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In the 13th century, the See of Durham was easily one of the most powerful ecclesiastical seats in the British Isles. The Prince-Bishops exercised immense temporal power, too. This is because the County of Durham had been declared a County Palatine, in that the supreme religious authority, the Archbishop, was administrator and arbitor of all civil power, as well. The Archbishops became known as Prince-Bishops; indeed, to this day, when you enter Durham, the sign on the side of the road says, 'Durham: The Land Of The Prince-Bishops'.

A hunting lodge for the See was built to the south-west of the city of Durham, where the remains of an old Roman road - Dere Street - passed through a tiny community called Auckland, and a town (named after the Bishopric) grew up around it.  The hunting park extended to 800 acres; the lodge grew into a castle, and became the official residence of the Bishop of Durham. The arrival of the railways stimulated trade, especially coal mining, and coal from Bishop Auckland was sent far and wide. Queen Victoria stayed here, and some of the sumptuous apartments in the castle are now used to host conferences, and celebrate weddings and other events.

There is an impressive gateway entrance to the park from the Market Place of the town. This gateway was designed by Sir Thomas Robinson of Rokeby for Archbishop William Trevor in 1760. It is in the Gothic Revival style, and is constructed from ashlar with ashlar facings and lead roofs. Design elements include pierced quatrefoils and a battlemented parapet. There are clock faces to the east and west of the short tower, whereas the north and south walls are adorned with blind quatrefoils, instead. A short lead spire is topped by a simple weathervane. Ideally, the structure would benefit from a careful power-washing!

The gateway is listed (#1297645) under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990, as being of 'architectural and historical significance'.

The good thing about this is that whereas, originally, the general public would have found it difficult to enter the park surrounding Auckland Castle, they now have the freedom to roam over the 800 beautiful acres!

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Originally posted to shortfinals on Thu Feb 28, 2013 at 04:05 AM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks.

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