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The Cathedral lies in a loop of the River Wear. On one side is the medieval city and on the other wonderful woodlands filled with footpaths.

Inheriting an 18th century landscape

Today’s woodlands and the buildings within them are what is left of a ‘romantic’ planned landscape created in the 18th century. It was set out at a time when wealthy residents of houses along the Bailey created large gardens. Key features were:

  • formal promenades, such as Prior’s Walk
  • ice houses
  • Prebends’ Bridge
  • the Count’s House

Prebends’ Bridge

Prebends’ Bridge used to carry the Great North Road over the Wear. Originally this was the site of a ferry, but was replaced by a timber bridge built on stone piers in 1574. The Great Flood of 1771 swept this away. The present bridge, designed by George Nicholson, was built between 1772 – 1778 and paid for by the Cathedral.  

You can enjoy stunning views of the Cathedral in its woodland setting from the Bridge. It provides much-used pedestrian access to and from the City.

The Count’s House

This building was built around the 1820s. It is named after Polish 'Count' Joseph Boruwlaski who lived in nearby Callamanco Hall, or Banks Cottage as it later became known.

Joseph was only three feet three inches tall and died in 1837, aged 97. His clothes are preserved in Durham Town Hall, along with his violin and portrait.

He didn’t actually live here - this small classical summer house would have been at the end of his garden.

Fulling Mill

In the 15th century there were two fulling mills in Durham. The money they earned was used for the upkeep of the Jesus Altar in the Cathedral.

Fulling is part of the process of making woollen cloth. Cleaning the cloth eliminates oils, dirt, and other impurities and makes it thicker. Originally, fulling was carried out by the fuller pounding the cloth with their hands, feet or with a club.

Who or what is a Prebend?

This famous bridge is named after the word Prebendary. This is an honorary title given to senior parish priests. It is awarded for long and dedicated service within a diocese.

Fulling Mill

In the 15th century there were two fulling mills in Durham. The money they earned was used for the upkeep of the Jesus Altar in the Cathedral.

Fulling is part of the process of making woollen cloth. Cleaning the cloth eliminates oils, dirt, and other impurities and makes it thicker. Originally, fulling was carried out by the fuller pounding the cloth with their hands, feet or with a club.

The Corn Mill

There has been a mill on this site since medieval times. It began life as a fulling mill, but by 1462 it was grinding corn and had two water wheels. It was rebuilt following the great flood of 1771.

By the middle of the 19th century, it ceased being a mill. Instead various occupants lived there including a mason, riverbanks constables, a plumber and a water bailiff.

The Water Gate

The Water Gate is a gateway in the city wall leading to Prebends’ Bridge. Originally constructed in the medieval era, the first gate was built further along the river. This joined the original Prebends’ bridge washed away in the great floods in 1771.

The City Walls

The walls were probably first built in the early 12th century. In total there was over one mile of wall, 20 towers and seven gates.

Only fragments of the defences now remain. Some of the walls are visible with parts incorporated in later buildings.  

 

Balancing protection and recreation

We maintain the trees and pathways to keep them safe for people to visit and a haven for wildlife. Trees that are decaying are carefully checked and selective felling takes place every winter when it is least disruptive to wildlife. Some of the rotting timber has been left to provide a home to mini-beasts. These in turn become food for birds and other creatures.

See for yourself

We have divided the woodlands and river banks into different zones. An area of the outer bank has been set aside for nature conservation. There are many access routes and viewing points, the most popular being of the Cathedral from Prebends' Bridge.

 

Visit our woodlands and riverbanks