Facts about County Durham
In AD 604, Ida’s grandson Æthelfrith forcibly merged Bernicia and Deira to create the Kingdom of Northumbria. In time, the realm was expanded, primarily through warfare and conquest; at its height, the kingdom stretched from the River Humber to the Forth. Eventually, factional fighting and the rejuvenated strength of neighbouring kingdoms, most notably Mercia, led to Northumbria’s decline.
Despite their success south of the River Tees, the Vikings never fully conquered the Bernician part of Northumbria, despite the many raids they had carried out on the kingdom. However, Viking control over the Danelaw, the central belt of Anglo-Saxon territory, resulted in Northumbria becoming isolated from the rest of Anglo-Saxon Britain. Scots invasions in the north pushed the kingdom’s northern boundary back to the River Tweed, and the kingdom found itself reduced to a dependent earldom, its boundaries very close to those of modern-day Northumberland and County Durham.
County Durham is a ceremonial county in North East England. The county town is Durham, a cathedral city. During the Middle Ages, the county was an ecclesiastical centre, due largely to the presence of St Cuthbert’s shrine in Durham Cathedral, and the extensive powers granted to the Bishop of Durham as ruler of the County Palatine of Durham. The historic county’s boundaries stretched between the rivers Tyne and Tees.
Historic borders were shared with 4 counties: Northumberland to the north, now along with the county of Tyne and Wear; North Riding of Yorkshire to the south, now North Yorkshire; Westmorland and Cumberland, latter two to the west and both now Cumbria. Within the Durham County Council area, the largest settlements are Durham, Peterlee and Newton Aycliffe.