County Durham

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County Durham
County Durham UK locator map 2010.svg
Location of County Durham within England
Coordinates: 54°40′N1°50′W / 54.667°N 1.833°W / 54.667; -1.833
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region North East England
Time zone UTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
  Summer (DST) UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)
Members of Parliament List
Police Durham Constabulary
Cleveland Police
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant Susan Snowdon
High Sheriff David Andrew Gray [1] (2020–21)
Area2,721 km2 (1,051 sq mi)
  Ranked 18th of 48
Population (2021)866,846
  Ranked 26th of 48
Density324/km2 (840/sq mi)
Record high °C (°F)16.7
Average high °C (°F)6.9
Daily mean °C (°F)4.1
Average low °C (°F)1.3
Record low °C (°F)−17.2
Average precipitation mm (inches)51.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Mean monthly sunshine hours 60.984.4121.7160.8187.1167.1174.3167.3135.398.964.657.61,480
Source 1: Met Office [28] [29] [30]
Source 2: Durham Weather UK [31]

Green belt

County Durham contains a small area of green belt in the north of the county, surrounding primarily the city of Durham, Chester-le-Street and other communities along the shared county border with Tyne and Wear, to afford protection from the Wearside conurbation. A smaller green belt separates Urpeth, Ouston, Pelton, and Perkinsville from Birtley in Tyne and Wear. A further small segment by the coast separates Seaham from the Sunderland settlements of Beckwith Green and Ryhope. It was first drawn up in the 1990s. [32]

North Pennines

The county contains a sizeable area of the North Pennines, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, primarily west of Tow Law and Barnard Castle. The highest point (county top) of historic County Durham is the trig point (not the summit) of Burnhope Seat, height 746 metres (2,448 ft), between Weardale and Teesdale on the border with historic Cumberland in the far west of the county. The local government reorganisation of 1974 placed the higher Mickle Fell south of Teesdale (the county top of Yorkshire) within the administrative borders of Durham (where it remains within the ceremonial county). However, it is not generally recognised as the highest point in Durham.

The two main dales of County Durham (Teesdale and Weardale) and the surrounding fells, many of which exceed 2,000 feet (610 m) in height, are excellent hillwalking country, although not nearly as popular as the nearby Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks. The scenery is rugged and remote, and the high fells have a landscape typical of the Pennines with extensive areas of tussock grass and blanket peat bog in the west, with heather moorland on the lower slopes descending to the east. Hamsterley Forest near Crook is a popular recreational area for local residents.


A total of 152 species are recorded as breeding; however, not all are considered regular breeders. [33]

Urban areas

County Durham does not have many urban areas as it is mostly rural in character. Small urban areas form around the city of Durham and the towns of Newton Aycliffe, Peterlee, Shildon, Darlington and Bishop Auckland. Although the south east side of the county at Billingham, Hartlepool, Norton and Stockton-on-Tees form part of Teesside with Middlesbrough, Redcar, Yarm, Thornaby-on-Tees and Ingleby Barwick in North Yorkshire. [34] [35] While the north part of the county at Chester-le-Street (which is on the border with Tyne and Wear) forms part of Wearside with Sunderland, Houghton-le-Spring, Hetton-le-Hole and Washington [36] (these four were historically part of County Durham).


County Durham, as considered a county for lieutenancy purposes by the Lieutenancies Act 1997, is administered as a part of the constituent country of England in the United Kingdom. [2] The area is appointed a lord lieutenant and a high sheriff.

The ceremonial county is divided into four administrative counties (see table below), one of which - Stockon-on-Tees - also extends into North Yorkshire. Technically, for administrative purposes, the County of Durham only consists of the area governed by Durham County Council. [37] The three other areas are counties in their own right. [38] [39]

Area nameCouncilCouncil headquartersEstablished
Durham Durham County Council County Hall, Durham1 April 2009 [37]
Borough of Darlington Darlington Borough Council c. 1995 [38]
Stockton-on-Tees Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council c. 1995 [39]
Hartlepool Hartlepool Borough Council c. 1995 [39]

The county is partially parished. The city of Durham is the most populous settlement in the county to have a parish. Multiple parishes are styled as having town councils: Billingham (in Stockton Borough), Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, Chilton, Ferryhill, Great Aycliffe, Newton Aycliffe, Greater Willington, Peterlee, Seaham, Sedgefield, Shildon, Spennymoor, Stanley and Tow Law. [40]

1836 to 1889

The county was aligned to other historic counties of England from 1836 until 1889; multiple acts were passed removing exclaves, splitting the county from the bishopric and reforming its structure.

1889 to 1974

The ceremonial county and administrative county were created under the Local Government Act 1888 in 1889. Darlington, Gateshead, West Hartlepool (later known as Hartlepool), South Shields and Sunderland became county boroughs during the administrative counties years of administrating; each remained in the ceremonial county while outside of the administrative county.

The ceremonial county remained under the same borders as the historic county until 1968 when the County Borough of Teesside formed. Ceremonial duties of the borough (which were made up of areas from two counties) were in the North Riding of Yorkshire ceremonial county. [41]

1974 to 1996

Banner of Durham County Council since 1974, based on the council's coat of arms. This was used as County Durham's unofficial flag until an official flag was adopted in 2013. Flag of Durham County Council.svg
Banner of Durham County Council since 1974, based on the council's coat of arms. This was used as County Durham's unofficial flag until an official flag was adopted in 2013.
Ceremonial county from 1974-1996 England Police Forces (Durham).svg
Ceremonial county from 1974–1996

From the 1974 until 1996, the ceremonial county was split into eight districts: [42] [43]

A non-metropolitan county replaced the administrative county. The boundaries only deviated from the ceremonial boundaries after 1995 when the Darlington Borough became a unitary authority. [43]

1996 to present

On the 1 April 1996, the county of Cleveland was abolished with its boroughs of Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees (north of the River Tees) becoming a part of the ceremonial county. [4] [44]

The non-metropolitan county was reconstituted on 1 April 2009: the strategic services-providing Durham County Council was re-organised into a single district of the same name, merging with the seven local facility-providing districts in the non-metropolitan county and became structured as a unitary authority. It has 126 councillors. [45] The three pre-existing unitary authorities were unaffected.


The county boundaries used for parliamentary constituencies are those used between 1974 and 1996, consisting of the County Durham district and the Darlington Borough. This area elects seven Members of Parliament. As of the 2019 General Election, four of these MPs are Conservatives and three MPs are Labour. The rest of the ceremonial county is included in the Cleveland parliamentary constituency area.

2019 General Election Results in County Durham
PartyVotes%Change from 2017SeatsChange from 2017
Conservative 123,11240.6%Increase2.svg4Increase2.svg4
Labour 122,54740.4%Decrease2.svg3Decrease2.svg4
Brexit 25,4448.4%new00
Liberal Democrats 21,3567.0%Increase2.svg00
Greens 5,9852.0%Increase2.svg00

Emergency services

The police and fire services operate according to the 1974-96 ceremonial county boundaries:

The North East Ambulance Service NHS Trust cover North East England and are responsible for providing ambulance services for the NHS. Northumbria Ambulance Service and County Durham Ambulance Service (following historic county borders) merged on 1 April 1999 to become the North East service. [48] In 2005 the area was adapted to the modern North East England regional extent.

Air ambulance services are provided by the Great North Air Ambulance. The charity operates three bases, including one in Eaglecliffe.

Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team, are based at Sniperly Farm in Durham City and respond to search and rescue incidents in the county.



#Local authority2011 census
Ceremonial county853,213
1 District of County Durham 513,242 [49]
2 Borough of Stockton-on-Tees (north Tees)136,079 [50]
3 Borough of Darlington 105,564 [51]
4 Borough of Hartlepool 92,028 [52]

The Office for National Statistics estimated in 2016 that the Durham County Council area had a population of 522,100, the Borough of Darlington a population of 105,600, the Borough of Hartlepool a population of 92,800, and the part of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham (the other part being in North Yorkshire) a population of 137,300. [note 1] This gives the total estimated population of the ceremonial county at 857,800. [53] [54]

Former non-metropolitan county

Population over time of the current remit of Durham County Council between 1801 and 2001 County Durham Population.png
Population over time of the current remit of Durham County Council between 1801 and 2001
Source: A Vision of Britain through Time. [55]

At the 2001 Census, Easington and Derwentside districts had the highest proportion (around 99%) in the county council area of resident population who were born in the UK. [56] 13.2% of the county council area's residents rate their health as not good, the highest proportion in England. [57]

96.6% of County Durham's residents are White British, with other white groups making up a further 1.6% of the population. Around 77% of the county's population are Christian whilst 22% have no religion, and around 1% come from other religious communities. These figures exclude around 6% of the population who did not wish to state their religion.

As at 2001, Chester-le-Street district has the lowest number of available jobs per working-age resident (0.38%). [58]


Changes in the 1900s

Since the Local Government Act 1972 historic county boundaries now lie within other administrative counties. These include:

Tyne and Wear South Tyneside, City of Sunderland and metropolitan borough of Gateshead administratively removed in 1974
North Riding of YorkshireSmall number of settlements south of the Tees, such as Startforth,administratively added to county control in 1974.
Cleveland county Hartlepool borough administratively removed from historic county control in 1974, added to ceremonial county control in 1996.
Cleveland county Stockton-on-Tees (North Tees) borough Two previous separate administrative partial removals from historic county control in 1968 and 1974, added to ceremonial county control in 1996.

Changes in the 1800s

Throughout the 1800s exclaves, of the historic county, each were given back to surrounding shires and lands they were closer associated with:

East Riding of Yorkshire Howdenshire
North Riding of Yorkshire (now North Yorkshire) Allertonshire
Northumberland Bedlingtonshire, Islandshire (included Berwick-upon-Tweed)


The proportion of the population working in agriculture fell from around 6% in 1851 to 1% in 1951; currently less than 1% of the population work in agriculture. [18] There were 15,202 people employed in coal mining in 1841, rising to a peak of 157,837 in 1921. [18]


Boosting tourism

An October 2019 article in The Guardian referred to town of Bishop Auckland as a "rundown town ... since the closure of the mines" but predicted that the re-opening of Auckland Castle would transform the community into a "leading tourist destination". [59] The castle re-opened on 2 November 2019 after renovations by the Auckland Project, operated by the Auckland Castle Trust, started by the owner of the castle, Jonathan Ruffer. [60] [61] [62]

The interior had been fully restored, including the bishops' "palatial" apartments. The Faith Museum of world religion and a huge glass greenhouse were under construction. [63]

Other attractions already operating include the Mining Art Gallery which opened in 2017, [64] an open-air theatre, Kynren, depicting "An Epic Tale of England", and the Bishop Trevor Gallery at the Castle; the latter started displaying the National Gallery's Masterpiece touring exhibit in October 2019. In a few years, other attractions were expected to open at or near the Castle: a display of Spanish art, the Faith Museum (already being built), a site that will feature the works of Francisco de Zurbarán, a boutique hotel and two restaurants, in addition to the Bishop's Kitchen café. According to The Guardian, [65]

The aim is to make the town – the heart of the abandoned Durham coalfields – a tourist destination that holds people for a day or two rather than just a couple of hours. The scheme will create hundreds of entry-level jobs in a county that suffers high unemployment and has some of the most deprived areas in northern Europe.

Economic output

The chart and table summarise unadjusted gross value added (GVA) in millions of pounds sterling for County Durham across 3 industries at current basic prices from 1995 to 2004.

Gross Value Added (GVA) (£m)
Agriculture, hunting and forestry453348
Industry, including energy and construction1,7511,8271,784
Service activities2,2822,8693,455


Phileas Fogg snacks are made by the United Biscuits subsidiary KP Snacks in Consett on the Number One Industrial Estate. Nearby CAV Aerospace make ice protection systems for aircraft. Thomas Swan, an international chemicals company, is in Crookhall. The Explorer Group, who own Elddis, make caravans at Delves. The LG Philips Displays cathode ray tube factory at Carrville, Durham was the second largest employer in the north east after Nissan, before the company went bankrupt in 2006. Northumbrian Water is in Pity Me, Framwellgate Moor. Esh Group is a large construction company based south of Durham in Bowburn. Schmitz Cargobull UK is the UK's biggest trailer manufacturer, notably for refrigerated trailers, and is based at Harelaw near the Pontop Pike mast.

Flymos are made in Newton Aycliffe Flymo-e25.jpg
Flymos are made in Newton Aycliffe

Black & Decker and Electrolux had large factories at Spennymoor, but moved production overseas. Thorn Lighting of the Zumtobel Lighting Group are on the Green Lane Industrial Estate at Spennymoor. Since 2007 RF Micro Devices (RFMD) have made electronic wafers on the Heighington Lane Business Park at Newton Aycliffe, on the site formerly owned by Fujitsu. Slightly to the north, TKA Tallent make automotive axles and chassis components. Husqvarna-Flymo, formerly owned by Electrolux, are on the Aycliffe Industrial Estate, where the world's first hover mower was built in 1965. In West Auckland, Potters Europe make road reflectors. GlaxoSmithKline has a site at Barnard Castle that makes pharmaceuticals.

NSK make ball bearings on the North West Industrial Estate at Peterlee, and GWA International subsidiary Gliderol UK build garage doors. Mecaplast Group UK produce automotive components on the Low Hills Industrial Estate in Easington Village near Peterlee. Reckitt Benckiser make cough syrup and indigestion remedies at Shotton, near Peterlee until 2014. Walkers Crisps have a site north of Peterlee.


Mining and heavy industry

John Wilson Carmichael A View of Murton Colliery near Seaham, County Durham, 1843 John Wilson Carmichael - A View of Murton Colliery near Seaham, County Durham - Google Art Project.jpg
John Wilson Carmichael A View of Murton Colliery near Seaham, County Durham, 1843

A substantial number of colliery villages were built throughout the county in the nineteenth century to house the growing workforce, which included large numbers of migrant workers from the rest of the UK. [66] Sometimes the migrants were brought in to augment the local workforce but, in other cases, they were brought in as strike breakers, or "blacklegs". Tens of thousands of people migrated to County Durham from Cornwall (partly due to their previous experience of tin mining) between 1815 and the outbreak of the First World War, so much so that the miners' cottages in east Durham called "Greenhill" were also known locally as "Cornwall", and Easington Colliery still has a Cornish Street. [67] Other migrants included people from Northumberland, Cumberland, South Wales, Scotland and Ireland. [68] [69] Coal mining had a profound effect on trade unionism, public health and housing, as well as creating a related culture, language, folklore and sense of identity that still survives today. [70]

The migrants also were employed in the railway, ship building, iron, steel and roadworking industries, and the pattern of migration continued, to a lesser extent, up until the 1950s and 1960s. Gateshead was once home to the fourth-largest Irish settlement in England, [68] Consett's population was 22% Irish [71] and significant numbers of Irish people moved to Sunderland, resulting in the city hosting numerous events on St. Patrick's Day due to the Irish heritage. [72]

Durham Miners' Gala 2008 Durham Miners Gala 2008 Old Elvet Bridge.jpg
Durham Miners' Gala 2008

The culture of coal mining found expression in the Durham Miners' Gala, which was first held in 1871, [73] developed around the culture of trade unionism. Coal mining continued to decline and pits closed. The UK miners' strike of 1984/5 caused many miners across the county to strike. Today no deep-coal mines exist in the county and numbers attending the Miners' Gala decreased over the period between the end of the strike and the 21st century. However recent years have seen numbers significantly grow, and more banners return to the Gala each year as former colliery communities restore or replicate former banners to march at the Gala parade. [73] [74]


In 1930, the Spennymoor Settlement (otherwise known as the Pitman's Academy) opened. The settlement, initially funded by the Pilgrim Trust, aimed to encourage people to be neighbourly and participate in voluntary social service. [75] The settlement operated during the Great Depression, when unemployment was widespread and economic deprivation rife; Spennymoor was economically underprivileged. The settlement provided educational and social work, as well as hope; this included providing unemployed miners with on outlet for their creativity, a poor person's lawyer service, the town's first library and the Everyman Theatre. The output included paintings, sewing, socially-significant plays, woodwork and sculptures. Several members went on to win adult scholarships at Oxford University [75] when such a route would normally be closed to the underprivileged. Former members include artists Norman Cornish and Tom McGuinness, writer Sid Chaplin OBE and journalist Arnold Hadwin OBE. The Spennymoor Settlement at its home in the Everyman Theatre (Grade 2 listed) is still operating, administered by the current trustees, offering community events and activities, including Youth Theatre Group, an Art Group and various classes, as well as offering community accommodation facilities.

Several Durham miners have been able to turn their former mining careers into careers in art. For example, Tom Lamb, as well as the aforementioned Tom McGuinness and Norman Cornish. Their artworks depict scenes of life underground, from the streets in which they lived and of the people they loved; through them, we can see, understand and experience the mining culture of County Durham.

In 2017, The Mining Art Gallery opened in Bishop Auckland in a building that was once a bank. [76] Part of the Auckland Project, the gallery includes the work of artists from within County Durham and beyond, including such other North-Eastern mining artists as Robert Olley, as well as contributions from outside the region. It features three permanent areas and a temporary exhibition area; the gallery's Gemini Collection includes 420 pieces of mining art. [77] Much of the artwork was donated, by Dr Robert McManners and Gillian Wales, for example. [78]

In 2019, 100 years after his birth, a permanent tribute to the work of the artist Norman Stansfield Cornish MBE was opened within the Town Hall, and a Cornish Trail around the town was established to include areas of the town depicted in Cornish's artwork.


As with neighbouring Northumberland, County Durham has a rich heritage of Northumbrian music, dating back from the Northumbrian Golden Age of the 7th and 8th centuries. Bede made references to harp-playing, and abundant archeological evidence has been found of wooden flutes, bone flutes, panpipes, wooden drums and lyres (a six-string form of harp). [8] North-East England has a distinctive folk music style that has drawn from many other regions, including southern Scotland, Ireland and the rest of northern England, that has endured stably since the 18th century. [79] Instruments played include, in common with most folk music styles, stringed instruments such as the guitar and fiddle, but also the Northumbrian smallpipe, which is played and promoted by people including the Northumbrian Pipers' Society throughout the North East, including County Durham, with the society having an active group in Sedgefield. [80] Contemporary folk musicians include Jez Lowe and Ged Foley.

In 2018, The Arts Council funded the Stories of Sanctuary project in the city of Durham. The project aims to assist people living in the city to share their stories about seeking sanctuary in the North East through photography, stories, poetry and music. The art is based on a history of sanctuary in Durham, from St Cuthbert's exile, through to the miners' strike of 1984, and to refugees escaping civil war in the Middle East. The music produced as part of the project includes contributions from singer-songwriter Sam Slatcher and viola player Raghad Haddad from the National Syrian Orchestra. [81]

Other notable performers/songwriters who were born or raised in the county include Paddy McAloon, Eric Boswell, Jeremy Spencer, Alan Clark, Martin Brammer, Robert Blamire, Thomas Allen, Zoe Birkett, John O'Neill, Karen Harding and Courtney Hadwin.


County Durham flag County Durham Flag.svg
County Durham flag

County Durham has its own flag, registered with the Flag Institute on 21 November 2013. [82]

Katie, Holly and James Moffatt designed the flag and entered their design into a competition launched by campaigner Andy Strangeway, who spoke of the flag as "free, public symbol for all to use, especially on 20th March each year, which is not only County Durham Day but also St Cuthbert’s birthday.” [83] [sic - 20th March is actually the date of Cuthbert's death] [84]

The flag consists of St Cuthbert's cross counterchanged with the county's blue and gold colours.


Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington QESFC.jpg
Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington

Durham LEA has a comprehensive school system with 36 state secondary schools (not including sixth form colleges) and five independent schools (four in Durham and one in Barnard Castle). Easington district has the largest school population by year, and Teesdale the smallest with two schools. Only one school in Easington and Derwentside districts have sixth forms, with about half the schools in the other districts having sixth forms.

Durham University is based in Durham city and is sometimes held to be the third oldest university in England. [85] Teesside University has a campus in Darlington.

Places of interest

AP Icon.svg Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
UKAL icon.svg Accessible open space
Themepark uk icon.png Amusement/Theme Park
CL icon.svg Castle
Country parks.svg Country Park
EH icon.svg English Heritage
Forestry Commission
HR icon.svg Heritage railway
HH icon.svg Historic House
AP Icon.svg Places of Worship
Museum icon.svg
Museum icon (red).svg
Museum (free/not free)
NTE icon.svg National Trust
Drama-icon.svg Theatre
Zoo icon.jpg Zoo

See also


  1. The total estimated population of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees (195,700) less the populations of the electoral wards of Ingleby Barwick East, Ingleby Barwick West, Mandale and Victoria, Stainsby Hill, Village, and Yarm.

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Further reading