Bishop Pudsey

Bishop Pudsey 1154AD – 1198AD

Bishop Hugh Du Puiset, also known as Pudsey, was the most princely of all the Prince Bishops of Durham. Pudsey, a nephew of King Stephen and a former Treasurer of York and Archdeacon of Winchester, became Prince Bishop of Durham in 1154. Thirty five years later he acquired further powers as Earl of Northumberland, Chief Justiciar of England and Regent of the North. By 1189 his possessions included Newcastle, Bamburgh and Windsor Castle and he was the virtual ruler of Northern England during the king’s absence. His main contribution to North-East history is the Boldon Buke of 1183 which is the region’s very own Domesday Book.

The Seal of Bishop Pudsey
The Seal of Bishop Pudsey

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1154 – Bishop Pudsey consecrated in Rome

In the same year in which Henry II became king, Hugh Du Puiset known to history as Bishop Pudsey is consecrated Bishop of Durham in Rome following the death of William St Barbara. Pudsey, who is only 25, is a nephew of King Stephen and reputedly a great grandson of William the Conqueror. His silver and lead mining rights in Weardale are confirmed.

Norham village and castle
Norham village and castle Photo © David Simpson 2018.

1158 – Pudsey Castle on the Tweed

Richard of Wolviston has added stone keep to the Bishop of Durham’s castle at Norham on the River Tweed. Norham is part of Norhamshire an outlying part of the Palatine of Durham.

Bishop Pudsey’s Elvet Bridge © David Simpson 2018

1160 – Pudsey builds Elvet Bridge

Pudsey builds a bridge in Durham, linking the city with a new borough called Elvet.

1164 – Darlington Manor

Pudsey builds a manor house in Darlington. Gateshead receives a charter from the Bishop granting the burgesses the liberty of the forests which are quite extensive in this district.

1165 – Scottish claims to Tynedale

The Scots under their new king William the Lion, still assert their rights to the Liberty of Tynedale

Finchale Priory © David Simpson 2021

1170 – Saint Godric dies aged 105

St Godric of Finchale has died at the age of 105. Born in Norfolk, he spent the early part of his life as a pedlar and sea pirate before a pilgrimage to Compostella in Spain made him become a hermit. He established a hermitage at Carlisle and then moved to a cave near Wolsingham before settling at Finchale in 1115. Godric was a close adviser to Pudsey.

1171 – Flanders fleet at Hartlepool harbour

Bishop Pudsey’s nephew, Hugh, Earl of Barr, brings a fleet of ships from Flanders to Hartlepool to assist King William the Lion of Scotland in an invasion of England. Politically plotting Pudsey probably encouraged this.

Newcastle Castle Keep
Newcastle Castle Keep Photo © David Simpson 2015

1172 – New Castles

Maurice The Engineer is rebuilding Newcastle’s castle in stone for King Henry. A castle has also been built at Middleham in Wensleydale replacing a nearby castle built by Count Alan of Richmond in 1070.

1173 – Scots invade the North

William the Lion, King of Scotland invades the North-East to support a rebellion by King Henry III’s sons. Bishop Pudsey does not challenge William’s movement through Durham. Bowes Castle in Yorkshire is attacked.

July 1174 – Scottish king captured at Alnwick

William of Scotland is captured at Alnwick and surrenders Berwick to the English. He is imprisoned at Richmond Castle in Yorkshire before transportation to Normandy. The fleet of Hugh de Barr at Hartlepool returns to Flanders. King Henry confiscates and then destroys Pudsey’s castle at Northallerton to punish the Bishop’s complacency in the Scottish attack. Henry also destroys the castles of the rebellious Mowbrays at Thirsk and Kirkby Malzeard in North Yorkshire.

Bede's Tomb, Durham Cathedral
Bede’s Tomb, Durham Cathedral. Photo © David Simpson 2017

1174 – Lady chapel at Durham Cathedral

Bishop Pudsey builds the Galilee Chapel or Lady Chapel at the western end of Durham Cathedral for ladies, who according to Benedictine rules are not allowed into the main part of the cathedral. This intimate part of the cathedral is built in a Moorish style, a kind of architecture reflecting the Islamic influence of the Moors of Spain. Pudsey’s architect is called Christian who also seems to have been involved in the construction of the church at the nearby village of Pittington Hallgarth which has a very similar interior.

August 10, 1175 – Scots submit at York

The barons of Scotland swear allegiance to King Henry II at York.

1175 –  Newcastle Charter

Newcastle received its first known charter in this year in which King Henry II granted certain trading rights to the burgesses of the town. There was clearly already an established trade in the town and possibly an earlier charter of some kind. The new charter echoes the development of the trading towns or ‘burghs’ established on the Scottish side of the border by the late King David who brought in Flemish immigrants to encourage trade.

1175 – Bigg Market a Newcastle street

Newcastle has seen considerable urban development since the establishment of a castle there some 95 years ago. Westgate and Bigg Market are among Newcastle’s streets.  Bigg is the name for a barley. Newcastle is well situated to prosper as a port and military garrison and has risen from relative pre-Norman obscurity. Before the Norman Conquest it was home to a religious community called Monkchester and in earlier times the site of a Roman fort.

Church of St Mary, Gateshead and Tyne Bridge
Gateshead received a charter from Bishop Pudsey : Photo © David Simpson

1179 – Durham, Sunderland, Gateshead Charters

Durham’s City Charter from Bishop Pudsey is confirmed by the Pope and a market is established. The ‘Borough’ (an officially chartered trading town/port) of Wearmouth is established too at Sunderland. Wearmouth’s charter is issued by Pudsey and specifically gives the merchants similar rights to those at Newcastle. In addition Pudsey establishes a borough at Gateshead directly across the river from Newcastle.  As a ‘Prince Bishop’ Pudsey has a right to establish town charters within his County Palatine of Durham. Pudsey is also the Bishop for Northumberland (including Newcastle) but the political aspects of his powers do not extend there, so the charter at Newcastle was granted by the king.

Christmas Day, 1179 – Hell’s Kettles

Pits called Hell’s Kettles at Oxen-le-Fields near Darlington are said to have been formed by an earthquake. For centuries these formed quite a curiosity even appearing on old maps that featured little else.

Washington Old Hall
Washington Old Hall on the site of the earlier manor house of William De Wessington  : Photo © David Simpson

1180 – The Washingtons of Washington

William De Hartburn (of Hartburn near Stockton-on-Tees) has bought the manor of Washington from Bishop Pudsey. The Durham village of Washington lies to the north of the River Wear to the west of Sunderland and was then called Wessington. So, William changed his name from William De Hartburn to William De Wessington. William is the first member of the Washington family who are the predecessors of the first American president George Washington. The name Washington will ultimately be adopted as the name of the American capital, Washington DC as well as one of the US states. The name Washington ultimately derives from an Anglo-Saxon settlement to the north of the River Wear with a name that means the estate of Hwassa’s people. Hwassa being an Anglo-Saxon personal name.

1183 – Boldon Buke : Durham Domesday

Hugh Pudsey carries out the Boldon Buke (Book) survey of his territory in Durham and some parts of what is now Northumberland. It is Durham’s equivalent of the Domesday Book of nearly a hundred years earlier. Domesday Book did not include Northumberland and Durham but the Boldon Book is slightly different its approach with a focus on the money and services of labour that the bishop’s tenants of each locality were expected to provide for their Lord. The book is named from the village of Boldon because it is one the earliest entries in the book and frequently referred to as a kind of shorthand where services in other localities are similar to those of Boldon.

Church of St Hilda, Old Hartlepool
Church of St Hilda, Old Hartlepool. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1185 – Robert Bruce builds Hartlepool church

Robert De Brus IV builds St Hilda’s Church possibly near the site of an Anglo-Saxon monastery. The Bruces own a manor house at nearby Hart village.

July 6 1189 – KING RICHARD I

Richard I becomes King of England. He is the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He is known as Richard ‘Coer de Lyon’ or when translated ‘the Lionheart’. He cannot speak English. He only speaks French. He spends less than a year of his 10 year reign in England. He bleeds the country dry to pay for his crusading campaigns. He is remembered, by the English, as a popular hero.

1189 – Richard I bestows powers on Pudsey

Shortly after Richard becomes King of England. Pudsey, the Bishop of Durham assembles a fleet at Hartlepool to join Richard in the Crusades. Richard persuades the bishop to stay at home and defend the north. However, as a reward, the King gives Pudsey new political powers, making him Justiciar of England and Regent of the North and even grants him Windsor Castle. Pudsey will share some  political responsibilities with his rival, Bishop Longchamp of Ely.

Bamburgh Castle
Pudsey posession: Bamburgh Castle Photo © 2018 David Simpson

1189 – Pudsey of Northumberland and Newcastle

In addition to becoming Regent of the North, King Richard allows Bishop Pudsey to become Earl of Northumberland and grants him the acquisition of Newcastle and Bamburgh Castle.

Comemorative stone Sadberge
Comemorative stone Sadberge Photo © David Simpson

1189 – Pudsey of Sadberge

As part of the acquisition of Northumberland Pudsey gains the Wapentake of Sadberge, which stretches from Teesdale to Hartlepool and formed an outlying part of Northumberland. Sadberge does not include Stockton and Darlington which were already Durham land. Unlike Newcastle and Northumberland the Wapentake will remain part of the bishops’ territory for centuries to come. All these new purchases are from the king, who uses the revenue to pursue his foreign military interests. The French-speaking King Richard, who never bothers to learn English, will spend only a few months of his ten year reign in England.

Clifford's Tower
Clifford’s Tower. Photo © David Simpson

March 16, 1190 – Jews massacred at York

Horrific events are recorded in Yorkshire as over 100 Jews are massacred or commit suicide in anti-Jewish rioting at York. One hundred and fifty Jews took refuge in the castle (Clifford’s Tower)  and were told to convert to Christianity or be killed. Many kill their own wives and children while others are butchered as they escape.

1190 – Pudsey arrested by rival bishop in London

Pudsey is tricked, arrested and locked in the Tower of London by Bishop Longchamp of Ely during King Richard’s long absence. Pudsey is only released after agreeing to give Windsor, Northumberland and Newcastle to Longchamp. Pudsey’s son Henry is taken hostage by Longchamp as a means of security but King Richard’s brother Prince John, exiles Longchamp.

1194 – St Nicholas church

St Nicholas church in Newcastle is first mentioned in records though it is said to date from 1091.

King’s Ransom: Pudsey’s church at Darlington alongside the River Skerne.

1195 – Death of Pudsey

Bishop Pudsey dies aged 70. He was heading south to answer to King Richard when he was taken ill at Doncaster. Pudsey had raised money for King Richard’s ransom while Richard was imprisoned in Austria but the bishop spent some of the money on projects like the new church of St Cuthbert’s at Darlington.

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