Coordinates: 54.77611111111111°46′34″N 1.5733333333333333°34′24″W / 54.7761°N °W / 54.7761; -1.5733

Durham Cathedral and the River Wear
[[Image:|240px|Durham is located in ]]
Durham ()

 Durham shown within
Population Expression error: "29,091" must be numeric (2001)
OS grid reference [http://rhaworth.com/os/coor_g.php?pagename=Durham&params=NZ274424_region:GB_scale:25000 NZ274424 ]
Unitary authority County Durham
Ceremonial county County Durham
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town DURHAM
Postcode district DH1
Dialling code 0191
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament City of Durham
List of places: UK • England •

Durham (, locally ) is a city in the North East of England. It is within the County Durham local government district, and is the county town of the larger ceremonial county. It lies to the south of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Chester-le-Street and Sunderland and to the north of Darlington.

Durham is well known for its Norman Cathedral and 11th-century castle, and is home to Durham University. HM Prison Durham is also located close to the city centre.


The name "Durham" comes from the Old English "dun", meaning hill, and the Old Norse "holme", which translates to island.[1] The Lord Bishop of Durham takes a Latin variation of the city's name in his apostolic[disambiguation needed] signature, which is signed "N. Dunelm."[1] Some attribute the city's name to the legend of the Dun Cow and the milkmaid who in legend guided the monks of Lindisfarne carrying the body of Saint Cuthbert to the site of the present city in 995 AD.[2] Dun Cow Lane is said to be one of the first streets in Durham, being directly to the east of Durham Cathedral and taking its name from a depiction of the city's founding etched in masonry on the south side of the cathedral.[2] The city has been known by a number of names throughout history. The original Nordic Dun Holm was changed to Duresme by the Normans and was known in Latin as Dunelm. The modern form Durham came into use later in the city's history. The north eastern historian, Robert Surtees chronicled the name changes in his History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham but states that it is an "impossibility" to tell when the city's modern name came into being.[1]

Early history

Archeological evidence suggests a history of settlement in the area since roughly 2000 BC.[1] The present city can clearly be traced back to AD 995, when a group of monks from Lindisfarne chose the strategic high peninsula as a place to settle with the body of Saint Cuthbert, that had previously lain in Chester-le-Street, founding a church there.[2]

Legend of the Dun Cow and city origins

Local legend states that the city was founded in A.D. 995 by divine intervention. The 12th-century chronicler, Symeon of Durham, recounts that after wandering in the north, Saint Cuthbert’s bier miraculously came to a halt at the hill of Warden Law and, despite the effort of the congregation, would not move.[3] Aldhun, Bishop of Chester-le-Street and leader of the order, decreed a holy fast of three days, accompanied by prayers to the saint.[4] Saint Bede recounts that during this fast, Saint Cuthbert appeared to the monk Eadmer with instructions that the coffin should be taken to Dun Holm.[4]

After Eadmer’s revelation, Aldhun found that he was able to move the bier, but did not know where Dun Holm was. By chance later that day, the monks came across a milkmaid at Mount Joy (southeast of present-day Durham). She stated that she was seeking her lost dun cow, which she had last seen at Dun Holm. The monks, realising that this was a sign from the saint, followed her.[4] They settled at a "wooded hill-island formed by a tight gorge-like meander of the River Wear."[4] After arriving at their destination, they erected the vestiges of Durham Cathedral, which was a "modest building."[4] Symeon states that this was the first building in the city [3] and, unfortunately, does not remain today having been supplanted by the Norman structure.