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The Market Place and Silver Street

The first recording of the Market Place is in 1040, when the Scots attackers that were killed, and had their heads put on poles in the Market Place. Whether this was the Palace Green site is unsure. However, it is known that Bishop Flambard cleared the Palace Green, due to its unsightly nature and that the frequent fires were threatening the safety of the Cathedral.

Bishop Hugh Le Puiset (1153-1195) granted a Charter to the City in 1180, allowing it to market’s, fair’s and various freedoms. This charter was probably no more than the recognition of the existence of the City as a separate entity from the Castle. Nevertheless, he and his successors controlled the city through their own officers, i.e., Bailiffs, Stewards and Clerks of the Market (until the 17th century)

The Market Place was enclosed by the outer walls, but these walls were not of any great strength. These were constructed in 1315 after complaints following a Scottish attack in 1312. It is not clear if the wall is cut into the bank or if it was freestanding and subsequently soil accumulated behind it. This lack of historical clarity indicated that the walls were not of large proportions or stood out due to their height.

Claypath Gate was to the east of St Nicholas's, and was the main gate out of the Market Place to Gilesgate and the coastal ports around Sunderland. It was probably built in the same era as the outer wall in 1315 and was demolished in May 1791 19.

Bridging the walls was a Toll Booth, mentioned during Bishop's Tunstail's time (1530-1559), as a work of stone. It is probable that this Toll Booth was where the weights and measures were adjusted by the Bishop's representatives. Market tolls were collected at the Tollbooth where the Bishop's Bailiff held a fortnightly court 19.

The Toll Booth or Town Hall was given to the city in 1555. It is not known whether there was a common toll booth or hall prior to the building apart from the toll booth already mentioned. Bishop Tunstall erected this Town Hall. In the new Toll Booth weights and measures were adjusted for the local traders [44].

At the place of the Toll booth in Bishop's Tunstall's time, was placed a Market Cross. This was erected by Thomas Emerson in 1617. It was said to be made of Hewn stone, and 'hard against' the Pant. On the south side Emerson (of London) placed his own arms, and on the centre of each arch and betwixt every pillar, he carved the Neville arms. A marble sanctuary cross was moved from Gilesgate to the Market Place in Bishop Tunstall’s time (1530-1559)19. One reference says that the cross was built at the expense of Thomas Emerson, a retainer of the Neville family who now in his old age lived in London, and that it had a large pillar in the middle ornamented with a sundial 26.

The images on the cross probably suffered during the reformation. The Market Cross was replaced in 1617 for King James I visit; to one that was covered with lead and supported by 12 stone pillars. This cross was taken down in 1780 40 and the stone used to build a 9 arched piazza in front of St Nicholas's church. This piazza (shown on image above) was removed in 1853 3 just before St Nicholas's itself was replaced.

Market Place: Text

The Town Hall building was largely replaced by Bishop Cosins (1660-1672) in 1665, then altered in 1752 and again in 1754. It is noted that Geo. Bowes repaired the back rooms in 1752 and the front room was taken down and rebuilt in 1754. Eventually in 1849, it was decided that a completely new Town Hall was needed. Mr P.C. Hardacre, a London architect, designed the new building along the lines of Westminster Hall. The new Town Hall was opened on 29th January 1851 at a Civic banquet.
The City's water supply was piped to the Market Place. The first fountain was in 1450. This water supply came from the Fram Wellhead on Thomas Billingham's estate at Crook Hall. The yearly rent was 13d payable on the Feast of St Martins and in default for 40 days he had the power to break up the aqueduct head and divert the stream into its ancient course. He also had the power to lay a string pipe from the reservoir to supply his own house in the Market Place 22.
These fountains underwent many changes through the years, the early fountains being called the Paunt. In 1729 a new octagonal fountain was erected surmounted by the lead statue of Neptune. This was given to the city by George Bowes. In 1816 there was a proposal to demolish the whole pant including Neptune, but nothing came of it. In fact, the clock which surmounted the fountain was lit by gas for the first time in 1847.
In the 19th century, control of the Pant passed from the Pantmasters elected by the Vestry of St Nicholas's Church to the Local Board of Health's Pant Committee. In 1853 a letter to the Committee complained that as the Fram Well had been dug deeper and the lead pipes replaced with iron ones (in 1847), the water in the Market Place had become unfit for human consumption. It took until 1860 for the Pant Committee to act, when a competition was held for the design of a new fountain. This must have taken some time as in 1862 one local councillor considered “t'owd barbarian was too shoddy to stay in the Market Place alongside the newly arrived statue of Londonderry”. The Londonderry statue was unveiled on the 2nd of December 1861, to commemorate the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, Founder of Seaham 1779-1854. The statue being designed by Signor Monti.
The new Pant was designed by E.I. Robson without Neptune, but public opinion forced his retention on top of the new edifice. Not only did Neptune survive but he was so brightly painted that one local citizen complained that he was dazzled by it every time he walked across the Market Place. The Pant Committee had also considered and rejected the possibility of foregoing the freestanding fountain for two plain ones on either side of the statue of Londonderry. This 'old, unsightly yet venerable' monument was removed in 1863 and the new drinking fountain was built and opened on Monday 21 September 1863. The new fountain was 14' high excluding Neptune which was placed on top 1.
The gift of a new pant to the city by Miss Gibson 17 again threatened Neptune in 1900 as he was not at first included in Kitchen's design. However, he was repaired and placed on top of the Pant until 1923. This was when the Gibson Pant was destroyed to make way for the Policeman's box. Neptune was to find a resting place in Wharton's Park but was hit by lightning in 1979 which nearly destroyed him. A fund-raising mission was held which allowed the statue to be correctly repaired. In 1984 he was on view at the old Gas Showrooms in Claypath awaiting his new home, before being re-sited back into the Market Place.

Market Place: Welcome

Neptune replaced in its original home in the Market Place.

Market Place: Welcome

There was an edifice in the place of St Nicholas's in 1096, and the church itself was in existence by 1133. Of this early building, only the Chancel survived until the 1800’s. The rest was built in the 14 and 15th century. In 1283 the church had one point of note because the Archbishop of York, Wickwane, tried to excommunicate the Prior and Convent of Durham. However, his actions somewhat annoyed the locals who threatened him, and he was forced to flee down the steps to the west of St Nicholas's 37.

In St Nicholas's parish book in 1592 is the entry "Simson, Fetherson, Fenwicke, Lancaster were hanged for being Egyptians " Also noted is that incense was used as late as 1683.

In 1674 John Heslop made a gift to St Nicholas's parish of a ladder of 31 rungs which was to be used solely for fires " and persons .... borrowing the ladder to make it good upon return thereof shall be thereby broken". The following year the ladder is chained to the wall of the church with a lock and key.

Work was carried out on St Nicholas's to give more room to the streets for the sellers. The outward northern wall is of great strength and height, supported by square buttresses and very probably consisted as part of the defensive line of the city on the north, sweeping, exactly in-line with the curtain wall of Nevilles Place and Claypath Gate 21. St Nicholas's before being rebuilt was stated as an ancient structure, very plain and indifferently built, being constructed of small and perishable stones, so that frequent pointing meant that it was nearly covered with mortar. St Nicholas's church is also known as the Municipal Church and has many links with the Londonderry family.

The church was demolished in 1857 42, the east end had been curtailed and rebuilt, factory type windows had been inserted and an iron chimney protruded from the roof. The church is a good example now of 19th century Gothic when it was finished in 1858 12. It was modernised further in 1981 19.

In the north west corner of the Market Place was the Town House of the Earls of Westmoreland 3. It appears to be known by the name of the New Place and sometimes the Bull's Head (from the well-known crest of the Nevilles), which doubtless predominated in carved stone over the arched portal which would once have given access to the residence from the Market Place 21.

In the Northern rebellion of 1569, the Earls of Westmoreland, (the Nevilles), lost the houses he owned to the city as they were confiscated by the Crown. The property was purchased by the Henry Smith charity from James I for £150, and afterwards part it was used for a school, a cloth factory, and a workhouse for St, Nicholas's Parish.

In 1852 the buildings were demolished by the Durham Markets Co. and rebuilt their present form. In 1926, the Henry Smith Charity sold the whole of the New Place site on which the Town Hall and part of the covered markets were built, to the Corporation for £4000.

Market Place: Welcome

Bell's restaurant at the corner of the Market Place/Sadler Street

Market Place: Welcome

The City Sports shop in the Market Place.

Market Place: Welcome

The City Sports shop in the Market Place is a timber framed building hidden by a Victorian frontage. In much the same way, is the two separate 17th century buildings which make up part of the corner Bell's restaurant at Market Place/Sadler Street. The front one is built along the street whilst the back one is set at right angles to the street which make up the 19th century looking frontage.

There was a Savings Bank at the Town Hall which afforded a 'beneficial investment for the savings of the “humbler classes”. On 20 November 1826 there was there was 464 individuals and 7 Friendlier Societies at the bank with deposits of £19,369 11s 8d.

The banks in the Market Place are prominent buildings. These include:

  • The National Provincial Bank of England opened on 7th February 1878.

  • Barclays Bank, previously known as J Backhouse and Co Bank.

  • Midlands bank on the west side of the Market Place as well as the Bank of Liverpool and Martins Ltd.

At the south west corner of the Market Place is an Outfitters Shop called the Corner Booth, on a site linked with the earliest days of the city. Next to the Corner Booth was originally the Town House of Sir Ralph Saddler, Commissioner in Durham for Henry VIII. These premises were also used as the Tailors Arms.

The names of the roads and building have changed over the years, No11 Market Place was once known as Pullein (Poultry) Corner where the Fish Bar now operates, and Fleshergate was the small road leading into Saddler Street. The name Flesher implying a butcher’s quarter, reinforced by the tale in 1800 of complaints of slaughtering being carried out in the street. [44].

The nature of the Crafts Guilds changed during the 17th century for, through the Common Council, they became increasingly involved with politics. In 1617 they presented a petition to King James I when he visited Durham, asking for Parliamentary representation. Bishop James and his successors strenuously opposed the move for if it was granted it would have eroded the Bishop's power and allowed the burgesses direct access to the King via Parliament. This privilege was lost at the Restoration. Eventually on 27th March 1678, 838 freemen of the Town voted for their two M.P.'s, Sir Ralph Coles and John Parkhurst. While the Guilds continued to function as before, the increasing number of Honorary Freemen diluted the trade interest in favour of politics.

The first time that men and women servants presented themselves to be hired in Durham, took place at the Market on 6 May 1682.

The Durham Miners Association was founded in the Market Tavern in 1869 5.

Motorised traffic made the Market Place an increasingly dangerous area, as the Magistrates noted in 1930 when fining “bus drivers for picking up passengers other than the authorised stages”. Access to the Market Place was so bad in that year that serious proposals were made to demolish either all the houses on the north side of the street, or at least install traffic lights. Later a traffic central point was erected in the Market Place around which traffic turned to go up Saddler Street. The traffic lights were operated by a policeman in the Market Place, later on assisted by television cameras.

Silver Street descends down a steep bank towards Framwellgate bridge for the river crossing. Although it has been stated that its name is derived from the Bishops Mint being here, this is untrue as the Mint was situated as one would expect inside the inner defensive wall at the north eastern corner of the Palace Green. However, the name could have derived from the number of Silversmiths which inhabited the area. A large quantity of Silver plate is known to have been made in Durham.

Silver Street had some fine old buildings, such as a picturesque mansion on the north side, having a wooden porch on whose jambs were carved the Neville arms. There was also a 17th century house, once belonging to Sir John Duck. noted for a massive oak staircase.

During excavations carried out behind Silver street in 1975, amounts of clay pipes were found. It is known that William Dryden worked in Silver Street Lane from 1827-34 but the majority of pipes bear the initials T.E. These are of Thomas Elsdon of Gateshead from 1811-51. It could be that Dryden was apprenticed to Elsden and had some of his master’s moulds to set up business, or that Elsdon may have sold off surplus moulds within the trade 24.

Caldcleugh (later to become Archibalds) had their original store at 38 Silver St.

The Jubilee Church, formerly the Primitive Methodists had its origin in Back Silver Street.

The obviously timber framed house at No 32 Silver Street is only 4 stories high when viewed from the front but has 6 stories from the back. The lower 3 stories are all stone built, the next two are timber framed, whilst the top storey is a later brick addition of the 19th century. The timber framed section was probably built in the 17th century.

Market Place: Welcome

32 Silver Street showing timber framing

Market Place: Image

Lost businesses

List of businesses as listed in 1924 [6] and the current businesses 100 years later. The Public Houses and Hotels that are no longer functioning are from the reference [33]

Castle Hotel, Public House in 1923

Grape Tree, health food shop in 2023 at 18 Silver Street

Hole in The Wall, Public House in 1923

Riverside Kitchen in 2023 at 20 Silver Street

John Colven, Jeweler in 1923

Rib N Reef restaurant in new building in 2023 at 21 Silver Street

George Bailes, Printer and fancy goods in 1923

Coviello, Cafe in 2023 at 24 Silver Street

Red Lion, Public House in 1923

Stormfront, Apple Stores in 2023 at 26 Silver Street

Boots, Chemist in 1923

Old premises of the Works at 29 Silver Street

Ye Dunelm Cafe, Tea Room in 1923

Gusto restaurant in 2023 at 32-33 Silver Street

Annie Catherall, Millinery in 1923

Vodaphone, mobile phones in 2023 at 33 Silver Street

Queens Head, Public House in 1923

Holland and Barrett, health food shop in new building at 37 Silver Street

William Smith & Co, Draper

Market Place

Windsor cafe, Cafe

Market Place

Griffin Inn, Public House

1 Market Place

George Forster, Ironmonger in 1923 at 2 Market Place

Doggarts, Draper and department store from 1926

Boots Chemist in 2023 at 2-5 Market Place

Hat & Feather, Public House, closed 1930s

3 Market Place

Bowes Arms, Public House

7 Market Place

Driver of Durham, Draper in 1923

Bells, fish restaurant in 2023 at 11 Market Place

Rose & Crown, Public House in 1923

Tesco (previously Woolworths) in 2023 at 17 Market Place.

Donkins, Tobacco in 1923

WH Smiths and Post Office in 2023 at 22 Market Place

Market Place: Welcome
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