The First Prince Bishops

Early Prince Bishops 1081-1135

The powers held by the Prince Bishops of Durham in the land between Tyne and Tees were the last vestiges of those once held by the kings and earls of Northumbria. Ultimately the Bishops answered to the kings of England, but their powers in Durham were very similar to those held by the King of England in other parts of the country.

Western towers and Cloister, Durham Cathedral
Western towers and Cloister, Durham Cathedral. Photo © David Simpson

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Jan 1081 – Bishop of Durham appointed

William St Carileph becomes Bishop of Durham. Carileph has not yet inherited the political powers held by his predecessor which are now held by the Earl of Northumberland. William removes non-celibate monks from Durham and replaces them with celibate monks from Jarrow and Wearmouth. The non-celibate monks are moved to sites at Darlington, Norton-on-Tees and St Helen Auckland.

1083 – Tynemouth belongs to Jarrow monks

Robert De Mowbray, the Earl of Northumberland confirms the Tynemouth’s possession by the monks of Jarrow. Tynemouth, once the home to a monastery, is now the site of a church  affiliated to Jarrow which is in turn a cell of Durham Priory. Meanwhile, William St Carileph, the Bishop of Durham has given Wallsend to the monks of Durham.

1085 – Mowbray gives Tynemouth to St Albans

Robert De Mowbray falls out with William St Carileph, the Bishop of Durham and confiscates the church of St Mary at Tynemouth from the Bishop. Mowbray then negotiates with the Abbot of St Albans and invites him to settle monks at Tynemouth.

View of Tynemouth Priory and Castle from Cullercoats.
View of Tynemouth Priory and Castle from Cullercoats. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1085 – Miracle story will bring pilgrims to Tynemouth

The monks of St Albans, who now own Tynemouth say that St Oswin, a former King of Deira (Yorkshire) is buried at Tynemouth. They claim that on March 11, 1065, Aegelwine, a Bishop of Durham and the wife of Earl Tostig of Northumbria, witnessed the uncovering of St Oswin’s body here. Oswin, a king of Deira (Yorkshire) was murdered at Gilling in Yorkshire in AD 651 at the behest of Oswy, a Bernician King of all Northumbria. Oswin’s body was apparently found beneath Tynemouth’s church after a tip-off from a priest to whom Oswin’s ghost appeared in a miracle. The revelation and miracle will prove lucrative for the St Albans monks. Saints and associated miracles attract pilgrims who bring significant revenue to monastic sites. There has been no mention of Tynemouth since its devastation under a Viking attack in AD875 and no previous mention of a connection with Oswin. Even Bede does not mention Oswin’s burial place. The Durham monks say  their one-time sacrist and relic collector, Alfred of Westoe (Westoe is near South Shields) had recovered the bones of Oswin but it is not stated where he found them or buried them.

Saxon church of St Mary at Norton on Tees
Saxon church of St Mary at Norton on Tees. Photo © David Simpson 2018.

1086 – North East escapes Domesday

England north of the Tees is left out of the Domesday Book, a survey of the king’s territory, which is an indication of desolation in the region. Yorkshire is included.

Sept 9 1087 –  KING WILLIAM II : ‘RUFUS’

King William I ‘the Conqueror’ of England dies in Normandy. He is succeeded by William ‘Rufus’ who becomes King William II of England. Rufus is not the Conqueror’s oldest son. He has an older brother, Robert Curthose, who succeeds the late William as Duke of Normandy. Another brother, Henry receives a payment.

1087 – Bishop flees to Normandy

King William I dies in Normandy. William Rufus becomes King William II and rebuilds the New Castle on Tyne. Bishop William of Durham and Robert Mowbray of Northumberland support the claims of the Duke of Normandy, Robert Curthose, to the throne. They join a long list of plotters. Durham castle is besieged by Rufus and Bishop William flees to Normandy.

Beach at Tynemouth
Beach at Tynemouth. Photo: David Simpson 2015

May 1091 – Scots attack North

Scots under King Malcolm III invade as far as Chester-le-Street. A Norman fleet of ships is wrecked off Tynemouth during a counter attack.

Sep 14, 1091 – First Prince Bishop

William St Carileph is restored as Bishop of Durham after a three year exile. The king allows Carileph to buy political rights held by Mowbray, the Earl of Northumberland, between the Tyne and the Tees. Only the south Durham district called Sadberge remains in Mowbray’s Northumberland. As ‘Prince Bishop’, Carileph can raise armies, appoint sheriffs, administer laws, levy taxes and customs, create fairs and markets, issue charters, salvage shipwrecks, collect revenue from mines, administer forests and mint coins.

1091 – Durham monks evicted from Tynemouth

Robert De Mowbray evicts Durham monks from Tynemouth after falling out with Carileph, the new Bishop of Durham. He transfers ownership of the monastery there to the Priory of St Albans in Hertfordshire along with its lands known as Tynemouthshire.

1092 – Carlisle Castle protects Newcastle

King Rufus builds a castle at Carlisle. It restricts Scottish invasions along the Tyne Gap and will enable commercial development at Newcastle.

Durham Cathedral © David Simpson 2018

Aug 11, 1093 – Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral is commenced by Bishop William. The old Anglo-Saxon minster of Durham will be demolished. William is inspired by churches he has seen in Normandy during exile. The first stones are laid by the Bishop and, somewhat intriguingly, King Malcolm III of Scotland.

1093 – St Albans monks take over Tynemouth

Despite the protests of the Durham monks at York in the presence of the Archbishop, Paul, the Abbot of St Albans heads north with some monks to take up possession of the monastery at Tynemouth and its lands in Tynemouthshire. Tynemouth was given to the monks of St Albans in 1085.

Nov 13, 1093 – St Albans abbot dies on way home

Paul, the abbot of St Albans in Hertfordshire, who has recently taken possession of Tynemouth, dies during his return home.

Nov 13, 1093 – Malcolm killed at Alnwick

On November 13, 1093, the same day that Abbot Paul of St Albans (and Tynemouth) passed away, Malcolm Canmore (Malcolm III), King of the Scots was slain during a raid upon Alnwick. Malcolm was tricked by Arkil Morel, nephew of Robert Mowbray. Mowbray forms an alliance with Donald, the new Scottish king.

1093 – Scottish King buried at Tynemouth

King Malcolm’s body is brought to Tynemouth and buried in a newly established Norman church. Alexander, Malcolm’s son, will request that the king’s body is returned to Dunfermline in Scotland. Mowbray, the Earl of Northumberland agrees, but according to a later historian of the thirteenth century called Matthew Paris, Alexander was sent the body of a farmer from Monkseaton.

Bamburgh Castle, where the Kings of Northumbria had ruled. Photo David Simpson

1095 – Mowbray seizes Newcastle

Robert De Mowbray Earl of Northumberland seizes Newcastle castle in a rebellion against King William Rufus.

1095 – Northumberland under king’s rule

Bamburgh Castle is besieged by King William II against Robert Mowbray who has rebelled against him. William builds an “evil neighbour” fort – his own fort on the side of someone else’s castle – on the walls of Bamburgh and captures Mowbray. Mowbray’s castles at Newcastle, Tynemouth and Morpeth are seized. Northumberland is taken under direct rule of the King. It stretches from the Tyne to the Tweed but includes land in south Durham.

Jan 6, 1096 – Carileph dies

Carileph, Bishop of Durham, dies at Windsor where he was summoned to meet the king on suspicion of revolt. A new appointment is postponed until 1099 when Ranulf Flambard, chief adviser to Rufus, becomes bishop. Flambard has acquired wealth for the king by collecting revenue from postponed appointments and through his tough approach to taxing the barons.

Aug 3 1100 – KING HENRY I

Henry I becomes the King of England. He is the son of King William I and Matilda of Flanders and the brother of the late king, William II. Although Norman-French in just about every way, he might also be described as a ‘Yorkshireman’ as he was born at Selby in September 1068.

1100 – Bishop of Durham escapes Tower of London

Bishop Flambard is imprisoned in the Tower of London because the barons tell Henry of his harsh tax-collecting ways. Flambard, who has many enemies, is the first man to be imprisoned here. He later escapes using a rope smuggled in by a butler in a cask of wine and seeks refuge in Normandy.

July 1101 – Bishop supports invasion

Flambard persuades Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, to invade England. King Henry backs down and pardons the duke’s allies. Flambard is restored as Bishop of Durham.

‘Cuthbertus’ : The tomb of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral © David Simpson 2019

Sep 1104 – Saint buried in cathedral

St Cuthbert’s body is buried in Durham Cathedral. It had rested in a nearby chapel while the cathedral was being built. Ten monks inspect the corpse and find that it is incorrupt with a fragrant smell. It may be embalmed.

1105 – Symeon of Durham

Symeon of Durham, a monk of Durham priory is working on his Libellus De Exordio which tells the history of the community of St. Cuthbert at Durham.

Ruins of Barnard Castle
Ruins of Barnard Castle’s castle above the River Tees : Photo © David Simpson

1107 – Teesdale castle

A Teesdale castle is built which will later be called Barnard Castle. The forests of Teesdale have belonged to Guy Baliol since 1093.

May 1108 – Archbishop of the occult

Archbishop Gerard dies in mysterious circumstances. He is thought to have been involved with the occult and is refused burial in the minster.

1115 – Godric of Finchale

St Godric is granted land for a hermitage at Finchale near Durham by Bishop Flambard. He is a former sea pirate.

1119 – York free of Canterbury

Thurstan, Archbishop of York, is consecrated by the Pope who releases him from obedience to Canterbury.

1120 – Chapel at Middlesbrough

Robert Brus presents a chapel at Middlesbrough to Whitby Abbey.

Norham Castle
Norham Castle Photo © David Simpson 2018

1121 – Bishop’s Border fort at Norham

Norham Castle is built on the Tweed by Bishop Flambard. Norhamshire is a part of Durham which neighbours Scotland. Flambard attacks Scotland from this base. Meanwhile Berwick is established as Scotland’s first Royal burgh by King Alexander.

1121 – Scottish Bishop retires to Wearmouth

Turgot, Bishop of St Andrews, retires to Wearmouth after a dispute with the Scottish King Alexander over obedience to the Archbishop of York.

1124 – David King of Scots

David, Earl of Huntingdon, becomes the King of Scotland. He is the son of Malcolm III but was brought up as a Norman in England.

1125 – Robert Bruce of Cleveland

Robert De Brus, a Norman landowner at Skelton in Cleveland, is granted land in Scotland by King David.

1126 – York and Canterbury equal

The Pope declares York and Canterbury equal but Canterbury’s Archbishop is “papal legate” – the Pope’s representative in Britain.

1128 – Bishop Flambard dies

Flambard dies after 29 years as bishop. He recently built Durham’s Framwellgate Bridge.

Impressive Norman vaulting at Durham Cathedral © David Simpson 2019.

1132 – New Cathedrals

Durham Cathedral is virtually complete. Meanwhile Carlisle’s Augustinian church becomes a cathedral.

1131 – Castles and manors

Ivo de Vesci, a Norman baron, builds a castle at Alnwick. A castle was also recently built at Scarborough by William le Gros. Meanwhile the Manor of Raby recently passed to an Anglo Saxon called Dolphin.

1135 – Mint at Durham

A mint has been established at Durham where unique Durham coins are produced.

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