Durham (Map) - Framed Picture - 12" x 16"
County Durham is a county in North East England.
During the Middle Ages the county was an ecclesiastical centre; this was mainly due to the shrine of St Cuthbert being in Durham Cathedral, and the extensive powers granted to the Bishop of Durham as ruler of the County Palatine of Durham.
Many counties are named after their principal town, and the expected form here would be Durhamshire, however this form has never been in common use.
The ceremonial county is officially named Durham, however the county has long been commonly known as County Durham and as such is the only English county name to be prefixed with "County". Its unusual naming is explained to some extent by the relationship with the Bishops of Durham, who for centuries governed Durham as a county palatine (the County Palatine of Durham), outside the usual structure of county administration in England.
The territory that became known as County Durham, originally a liberty under the control of the Bishops of Durham, had various names: the "Liberty of Durham", "Liberty of St Cuthbert's Land" "the lands of St. Cuthbert between Tyne and Tees" or "the Liberty of Haliwerfolc".
The bishops' special jurisdiction rested 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.
Following the Norman invasion, the administrative machinery of government extended only slowly into northern England. Northumberland's first recorded Sheriff was Gilebert from 1076 until 1080 and a 12th-century record records Durham regarded as within the shire.
However the bishops disputed the authority of the sheriff of Northumberland and his officials, despite the second sheriff for example being the reputed slayer of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scots. The crown 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 bishop's case went before 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".
The arguments appear to have prevailed, 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. The area eventually became known as the "County Palatine of Durham".
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.