. I fhould be glad to know, what offence it would give to tender confciences, if the houfe of God was made more comfortable, or lefs dangerous to the health of valetudinarians; and whether it would not be an encouragement to piety, as well as the falvation of many lives, if the place of worfhip was well floored, wainfcotted, warmed, and ventilated, and its area kept facred from the pollution of the dead.”

Durham Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Grade I Listed.


Shildon: National Railway Museum


The National Railway Museum in Shildon was opened in October 2004 and is based on the Timothy Hackworth Victorian Railway Museum. Timothy Hackworth was recruited by George Stephenson in 1824 to oversee the building of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, engine houses and stationary engines. He was responsible for building locomotives for the company and he became the railway’s superintendent in 1825. The Welcome building was constructed in 1888 as a Sunday School for the Methodist Chapel and became a clothing factory in the 1960’s. The building became the entrance for the museum in 2004 and is now home to the original Sans Pareil locomotive which was built by Timothy Hackworth to compete in the Rainhill Trials in 1829 for the newly created Liverpool & Manchester Railway.


Prior to the National Railway Museum, the Patent Office Museum, now the Science Museum in London, started its collected of railway artefacts in 1862. Railway companies began preserving their history from the late 19th century and a museum dedicated to railways was opened in 1927 in York by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). Although the Great Western Railway (GWR), the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and the Southern Railway (SR) had all collected significant quantities of railway heritage material by the 1930’s, it wasn’t until the nationalisation of the railways in 1948 that these collections were all brought together.


A curator of historical relics of the nationalised transport industries was appointed in 1951 and adding to the existing York Railway Museum, the Museum of British Transport in Clapham was opened by British Railways. The 1968 Transport Act encouraged British Railways to work in conjunction with the Science Museum to develop a National Railway Museum to house the ever expanding collection. The very first national museum (National Railway Museum) outside of London was opened in 1975 at the former steam locomotive depot near York Minster.


The National Railway Museum in York has expanded on numerous occasions since 1975 and now has a purpose built rail training centre – a base for the NRM’s education team. The National Railway Museum in Shildon, also known as Locomotion, was the first national museum to be built in the North East. The birthplace of the modern railway, and with grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, this joint venture ensures the continued preservation of railway heritage and enables the collections to be conserved properly.


Built up over the past 80 years, the collection at Shildon has over 100 locomotives and almost 200 items relating to the story of the railway from the early 19th century to the present day. One of the carriages in the Collection Building houses a 1924 12/50 ‘Duck’s back’ Alvis. This vehicle was used by the 20th century English writer Tom Rolt who led numerous campaigns to preserve our national heritage. Used as his general runaround in the early days of the Vintage Sports Car Club, the vehicle was purchased in 1934 for £10 and is still owned by the Rolt family. In 1959, Tom drove this car on a section of the M1 motorway whilst it was being built – from near Luton to beyond Watford Gap. This journey was part of his research for a pamphlet he was writing for John Laing & Sons who were the main contractors for the road.


The original Sans Pareil is displayed in the Welcome Building and although it was more powerful, it proved not to have the speed of Stephenson’s Rocket. A working replica of Rocket is housed at the museum and was designed by Robert Stephenson in 1979 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Rainhill Trials. The working replica of Timothy Hackworth’s Sans Pareil (above) was built in 1979 by apprentices at British Rail’s Shildon workshop. First steamed in April 1980, the replica and original have been together at Shildon since 2004.

NRM9     NRM4

Part of the collection includes the stunning steam locomotive built by London Midland & Scottish Railway, 5MT class, in black and designed by William Stanier in 1935. Locomotive No 34051 Winston Churchill is also displayed in the Collection Building. One of 44 members of the Battle of Britain class produced by the Southern Railway between 1945 and 1950, these locomotives were all named after the people, aircraft, fighter squadrons and airfields involved in the Battle of Britain. Mid Hants Railway Ropley Works have undertaken painstaking work to restore the Battle of Britain class loco back to its original condition.


One of the major exhibitions at Shildon is the royal train collection which displays the splendour and quality of coaches used by members of the royal family during the early 20th century. The Hardwicke No. 790 (above) is currently at the head of the royal train and is a steam locomotive of “Jumbo” Class. A new speed record was set in 1895 during the era of the Race to the North when Hardwicke took 2 hours and 6 minutes to travel between Crewe and Carlisle. This fabulous locomotive was designed by F.W.Webb and was built in Crewe in 1873, withdrawn in 1932.


Other locomotives included in the Collection Building include Imperial No 1. 1956 which was one of the last but one fireless locomotives to be built by the Andrew Barclay Company in Kilmarnock. Working in the Imperial Paper Mills at Gravesend, such fireless engines were used in certain locations where the fire of an ordinary steam locomotive would present a hazard. Although diesel and electric locomotives were available by 1956, fireless locomotives were much cheaper to build and to operate in plant where large quantities of steam were readily available.


Orion (above) is a working model of a London & North Western Railway express passenger locomotive. This beautiful working 1/6 scale model was made by Mr G.R.S. Darroch who was an apprentice at Crewe works. With some of the parts being made at Crewe Mechanics Institute, Orion is one of the few genuine examples of LNWR locomotives still in existence. The original locomotive named Orion was built in 1902 at Crewe works to pull express passenger trains on the West Coast Main Line. The full size locomotive was scrapped in 1928 so this wonderful 1905 model remains a tangible link with Crewe’s golden age.


Other railway relics in the collection include underground mining locomotives and tank wagons. The last locomotive out of Ellington Colliery in Northumberland in 2005 was Underground Mining Locomotive No 14. A diesel mechanical locomotive was used for coal haulage and No. 14 was built by Hudswell Clarke of Leeds in 1961. Below is a Shell-Mex and British Petroleum Limited Tank Wagon. Registered with Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, the rectangular wagon was built in 1901 for carrying oil and was claimed from Falmouth Docks.


As part of Shildon Shed Bash held in July this year and inspired by famous “Shed Bashes” of the 1950’s and 1960’s, this special event welcomed the world famous Flying Scotsman. Joined by A4 60009 Union of South Africa, V2 4771 Green Arrow, Q6 63395 and D9002 Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, this historic event was a wonderful occasion for rail enthusiasts.


Originally built in Doncaster in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway, the Flying Scotsman was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and was one of the most powerful locomotives used by the railway. Selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in London, the locomotive was given the name Flying Scotsman, after the London to Edinburgh rail service which started in 1862, and renumbered 4472. The Scotsman was officially the first locomotive in the UK to reach 100mph on a special test run and reducing the journey to eight hours, produced the first ever non stop London to Edinburgh service in 1928.


In 2004, a campaign spearheaded by the National Railway Museum resulted in saving this beautiful locomotive and confirmed its status as a national treasure. Having undergone extensive restoration in the workshop of Riley & Son Ltd since 2006, this railway legend is once again on Britain’s tracks. The oldest mainline working locomotive, this steam icon has remained in Britain with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Although the Flying Scotsman was undoubtedly the star of the show, the National Railway Museum in Shildon is a fantastic working museum conserving a rich industrial heritage for future generations.


Durham: Neptune Statue


In Market Place in Durham centre stands the impressive heroic figure of Neptune. The life size lead statue depicts the bearded figure standing over a dolphin and raising his trident as though to strike. The beautiful sculpture is surmounted upon a corniced column of sandstone and now stands in its original site thanks to an appeal fund organised by the Durham Trust. The statue was originally given to the city in 1729 by George Bowes of Gibside and represents Durham’s link to the sea. The sculpture was restored in 1986 and following its move to Wharton Park, Neptune was returned to its current location in May 1991.


In classical mythology Neptune was the Roman god identified with Poseidon. As one of the twelve Olympians (Iliad 15. 187-192), Neptune ruled over the waters (Metamorphoses 13. 854-858) and was originally a freshwater divinity who acquired his attributes from Greek mythology. The first historians, who wrote in Latin, were familiar with Greek mythology and many of the Roman legends are adaptations that stem from Greek myths. The Olympian Neptunus was equated with Poseidon, one of the twelve principle Roman gods, by the poet Ennius. Although the development of railway transport improved links with the city and the coast, Durham had aspired to be linked to the sea via the river Wear. As such, the personification of water was erected to symbolize Durham’s ambitions.


Durham: Light Infantry War Memorial


Located in Market Place in Durham centre stands the above war memorial. Honouring the Durham Light Infantry regiment, the bronze sculpture of a soldier symbolises the moment after the infantry buglers sounded the ceasefire in Korea in 1953. The sculpture is set upon a white stone plinth featuring the regimental badge and bears a dedication to all those who served in the regiment. A quotation on the rear of the plinth from Montgomery of Alamein reads “There may be some regiments as good but I know of none better.” The monument was unveiled in September 2014 and is the work of Edinburgh artist Alan Herriot.


Raby Castle


The Manor of Rabi was one of the lands belonging to the township of Staindrop which was gifted to the Prior of Durham by King Cnut. The King reigned over England, Denmark and Norway from 1016 to 1035 and it is thought that at the time of the Conquest in 1066, Raby was in the possession of Sigurn, reputedly Cnut’s niece. The Nevills were responsible for building the 14th century castle which still stands today and they continued to live at Raby until 1569. The family were devout Roman Catholics and the 5th Earl had been a steadfast supporter of Mary Tudor holding high office during her reign. His son Charles however, was forced to choose between loyalty to his monarch or to his religion when Mary’s Protestant half-sister Elizabeth was on the throne. He eventually decided to join Thomas Percy in leading the rebellion in support of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, which sealed the fate of the Nevills. In 1569, 700 knights assembled at Raby Castle to plot their campaign but the ‘Rising of the North’ ultimately foundered and Charles fled to the Netherlands where he died in poverty.


After the rebellion failed, the entire estate was forfeited and remained in Crown ownership until 1626 when it was purchased by Sir Henry Vane the Elder who was a Member of Parliament and prominent member of Charles I’s household. The Vanes were originally descended from Hywel ap Fane of Monmouthshire and remain the owners of the castle to this day. The castle towers with curtain wall date to the mid 14th century and probably incorporate earlier buildings.


Lierne vaulted ceiling Neville Gateway (west front)

During medieval times, the only entrance to the courtyard of the castle was through the great Neville Gateway. Defended by machicolations above, the Gateway also had a portcullis and features delicate Lierne vaulting (above). Although Raby is a defended home rather than a fortress, it has seen action in battle, notably during the Civil War. It was beseiged in 1648 when it was held by Sir George Vane for the Parliamentary forces but suffered little damage. Sir Henry repaired Raby and carried out various building works but it was not until the 18th century that the first major alterations were made to the medieval structure. The 1st Lord Barnard partly dismantled the castle early in the 18th century but Henry, son of the 2nd Lord Barnard, later began a programme of restoration.


Bulmer’s Tower (left), Chapel Tower (centre) & Mount Raskelf (right)

The interior of the south and west ranges underwent the greatest changes under the guidance of the architect James Paine. In 1768, the 2nd Earl of Darlington engaged the architect John Carr to carry out improvements both inside and outside the castle. A carriageway through the entrance hall was constructed at this time and a round tower was built on the south front to replace one that had burnt down earlier in the century. By the end of the 18th century, the castle and its setting were considerably altered with the moat drained, the park landscaped, the high and low ponds excavated and the stables and ancillary buildings constructed. In 1843, the 2nd Duke of Cleveland started the third major period of rebuilding by inviting the architect William Burn to work on the castle. The castle has remained little altered since the late 19th century. Raby Castle is Grade I Listed.


Raby Castle: Travelling Chariot


The above travelling chariot dates to around 1810-1820 and was built by Coates Blizzard of Park Lane, London. This chariot would have been drawn by a pair of matching Cleveland Bay horses and the platform above the front wheels would be used for overnight luggage. Ash was used for the majority of the structure of the chariot as it is extremely flexible and workable. The wheel stokes are made of sturdy oak and the panelling is mahogany. The wheels are designed slightly concave and are two degrees off straight for stability and strength. The steelwork would be made from a single bar which was heated to the required colour and then held in tongs by a blacksmith and hammered by two strikers until the desired result was achieved. The upholstery of such carriages was usually hand made and bespoke.

Raby Castle: State Coach


The above State Coach was built for the Duke of Cleveland by Rigby & Robinson of Park Lane, London. Dating to around 1810-1820, the Coach was last used for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 by the 9th Lord Barnard. The Coach would be pulled by two Cleveland Bay Horses and driven by a Coachman who would sit on a blue ornate drape known as a Hammercloth. Two footmen would stand at the rear and this method of driving was known as Box Driving. The doors are fitted internally with yellow blank blinds which replace the glass when lowered and were mainly used to protect the interior from fading when in storage. The handholds in the rear were manufactured on a Jacquard Loom first demonstrated at the Paris Industrial Exhibition of 1801 where punched cards were used to control the warp and weft. This system was not used in England until 1810 although the fabric from this type of loom was imported prior to this date.


Barnard Castle


The Great Hall, Great Chamber and Round Tower

Commanding a strategic point overlooking the River Tees are the remains of Barnard Castle. The castle was the principle stronghold of the Baliol family who founded the town at its gates and turned the castle into one of the largest fortresses in northern England. The land on which the castle was built had been given to the Church in the ninth century but was forcibly taken by the Earls of Northumberland by the eleventh century. The land reverted back to the Crown at the end of the eleventh century after William II crushed a rebellion by the Earl. In 1095, the king granted the land to Guy de Baliol who was a loyal supporter from Picardy in north eastern France.


The Great Ditch

The foundations of Barnard Castle date from the twelfth century when Guy de Baliol built a timber castle here. The site was chosen specifically as it was naturally defended on two sides by steep cliffs and the River Tees and to the north of the site, there was a road and a ford laid out by the Romans. The castle includes an early twelfth century ringwork which was a medieval fortification comprising of a small defended area which was surrounded by a substantial ditch. Acting as strongholds for military operations, ringworks in some cases defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. Guy de Baliol held the lands around Barnard Castle for thirty years and was succeeded by his nephew Bernard de Baliol in 1125. Together with his son, Bernard turned the castle into a major fortress by rebuilding in stone and enlarging the site.


The Inner Ward with 13th century Round Tower

By the early thirteenth century the family fell into financial difficulties and in about 1190, Bishop Pudsey of Durham held the castle in security for a loan made to Eustace de Helicourt, a member of a local tenant family, who inherited the estate in 1199. The castle was returned to the family around 1212 when King John ordered the castle to be returned to Eustace’s son Hugh. The king granted the lordship to Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, in 1307 but as the Beauchamps main interests were in the Midlands, the castle was used mostly as a source of revenue with the outer wards largely abandoned making the castle smaller and cheaper to run.


Outer wall of the Town Ward

The bishops tried once again to recover possession of the castle in 1471 however, the lordship passed to Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. In 1483, Richard became king and although he made alterations and had plans for the castle, most were never realised because of his early death at Bosworth Field in 1485. The castle remained in royal hands until 1603 during which time the castle went into decline despite requests for money to pay for repairs.


The deep rock-cut ditch surrounding the Inner Ward

In 1603 James I gave the castle to Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset. The estate was transferred to the Prince of Wales in 1615 following the disgrace of Somerset and was subsequently sold to the City of London in 1626. Sold to Sir Henry Vane in 1630, the castle was dismantled to provide materials for an extensive rebuilding programme at his main residence at Raby Castle. Lord Barnard of Raby became the eventual owner of the estate and in 1952, he placed the Inner, Middle and Town wards in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works.


The ruins of Barnard Castle are Grade I Listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.


Barnard Castle: Market Cross


Located on Market Place in the historic market town is the Market Cross, also known as the Butter Mart. Still retaining the cobbles surrounding its base, the octagonal building was built in 1747 by local man Thomas Breaks. Constructed of ashlar, the two storey building features a Tuscan arcade of twenty four columns in total.


The upper storey has Venetian windows with glazing bars which are alternated with round headed niches. The ground floor was once where farmer’s wives sold dairy produce and is where the name Butter Mart derives from.


The octagonal base with Tuscan arcade

The hipped roof supports the lantern with ogee dome topped with a weather vane finial. The building is Grade I Listed.