County Durham

County Durham
County Durham
Flag of County Durham.svg
County Durham within England
Status Ceremonial county & (smaller) Unitary district
Origin Historic
Region North East England
- Total
- Admin. council
- Admin. area
Ranked 19th
2,676 km2 (1,033 sq mi)
Ranked 6th
2,226 km2 (859 sq mi)
Admin HQ Durham
ISO 3166-2 GB-DUR
ONS code 00EJ
- Total (2010 est.[1])
- Density
- Admin. council
Ranked 23rd
229 /km2 (590 /sq mi)
Ranked 6th
Ethnicity 98.6% White
Arms of Durham County Council
Durham County Council
Executive Labour
Members of Parliament
Durham Ceremonial Numbered 2009.png
  1. County Durham (Unitary)
  2. Hartlepool (Unitary)
  3. Darlington (Unitary)
  4. Stockton-on-Tees (Unitary) *

* Only the part of the borough to the north of the River Tees is within the ceremonial County Durham.

County Durham /ˈdʌrəm/ is a ceremonial county[2] and (smaller) unitary district in North East England. The county town is Durham. The largest settlement in the ceremonial county (in its own unitary Borough) is the town of Darlington.[3] The county has a mixture of mining and farming heritage, as well as a heavy railway industry, particularity in the southwest of the county in Darlington, Shildon and Stockton. Its economy was historically based on coal and iron mining.[4] It is an area of regeneration and promoted as a tourist destination.[4]

The ceremonial county borders Tyne and Wear, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland and forms part of the North East England region.[5]



Many counties are named after their principal town, and the expected form here would be Durhamshire.[3] The county is commonly known as County Durham but was officially named Durham until at least 1997.[6] The structural change legislation in 2009,[7] however, referred to the county of County Durham. The former postal county was known as "County Durham" to distinguish it from the post town of Durham. Durham is the only English county name to be prefixed with "County" in common usage - a practice more common in Ireland.


Local government

The ceremonial county of Durham is administered by four unitary authorities. The ceremonial county has no administrative function, but remains the area to which a Lord-Lieutenant and High Sheriff are appointed.

Emergency services

Durham Constabulary operate in the area of the two unitary districts of County Durham and Darlington.[13] Members of Darlington and Durham councils appoint members to the Durham Police Authority.[10] The other areas in the ceremonial county fall within the police area of the Cleveland Police.

Fire service areas follow the same areas as the police with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service serving the two unitary districts of County Durham and Darlington and Cleveland Fire Brigade covering the rest. County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service is under the supervision of a combined fire authority consiting of 25 local councillors: 21 from Durham County Council and 4 from Darlington Borough Council.[14]

The North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust are responsible for providing NHS ambulance services throughout the ceremonial county, plus the boroughs of Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland, which are south of the River Tees and therefore in North Yorkshire, but remain part of North East England.

Air Ambulance services are provided by the Great North Air Ambulance. The charity operates 3 helicopters including one at Durham Tees Valley Airport covering the County Durham area.

Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team, based at the Durham Constabulary base in Barnard Castle, respond to search and rescue incidents in the county.


County Palatine of Durham

The territory that became known as County Durham was originally a liberty under the control of the Bishops of Durham. The liberty was known variously as the "Liberty of Durham", "Liberty of St Cuthbert's Land" "The lands of St. Cuthbert between Tyne and Tees" or "The Liberty of Haliwerfolc".[15]

The bishops' special jurisdiction was based on claims that King Ecgfrith of Northumbria had granted a substantial territory to St Cuthbert on his election to the see of Lindisfarne in 684. In about 883, a cathedral housing the saint's remains was established at Chester-le-Street and Guthfrith, King of York granted the community of St Cuthbert the area between the Tyne and the Wear. In 995 the see was moved again to Durham.

Following the Norman invasion, the administrative machinery of government was only slowly extended to northern England. In the twelfth century a shire or county of Northumberland was formed, and Durham was considered to be within its bounds.[16] However the authority of the sheriff of Northumberland and his officials was disputed by the bishops. The crown still regarded Durham as falling within Northumberland until the late thirteenth century. Matters came to a head in 1293 when the bishop and his steward failed to attend proceedings of quo warranto held by the justices of Northumberland. The bishops' case was heard in parliament, where he stated that Durham lay outside the bounds of any English shire and that "from time immemorial it had been widely known that the sheriff of Northumberland was not sheriff of Durham nor entered within that liberty as sheriff. . . nor made there proclamations or attachments".[17] The arguments appear to have been accepted, as by the fourteenth century Durham was accepted as a liberty which received royal mandates direct. In effect it was a private shire, with the bishop appointing his own sheriff.[15] The area eventually became known as the "County Palatine of Durham".

Sadberge was a liberty, sometimes referred to as a county, within Northumberland. In 1189 it was purchased for the see but continued with a separate sheriff, coroner and court of pleas. In the 14th century Sadberge was included in Stockton ward and was itself divided into two wards. The division into the four wards of, Chester-le-Street, Darlington, Easington and Stockton existed in the 13th century, each ward having its own coroner and a three-weekly court corresponding to the hundred court. The diocese was divided into the archdeaconries of Durham and Northumberland. The former is mentioned in 1072, and in 1291 included the deaneries of Chester-le-Street, Auckland, Lanchester and Darlington.

The term palatinus is applied to the bishop in 1293, and from the 13th century onwards the bishops frequently claimed the same rights in their lands as the king enjoyed in his kingdom.

Early administration

Durham palatinate plaque.

At its historic extent, Durham included a main body covering the Catchment of the Pennines in the west, the River Tees in the south, the North Sea in the east and the Rivers Tyne and Derwent in the north.[18] The county had a number of exclaves: Bedlingtonshire, Islandshire[19] and Norhamshire[20] within Northumberland, and Craikshire within the North Riding of Yorkshire. In 1831 the county covered an area of 679,530 acres (2,750.0 km2)[21] and had a population of 253,910.[22] The historic boundaries were used for parliamentary purposes until 1832, and for judicial and local government purposes until the coming into force of the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844, which merged most remaining exclaves with their surrounding county.

Until the 15th century the most important administrative officer in the palatinate was the steward. Other officers were the sheriff, the coroners, the Chamberlain and the chancellor. The palatine exchequer was organized in the 12th century. The palatine assembly represented the whole county, and dealt chiefly with fiscal questions. The bishops council, consisting of the clergy, the sheriff and the barons, regulated the judicial affairs, and later produced the Chancery and the courts of Admiralty and Marshalsea.

Durham city was captured by a Norman army in 1069. There was a rebellion against the new Norman earl Robert de Comines, who was killed. However, County Durham largely missed the Harrying of the North that was designed to subjugate such rebellions.[23] The best remains of the Norman period are to be found in Durham Cathedral and in the castle, also in some few parish churches, as at Pittington and Norton in Stockton. Of the Early English period are the eastern portion of the cathedral, the churches of Darlington, Hartlepool, and St Andrew, Auckland, Sedgefield, and portions of a few other churches.

The prior of Durham ranked first among the bishop's barons. He had his own court, and almost exclusive jurisdiction over his men. There were ten palatinate barons in the 12th century, the most important being the Hyltons of Hylton Castle, the Bulmers of Brancepeth, the Conyers of Sockburne, the Hansards of Evenwood, and the Lumleys of Lumley Castle. The Nevilles owned large estates in the county. Raby Castle, their principal seat, was rebuilt by John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby in 1377.

Edward I's quo warranto proceedings of 1293 showed twelve lords enjoying more or less extensive franchises under the bishop. The repeated efforts of the Crown to check the powers of the palatinate bishops culminated in 1536 in the Act of Resumption, which deprived the bishop of the power to pardon offences against the law or to appoint judicial officers. Moreover, indictments and legal processes were in future to run in the name of the king, and offences to be described as against the peace of the king, rather than that of the bishop. In 1596 restrictions were imposed on the powers of the chancery, and in 1646 the palatinate was formally abolished. It was revived, however, after the Restoration, and continued with much the same power until July 5, 1836, when the Durham (County Palatine) Act 1836 provided that the palatine jurisdiction should in future be vested in the crown.[24]

During the Wars of the Roses, Henry VI passed through Durham. On the outbreak of the Great Rebellion Durham inclined to support the cause of the Parliament, and in 1640 the high sheriff of the palatinate guaranteed to supply the Scottish army with provisions during their stay in the county. In 1642 the Earl of Newcastle formed the western counties into an association for the kings service, but in 1644 the palatinate was again overrun by the Scottish army, and after the Battle of Marston Moor fell entirely into the hands of the parliament.

In 1614 a bill was introduced in parliament for securing representation to the county and city of Durham and the borough of Barnard Castle. The movement was strongly opposed by the bishop, as an infringement of his palatinate rights, and the county was first summoned to return members to parliament in 1654. After the Restoration the county and city returned two members each. By the Reform Act of 1832 the county returned two members for two divisions, and the boroughs of Gateshead, South Shields and Sunderland acquired representation. The boroughs of Darlington, Stockton and Hartlepool returned one member each from 1868 until the Redistribution Act of 1885.

Modern local government

High Force waterfall on the River Tees

The municipal boroughs of Durham, Stockton on Tees and Sunderland were reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In 1875 Jarrow was incorporated as a municipal borough,[25] as was West Hartlepool in 1887.[26] At a county level, the Local Government Act 1888 reorganised local government throughout England and Wales.[27] Most of the county came under control of the newly formed Durham County Council in an area known as an administrative county. Not included were the county boroughs of Gateshead, South Shields and Sunderland. However, for purposes other than local government the administrative county of Durham and the county boroughs continued to form a "county of Durham" to which a Lord Lieutenant of Durham was appointed.

Over its existence, the administrative county lost territory, both to the existing county boroughs, and also due to the municipal borough of West Hartlepool becoming a county borough in 1902[26] and Darlington in 1915.[28] In 1967 the former area of the borough of Hartlepool was removed from the administrative county when it merged with West Hartlepool to form a new county borough of Hartlepool. The county boundary with the North Riding of Yorkshire was adjusted: that part of the town of Barnard Castle historically in Yorkshire was added to County Durham,[29] while the portion of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees in Durham was ceded to the North Riding.[30] In 1968, following the recommendation of the Local Government Commission, Billingham was transferred to the county borough of Teesside, in the North Riding.[31] In 1971 the population of the county including all associated county boroughs (an area of 634,000 acres)[22] was 1,409,633 and the population outside the county boroughs was 814,396.[32]

In 1974 the administrative county and the county boroughs were abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 and County Durham was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan county.[27][33] The reconstituted County Durham lost territory[34] to the north east (around Gateshead, South Shields and Sunderland) to Tyne and Wear[35][36] and to the south east (around Hartlepool) to Cleveland.[35][36] At the same time it gained the former area of Startforth Rural District from the North Riding of Yorkshire.[37] The area of the Lord Lieutenant of Durham was also adjusted by the Act to coincide with the non-metropolitan county[38] (which occupied 745,995 acres (3,018.93 km2) in 1981).[22]

In 1996, as part of the 1990s UK local government reform, Cleveland was abolished[39] and its districts were reconstituted as unitary authorities.[40] Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees (north of the River Tees) were returned to Durham for the purposes of Lord Lieutenant. In 1997, Darlington became a unitary authority and was separated from the shire county. The change in area for Lord Lieutenant to include all these places was reconfirmed by the Lieutenancies Act 1997.[6] Cleveland was adopted as a postal county in 1974 and by the time of its abolition, Royal Mail had abandoned the use of counties altogether;[41] the County Durham former postal county therefore has not been adjusted to the new ceremonial boundary.

As part of the 2009 structural changes to local government in England initiated by the Department for Communities and Local Government,[42] the seven district councils within the County Council area were abolished. The County Council assumed their functions and became a unitary authority. The changes came into effect on 1 April 2009.[7]

Modern national government

See List of Parliamentary constituencies in County Durham


County Durham
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: [43]

The following climate figures were gathered at the Durham weather station between 1971 and 2000.

Climate data for Durham 102m asl, 1971-2000, extremes 1850-
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.7
Average high °C (°F) 6.2
Average low °C (°F) 0.6
Record low °C (°F) −17.2
Rainfall mm (inches) 56.2
Sunshine hours 55.2 70.9 106.6 134.4 174.8 160.8 168.0 167.4 126.3 97.0 66.6 46.5 1,374.6
Source no. 1: Met Office
Source no. 2: NEForum



Historic population of the current area of County Durham between 1801 and 2001

At the 2001 Census, Easington and Derwentside districts have the highest proportion (around 99%) of resident population who were born in the UK.[44] 13.2% of County Durham residents rate their health as not good, the highest proportion in England.[45] This table shows the historic population of the current area of County Durham between 1801 and 2001.

Year Population Year Population Year Population
Source: A Vision of Britain through Time.[46]


The proportion of the population working in agriculture fell from around 6% in 1851 to 1% in 1951; currently less than 1% of the population work in agriculture.[22] There were 15,202 people employed in coal mining in 1841, rising to a peak of 157,837 in 1921.[22] As at 2001, Chester-le-Street district has the lowest number of available jobs per working-age resident (0.38%).[47]


Economic history

Graph showing unadjusted gross value added (GVA) in County Durham across 3 industries at current basic prices from 1995 to 2004.
  Agriculture, hunting and forestry
  Industry, including energy and construction
  Service activities

The economic history of the county centres round the growth of the mining industry, which at its heights employed almost the whole of the non-agricultural population, with large numbers of pit villages being founded throughout the county. Stephen possessed a mine in Durham which he granted to Bishop Pudsey, and in the same century colliers are mentioned at Coundon, Bishopwearmouth and Sedgefield. Cockfield Fell was one of the earliest Landsale collieries in Durham. Richard II granted to the inhabitants of Durham licence to export the produce of the mines, the majority being transported from the Port of Sunderland complex which was constructed in the 1850s. The port was the largest in Durham and the fourth biggest in Britain.[citation needed] Among other early industries lead-mining was carried on in the western part of the county, and mustard was extensively cultivated. Gateshead had a considerable tanning trade and shipbuilding was undertaken at Sunderland, which became the largest shipbuilding town in the world - constructing a third of Britain's tonnage.[citation needed]

Economic output

The chart and table summarise unadjusted gross value added (GVA) in millions of pounds sterling for County Durham across 3 industries at current basic prices from 1995 to 2004.

Gross Value Added (GVA) (£m)
1995 2000 2004
Agriculture, hunting and forestry 45 33 48
Industry, including energy and construction 1751 1827 1784
Service activities 2282 2869 3455
Total 4078 4729 5288
UK 640416 840979 1044165


The culture of coal mining found expression in the Durham Miners' Gala, which was first held in 1871,[49] developed around the culture of trade unionism. Coal mining continued to decline and pits closed. The UK miners' strike of 1984/5 caused many miners across the county to strike. Today no deep-coal mines exist in the county and numbers attending the Miners' Gala have decreased significantly over the period, although recent years have seen numbers increase, and more banners return to the Gala as former collieries restore former banners.[49][50]



Durham LEA has a comprehensive school system with 36 state secondary schools (not including sixth form colleges) and five independent schools (four in Durham and one in Barnard Castle). Easington district has the largest school population by year, and Teesdale the smallest with two schools. Only one school in Easington and Derwentside districts have sixth forms, with about half the schools in the other districts having sixth forms.

The University of Durham is based in Durham city.

Places of interest


  1. ^ "Table 8a Mid-2010 Population Estimates: Selected age groups for local authorities in the United Kingdom; estimated resident population.". Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2010. Office for National Statistics. 3 June 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Boundary Commission for England (2007). Mapping for the Non-metropolitan Counties and Unitary Authorities; fifth periodical report. Boundary Commission for England. ISBN 0101703228. 
  3. ^ a b John Marius Wilson, Durham, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, (1870-72). Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  4. ^ a b Durham County Council - History and Heritage of County Durham. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  5. ^ North East Assembly - About North East England. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  6. ^ a b OPSI - Lieutenancies Act 1997. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  7. ^ a b County Durham (Structural Change) Order 2008
  8. ^ "The County Durham (Structural Change) Order 2008". Office of Public Sector Information. 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  9. ^ Durham County Council - Districts of Durham map. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  10. ^ a b "The Durham (Borough of Darlington) (Structural Change) Order 1995". Office of Public Sector Information. 1995. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  11. ^ a b "The Cleveland (Structural Change) Order 1995". Office of Public Sector Information. 1995. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  12. ^ a b "Lieutenancies Act 1997". Office of Public Sector Information. 1997. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  13. ^ Durham Constabulary - Force Geography. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  14. ^ "Combined Fire Authority". Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  15. ^ a b Jean Scammell, The Origin and Limitations of the Liberty of Durham in The English Historical Review, Vol. 81, No. 320. (Jul., 1966), pp. 449-473.
  16. ^ W. L. Warren, The Myth of Norman Administrative Efficiency: The Prothero Lecture in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser., Vol. 34. (1984), pp. 113-132
  17. ^ C. M. Fraser, Edward I of England and the Regalian Franchise of Durham in Speculum, Vol. 31, No. 2. (Apr., 1956), pp. 329-342
  18. ^ Vision of Britain - Durham historic boundaries. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  19. ^ Vision of Britain - Islandshire (historic map). Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  20. ^ Vision of Britain - Norhamshire (historic map). Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  21. ^ Vision of Britain - Durham (Ancient): area. Retrieved 30 November 2007
  22. ^ a b c d e National Statistics - 200 years of the Census in... Durham. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  23. ^ Douglas, D.C. William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact Upon England
  24. ^ The Durham (County Palatine) Act 1836 (6 & 7 Will 4 c 19)
  25. ^ Vision of Britain - Jarrow MB. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  26. ^ a b Vision of Britain - West Hartlepool MB/CB. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  27. ^ a b Bryne, T. (1994). Local Government in Britain. Penguin. ISBN 0140267395. 
  28. ^ Vision of Britain - Darlington MB/CB. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  29. ^ Vision of Britain - Yorkshire, North Riding. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  30. ^ Vision of Britain - Stockton on Tees. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  31. ^ Vision of Britain - Billingham UD. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  32. ^ UK Census, 1971
  33. ^ Office for National Statistics (1999). Gazetteer of the old and new geographies of the United Kingdom. Office for National Statistics. ISBN 1-85774-298-2. 
  34. ^ Her Majesty's Stationary Office (1996). Aspects of Britain: Local Government. Stationery Office Books. ISBN 0117020370. 
  35. ^ a b Arnold-Baker, C., Local Government Act 1972, (1973)
  36. ^ a b Young, F. (1991). Guide to Local Administrative Units of England: Northern England. Royal Historical Society. ISBN 0861931270. 
  37. ^ Durham County Council - About Us: Council Logo. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  38. ^ Elcock, H., Local Government, (1994)
  39. ^ OPSI - Cleveland (Structural Change) Order 1995. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  40. ^ OPSI - Cleveland (Further Provision) Order 1995. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  41. ^ Royal Mail, Address Management Guide, (2004)
  42. ^ Durham County Council - Local Government Review in County Durham. Retrieved 30 November 2007.
  43. ^ Durham 1971-2000 averages, Met Office. Retrieved on 20 August 2007.
  44. ^ National Statistics - Census 2001 - Ethnicity and religion in England and Wales. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  45. ^ National Statistics - Health Of The Nation. Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  46. ^ A Vision of Britain through time. "Durham: Total Population". Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  47. ^ Hastings, D., Local area labour market statistical indicators incorporating the Annual Population Survey, National Statistics - Labour Market Trends, (2006). Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  48. ^ NUTS3 GVA (1995-2004) Data, Office for National Statistics. Retrieved on 31 August 2007.
  49. ^ a b Miner's Advice - Moving on seamlessly....Retrieved 2 December 2007.
  50. ^ Heritage Lottery Fund - Durham Miners' Gala.Retrieved 2 December 2007.

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