A small town in County Durham UK where I grew up.

At first glance it is a quite unremarkable typical north eastern town (above average unemployment and grim appearance to list a couple of stereotypes).

Look further, however, and you will find a little historical gem. Hidden at the far end of the market place you will find a pretty a row of old cottages leading up to an ornate high wall with a gate.

Through the gate and you are in the Bishop's park and on your left is Auckland Castle the residence of the Bishop of Durham for over 800 years. The park itself is 800 acres of rolling landscape threaded by the river Gaunless. An interesting feature to be found is the deer house or deercote built in 1760.

Bishop Auckland is a town in County Durham, England which lies at the confluence of the rivers Wear and Gaunless about 11 miles to the south west of the city of Durham. It is located on Dere Street, the great Roman north road that led from York to Hadrian's Wall; Bishop Auckland being the site of a look out post, supporting the more important cavalry fort located at Binchester (Vinovia), a mile to the north of the town.

Originally known as Alclet or Aclet from the Celtic for "Cliff of the Clyde", the manor of Auckland is first recored as having been granted to the church by King Cnut in about 1020, and in 1083 a collegiate church was established there by monks sent from Durham Cathedral. About the year 1183 Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham built a manor house there, which was then converted into Auckland Castle by Bishop Anthony Bek in the fourteeth century. Four centuries later Bishop William Van Mildert, gave Durham Castle to the the new Durham University and Auckland Castle became the official residence of the Bishop of Durham. So by long association with the see of Durham, Auckland became Bishop Auckland.

The railways arrived in 1843 and the town grew rapidly due to the development of the Durham Coalfield. The town was once surrounded by small pits, but the last of these closed in the 1960's, and the town is now a relatively quiet market town.

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica adds that;

It is beautifully situated on an eminence near the confluence of the Wear and the Gaunless. The parish church is 1 mile distant, at Auckland St Andrews, a fine cruciform structure, formerly collegiate, in style mainly Early English, but with earlier portions. The palace of the bishops of Durham, which stands at the northeast end of the town, is a spacious and splendid, though irregular pile. The site of the palace was first chosen by Bishop Anthony Bek, in the time of Edward I. The present building covers about 5 acres, and is surrounded by a park of 800 acres.

Jeremiah Dixon of Mason-Dixon line fame was a Bishop Auckland man.


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