Dunholm : The Birth of Durham 990 to 1031
The rising power of Wessex weakened the North of England in the last decade of the first millennium and left the region vulnerable to the attacks of Danes and Scots. The Community of St Cuthbert at Chester-le-Street, a remnant of Northumbria’s greater days, fled to Ripon in 995 to escape one such raid. The monks returned north in the same year, but chose Durham as their new home where their visitors would include King Cnut.
990 – Aldhun is last Bishop of Chester-le-Street
Aldhun has become the Bishop of Chester-le-Street.
993 – New Vikings attack Northumberland coast
A new force of Vikings under Olaf and Swein Forkbeard has attacked Bamburgh, the coastal stronghold of the Eadulfsons who are the rulers of Bernicia.
995 – Scots attempt to seize North East
Kenneth of Scotland is defeated in an invasion of the North-East by Uhtred Eadulfson, son of the Earl of Bamburgh. The monks in the Community of St Cuthbert have fled Chester-le-Street with St Cuthbert’s body to escape the Scots and, accompanied by Bishop Aldhun, they settle for a short time at Ripon.
995 – City of Durham founded by Cuthbert monks
St Cuthbert’s Community has returned north to settle at Dunholm (Durham). The site is naturally defended like an island, formed by the horse-shoe gorge of the River Wear. The Scandinavian word ‘holm’ means ‘island’ (often in the form of a river meander). Dun means ‘hill’ – often a fortified place. Monks are said to have been guided by a vision, but it is more likely to have been a deliberate political decision given the site’s well-defended location. The monks construct a minster of wood called the ‘White Church’ for St Cuthbert’s remains at Durham. Uhtred Eadulfson of Bamburgh employed labour from the Coquet to the Tees to fortify the site. Aldhun is the first Bishop of Durham and is Uhtred’s father-in-law.
999 – Stone minster at Durham
A new ‘White Church’ minster is built at Durham but this time of stone for the shrine of Cuthbert.
1000 – New millennium
The Christian world enters a new millennium. It is thought to be 1,000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ, according to the reckoning of a dating system that was to a significant respect established and popularised by Northumbrian scholar, the Venerable Bede.
1000 – Danes attack England
England is subjected to continuous raiding by the Danes.
1003 – Darlington given to Bishop of Durham
Darlington receives its first mention in history. It has been given to the Bishop of Durham by Styr, son of Ulphus, at a ceremony in York. In those days, the region’s ruling elite were very closely connected: Styr’s daughter, Sigen, is the third wife of Uhtred of Northumbria and one of Uhtred’s previous marriages was to the daughter of Aldhun, Durham’s first bishop. Styr also presents land at Coniscliffe, Cockerton, Normanby and Seaton.
1006 – Scots massacred at Durham
The Scots under King Malcolm have been heavily defeated once again by Uhtred during an attack on Durham City. Malcolm was attempting to seize the North-East. Heads of the best-looking Scottish soldiers were displayed around the city walls after Durham wo men had washed their faces and combed their hair (the women were presented with the gift of a cow for their work).
1006 – Athelred appoints northern earl
Athelred, King of England, has appointed Uhtred as Earl of York which means he now rules all Northumbria.
1013 – Forkbeard seizes the North
Swein Forkbeard, King of Denmark, has returned to England with an army to become King of England. Entering the Humber and encamping at Gainsborough he has forced Uhtred the Earl of Northumbria to submit. After capturing London he seized the English throne.
Feb 1014 – Cnut King of England
Swein Forkbeard dies at York. His son Cnut is elected King of England by the Danish army.
1016 – Cnut outmanoeuvres earl
Uhtred has led an army into the West Midlands to trouble Cnut but the king moves up the eastern flank of the country into Lincolnshire and crosses to York.
1016 – Earl of the North assassinated
Uhtred has been assassinated at Cnut’s court at Wighill near York. He was visiting Cnut in the hope of making peace. He never got to see the king.
Nov 30, 1016 – Cnut appoints earls in North East and Yorkshire
King Cnut has appointed a Norwegian called Eric Hlathir as Earl of York, and Eadulf Cudel of the house of Bamburgh as the Earl of Northumbria north of the Tees. Cnut is dividing England into earldoms.
1018 – Durham territory grows
The territory of the Bishops of Durham, which will develop into County of Durham, is expanding. Lands acquired by Bishop Aldhun since 995 include territory in the Tees and Wear valleys from Styr and Snaculf – the latter giving Bradbury, Mordon, Sockburn and Girsby – while Norton and Stockton have been acquired from Ulfcytel. Escomb and Aucklandshire in the Wear Valley, which belonged to an earl called Northman, also now belong to the bishop.
1019 – Battle of Carham : Tweed now Scottish border
The Scots under Malcolm II have defeated the Northumbrians under Eadulf Cudel in battle at Carham on Tweed. Northumbrian territory from Edinburgh to the Tweed is seized by the Scots. Cnut is in Denmark. Aldhun, the Bishop of Durham, has died, heartbroken by the defeat at Carham.
1022 – Bede’s bones pinched
The relics of Bede have been brought to Durham from Jarrow by Aelfred, a notorious collector of saint’s relics.
1023 – York archbishop dies
Archbishop Wulfstan has died, a man of great learning and wisdom.
1027 – Cnut visits Durham
Cnut has made a visit to Durham, where he walked bare foot in a pilgrimage from Garmondsway (the via Garmundi) six miles to the south of the city, to visit St Cuthbert’s shrine.
1031 – Cnut invades North East
Cnut has invaded the North-East to quell all rebellion.
1031 – Cnut gives Staindrop to Durham
Cnut gives land around Staindrop to the bishops of Durham. Cnut is known to own a mansion in the district, probably a forerunner of the grand castle Raby.
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