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The name of Claypath is derived from 'Cleurport' or gate of the sluice. This approach to the Market Place was regarded as the weakest to possible attack to the city. There is evidence that a sluice or moat crossed this narrow part of the peninsula, so that the city could be isolated if need be. Other ideas about the name were due to the thick layer of clay and wet sand which forms part of the geology of this neck of the peninsula [5].

Claypath was the main easterly road out of Durham, heading towards Sunderland and the coast. Clayport was the name given to one of the exits from the outer city defensive walls [43]. Claypath itself goes to the summit of the hill, where its name changes to Gilligate (Gilesgate). At this point stood a cross, mentioned as early as 1454. Further along the road at the Gilesgate/Sunderland junction is the site of Maids Arbour and Gilesgate Moor where the muster ground of the local militiamen was. The Old Market Cross was also moved to this junction.

Corn was ground at the Bishop's Mill on the river. This fact was recorded in the Boldon Book in 1183. It was rebuilt in the 17th century and demolished in 1972. The Mill Race previously served the old Ice Rink [19].

Races that were established in Charles II reign were held annually on the last week in April or the first week in May for four days. The Register of St Nicholas's records that 10s was donated towards a silver plate for the course [22]. Races were also held on Easter Monday and Tuesday [5].

In the early 17th century, the City Corporation tried unsuccessfully to establish a woollen factory in the New Place, using indigent poor. Henry Smith in his will of 20th July 1598 bequeathed £100 a year for “that some good trade may be devised for the setting off the youth and other idle persons to work, as shall be thought most convenient, whereby the profit may arise to the benefit of the city, and the relief of those who are past work.” [22] Henry Smith owned local coal mines and a considerable personal estate. In 1689, Thomas Craddock bequeathed £500 to build a house and St Nicholas’s workhouses for the Master and workmen so that another factory could be established, again for the benefit of the poor.

In spite of money lent by the charity, Messrs Startforth and Cooper, running the factory on the lines of Abrose Crowley ironworks of Whickham, failed to make it pay. The County Justices advertised in 1814 that they were willing to advance £400 to anyone willing to establish the concern, and who was able to give good securities. Gilbert Henderson, a Herrington weaver obtained the loan, and he took over the premises and built it up as a sound business, which “developed rapidly” [6]. His son John, and his son William assisted in the running of the firm. John Henderson became interested in politics and was returned as MP in 1864. By that time George Henderson was running the firm.

Durham carpets achieved international fame in the later Victorian era.

In 1903 the goodwill of the Henderson carpet factory was sold to Messrs Crossley of Halifax. Part of the building was let to Hugh MacKay, a buyer and Manager of Henderson's. He started with 11 Brussels looms and 20 weavers (a far cry from the 500 employed in 1874). The business started paying its way, and within a few years by 1929 it started to prosper. A fire destroyed much of the factory in 1969 and by 1970 the factory moved to Dragonsville on the outskirts of the city

In 1672 a house in Claypath was licensed as a place of worship. After the Act of Toleration, it became the legal meeting place of the Presbyterian congregation. It was taken down in 1750 and a new chapel built which still exists, which is tucked behind the larger church frontage.

Claypath: About
Claypath: Image

Leazes House along Claypath was used as Durham High School for Girls [6]. This was founded in 1884 and was said to be a dignified stone building with large windows making the classrooms unusually light and sunny. The beautiful gardens got a mention with their lawns and variety of trees plus masses of rhododendrons. The school had a playing field on its south west border.

Leazes Place itself was built in 1843-6 [19].

Claypath: About
Claypath: Image

Union Blue Coat and Sunday schools’ buildings on the southside of Claypath was established in 1718 [22]. The Blue Coat had the “Madras System” of teaching created by Rev Dr Andrew Bell, in which senior pupils taught the younger ones, as there was only one Master per 200 or 300 boys. Thus, “success in both teaching and learning was rewarded in each” [12].

There was a multitude of schools in Durham during the 19th century. They were normally small establishments that only stayed open as long as the Founder decided. In some instances, children followed their parents in running the schools. George Goundry, for example, had a day school until about 1868. Thomas Clarkson then used the premises as a school from 1869. This is not the only instance of a school being taken over by a new proprietor. Charles Mac Nally moved his school from 41 Claypath to Chapel Passages in Old Elvet, taking over a building previously used by James Bradbury. The school moved again in 1861 to Allergate.

The Penitentiary for Moral and Social Maladies was instituted in 1853. It is situated at the point where Claypath became Gilesgate, described as “on rising ground at the back of Gilesgate” overlooking a tract called the “Sands” [1].

There was a Workmen’s club on the previous site of the Post Office [17] before the Post Office moved there from Saddler Street. This Post Office in Claypath was erected in 1927, and the former Post Office in Saddler Street became the Ministry of Labour. Letters were forwarded by post from Durham as early as 5th May 1468. In about 1934 the Post Office in Claypath had opening hours of 8am to 7.30pm weekdays. The last post was 8.45pm and 6.30pm on Sundays.

Claypath: About
Claypath: Image

About this date telephone kiosks are mentioned at North Road, Market Place, Claypath and at the New Inn. The Post Office moved again in 1986 to Silver Street (old premises of Greenwell’s) when the small offices in North Road and North Bailey were also shut down.

List of businesses as listed in 1923 [6] and the current businesses 100 years later in 2023. 

The Public Houses and Hotel that are no longer functioning can be seen at reference [33]

W L Waggott, Tobacconist in 1923 at 1 Blue Coat buildings

Leadston and Liddle, Fruiterers in 1923

Stuart Edwards, Estate Agents & Lettings in 2023 at 1-2 Blue Coat building

W.F. Vipond, Fancy foods in 1923

Baza barbers in 2023 at 4 Blue Coat buildings

Wheatsheaf Inn Public House at 3 Claypath

Hat and Feather Inn, later Railway Tavern, Public House purchased by

Co-op in 1865 [38] at 6 Claypath

Co-op, General store at 4 - 9 Claypath

Golden Eagle, Public House at 9 Claypath

W D Lamb, Watchmaker and jeweler at 10 Claypath

Grapes Inn Public House at 16 Claypath

Wearmouth Bridge Public House at 17 Claypath

Cellars Public House at 18 Claypath

A Rutherford, Newsagent in 1923

Student Castle accommodation in 2023 at 20 Claypath

Princess Mary Public House in 1923 at 20 Claypath

Hodgson, Painters at 25 Claypath

A & V Stones, Dressmakers at 26 Claypath

Maltman Inn  Public House in 1923 (closed 1965) at 28 Claypath

H Willoughby, Saddle harness and collar marker in 1923.

Private house in 2023 at 41 Claypath

Masons Arms Public House in 1923

Private house in 2023 at 52 Claypath

FW Goodyear, Joiner, builder and undertaker at 60 Claypath

General Gordon Public House in 1923. 

Private house in 2023 at 63 Claypath

Travellers Rest Public House in 1923

Private house in 2023 at 73 Claypath

Milburn and Ellis, Glasiers in 1923

Empty premises in 2023 at 87 Claypath

S Dimambro & Sons, Temperance Bar

at 90 Claypath

Seven Stars Public House in 1923

Durham Nails Express in 2023 at 90 Claypath

James Fowler, Grocer at 99-100 Claypath

Ralph Charlton, Draper at 102-103 Claypath

Claypath Gates Inn Public House at 104 Claypath

Kings Arms Public House in 1923 (closed 1965) at 105 Claypath

H Ingham, Butcher at 106 Claypath

Angel Inn Public House in 1923 at 107 Claypath

Claypath: About
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