Memorials of old DurhamIN the older maps of England, that portion of the country which we call the county of Durham is generally described as "Episcopatus Dunelmensis," or the Bishopric...


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Memorials of old Durham

IN the older maps of England, that portion of the country which we call the county of Durham is generally described as "Episcopatus Dunelmensis," or the Bishopric of Durham, or simply the Bishopric. A further glance at the adjacent districts of Northumberland and Yorkshire shows that there are portions larger or smaller of those counties which are marked as integral parts of Durham. These members of the Bishopric are Norhamshire, Islandshire, and Bedlingtonshire in Northumberland, with the Manors of Northallerton, Howden, and Crayke, and certain lands adjacent to them in Yorkshire. These portions of the Bishopric were only cut off from it and merged in their own surrounding counties within the memory of persons still living. Indeed, the distinction between Bishopric folk and County folkthat is to say, people of Durham and people of Northumberlandis not yet quite forgotten, and looks back to a very interesting piece of English history that has to do with a state of things in the North of England which has now passed away. Visitors who come to the city of Durham to-day and look on cathedral and castle have some vague idea of a time when the Bishop of Durham had "the power of life and death," as it is popularly called; but what this means, and what the peculiar constitution of the neighbourhood was, they do not, as a rule, understand. It may be worth while to try and get a clearer view of the Bishopric of{2} Durham, and more especially of the main portion between Tyne and Tees, which forms the modern county. We to-day are so much accustomed to a strong central Government controlling the whole of England, that we find it hard to think of a time when certain districts had a large independence, and were ruled by a local Earl or by Bishop, rather than by the King in the capital. Yet there were such times both in England and upon the Continent. The district so ruled is known as a franchise or liberty, and the history of its independence, won, maintained, or lost, generally forms an attractive subject of study, with many exciting episodes in it. The assertion is certainly true of Durham; and although it is not possible to go into detail within the space of an introductory article like this, it may be possible to explain what the Bishopric was, and how it came to get its distinctive characteristics and its later modification. The franchise of the Bishop of Durham may be most aptly understood if we try to regard all the members of it mentioned above as a little kingdom, of which Durham City was the capital. The Bishop of Durham was virtually the King of this little realm, and ruled it, not only as its spiritual head, but as its temporal head. As its spiritual head, he was in the position of any ordinary Bishop, and possessed exactly the same powers as other prelates. As its temporal head, he had a power which they generally did not possess. Dr. Freeman has explained his position in the following words: "The prelate of Durham became one and the more important of the only two English prelates whose worldly franchises invested them with some faint shadow of the sovereign powers enjoyed by the princely Churchmen of the Empire. The Bishop of Ely in his island, the Bishop of Durham in his hill-fortress, possessed powers which no other English ecclesiastic was allowed to share.... The external aspect of the city of itself suggests its peculiar character. Durham alone among English cities, with its highest point crowned, not{3} only by the cathedral, but by the vast castle of the Prince-Bishop, recalls to mind those cities of the EmpireLausanne, or Chur, or Sittenwhere the priest, who bore alike the sword and the pastoral staff, looked down from his fortified height on a flock which he had to guard no less against worldly than against ghostly foes."[1] And this sovereignty was no nominal thing, for the Bishop came to have most of the institutions that we connect with the thought of a kingdom. He had his own courts of law, his own officers of state, his own assemblies, his own system of finance, his own coinage, and, to some extent, he had his own troops and his own ships. As we understand all this, we shall appreciate the significance of the lofty throne erected by Bishop Hatfield in Durham Cathedral. It was placed there in the flourishing days of the Bishops power, and is not merely the seat of a Bishop, but the throne of a King. So too, hard by, in the Bishops castle, as the chronicler tells us, there were two seats of royalty within the hall, one at either end. No doubt it was before the Bishop, sitting as Prince in one of these, that the great tenants of his franchisethe Barons of the Bishopric, as they were actually calleddid homage in respect of their lands. Perhaps, when he sat in the other from time to time as Bishop, his clergy and others recognized his spiritual authority, or submitted themselves to his "godly admonitions." ......Buy Now (To Read More)

Product details

Ebook Number: 69079
Author: Leighton, Henry R.
Release Date: Oct 1, 2022
Format: eBook
Language: English
Publisher: George Allen & Sons
Publication Date: 1910
Publisher Country: United Kingdom


Editor: Leighton, Henry R

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