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SADDLER STREET, OWENGATE AND THE BAILEYS

It could be that Saddler Street is named after Sir Ralph Saddler, who was the Commissioner in Durham for King Henry VIII.

Excavations at 61-63 Saddler Street have revealed the remains of wattle-buildings. These buildings were surrounded by middens containing leather offcuts and waste from shoe making/repairing, as well as domestic refuse. The earliest structures were broadly contemporary with the Church and were set back well in their pIots.

The buildings were rebuilt several times before 1200, when the buildings moved towards the front and faced onto Saddler Street. The result of these excavations show that the first town straggled at least halfway down to Saddler Street.

Saddler Street was in the olden days the only entrance, by vehicular traffic to the Cathedral 43. It was this traffic that caused the 'Great northern gateway' built by Bishop Langley (1406-1437) in the early 15th century [44]. This great North Gate was taken down in 1820.


This Gateway stood 60 high and part of it was used as the County gaol for many years. In 1744 the Great tower near the North Gate fell down and was never rebuilt. On either side of the north gate was a moat. On the inside was another gate up to Owengate [6]. This gate was the entry into the inner defensive ring. The only part of the gate still to be seen, is through the back entrance to 46 Saddler Street, where one story can still be seen.



Saddler Street: Text
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Original North Gate before its removal to aid vehicular trafiic

Saddler Street: Welcome
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Remaining structure of the North Gate, showing position against inner defensive wall

Saddler Street: Welcome


Near to the North Gate was the Queens Head Hotel and was a Post House for travellers, on the coach from London to Edinburgh. It later became the Conservative Club. On Owengate corner the University Law Department occupies the former Halmote Court, which closed in 1952 [19]. Halmote Court was a manorial court dealt with small misdemeanours and recovered small debts, and tenancies and freehold issues [44].


Saddler Street: Text
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Saddler Street: About


Near to the North Gate was the Queens Head Hotel and was a Post House for travellers, on the coach from London to Edinburgh. It later became the Conservative Club. On Owengate corner the University Law Department occupies the former Halmote Court, which closed in 1952 [19]. Halmote Court was a manorial court dealt with small misdemeanours and recovered small debts, and tenancies and freehold issues [44].


Today’s steep incline at the junction of Saddler Street, Owengate, and North Bailey is caused largely by the subterranean remains of the massive Northgate. The cliff from the Palace Green to the Baileys looks less severe with the buildings on the Palace Green at its top and those in the Baileys at the bottom. The only other two entrance into the Cathedral enclosures was on foot through the Kingsgate postern and the Water Gate. There was supposed to be a 'Bow Bridge' across the river at the Kingsgate position in the 15th century [19].

The Kingsgate postern [43] and Kings Gate was a right of way controlled by the Prior of Durham. It was over this site that King William I fled from Durham after viewing St Cuthbert’s body. There was a ford across the river at that time [35].

The Water Gate, at the end of South Bailey, in the 14th century was only to be closed at times of war. But in 1449 Bishop Neville (1438-1457) gave Robert Rhodes liberty to open or close it at his pleasure. The gate was used as a footpath and bridge road until 1796, when Rev Henry Egerton purchased the house and gardens adjoining the gate, removed the old postern and promoted the building of the present spacious arch, which produced a carriage road down to the new bridge [21]. Right of the Water Gate, the sentry walk is still retained, and to the left Guards Towers to the Kingsgate still stand [19].



Saddler Street: Text
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Saddler Street: Image


The Baileys were gradually occupied by the houses of military tenants, thus bound to contribute to the defence of the Castle. Houses were thus held in captive by the Bishops of Durham so that useful services could be provided by the Tenants towards the Castle, such as defence, growing of food stock, and Castle Court duties. The stipulation of many house rents was the defence of house, room, and stabling in times of war. Major families which occupied the Baileys were the Claxton, Hansard, Davie, Hedworth and Bowes families. It is recorded that at No 4 South Bailey was where the Bowes and Siddels once resided [19].



Saddler Street: Text
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Saddler Street: Image
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Saddler Street: Image

In North Bailey were once the homes of 'famous' local 'sportsmen'. At No 7 North Bailey was once 'Jevons House' now demolished [36]. It was owned by John Guy who was Champion Prize fighter, M.P., racehorse owner, and Durham colliery owner. Also in North Bailey was the home of John Fawcett, Chairman of Durham County Bench of Magistrates, and a noted breeder of greyhounds (the name of each dog beginning with the letter 'F')

A view into the relative prosperity of the inhabitants of those residing in the peninsula is that of Barnabas Hutchinson who in his will dated 11th December 1633 gave 20s a year to the poor of the North and South Baileys to be paid at the feast of St Michael and at Easter. This cost was charged to his home in Queen Street (now Owengate) wherein he dwelt, to pay the same for ever [22]. This was distributed at 13s 4d to the North Bailey and 6s 8d to the South Bailey.

The Scots army under Robert de Brus came south of the Anglo-Scottish border in August 1312. After causing much devastation they crossed the Tyne and attacked Durham, seizing everything possible and then firing into the town. In the following year Bishop Kellaw (1311-1316) ordered an inquisition into the value of properties to be removed near the Northgate, in preparatory to the reconstruction of the North Gate barbican. Those who survived the attack petitioning the King in 1315 for permission to erect a town wall.

Within these boundaries the shape and style of the houses within, have altered little in the last 150 years. Many older buildings still remain, and these will be now discussed.

The two churches down in the Baileys are Mary the less and Mary le Bow (which have sometimes been known as Church of St Mary in the North Bailey and the Church of St Mary in the South Bailey).

Saddler Street: Text

Church Mary the less

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Saddler Street: Image

Church Mary le Bow

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Saddler Street: Image


St Mary the less was founded in 1150, destroyed in 1841 and rebuilt on the same spot [5]. The Rectory was held in sequestration from 1572 to 1742 or rather the profits were so small that whoever had the keys of the church left to him by his predecessor became minister without let or hinderance [22]. In the church yard was an excellent copy from an old, coped tomb. Author (Ornsby) states "How comes it that we seldom see these antient memorials made the objects of imitations. These are examples in endless variety and their superiority to the vulgar headstones which crowd our churchyards is too obvious to require a comment" [21].


It is hard to see now that St Mary the less was of Norman origin as its features ''were almost obliterated in the restoration of 1847 - 9, save the round headed window opening on the south of the chancel. The original chapel was built on the orders of the Nevilles of Brancepeth in the 12th century [44]. The Elizabethan woodwork is worthy of note. This rebuilding was done by the Nevilles on the original foundations in the Neo-Norman style. Mary the less became the Chapel of St John's college in 1918 [12]. In 1966 the double parish was united with St Oswalds by the new footbridge.

Close to Cosin's Almhouses, but in Owengate, was a Whitesmiths shop where John William Henry Lambton, father of the illustrious John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, served his apprenticeship as a Smith preparatory to becoming a Freeman of Durham. The house with the distinctive white/black markings is the only Tudor house in Durham where one can see the whole Tudor building [3]. (Most of the others have been covered with 'newer' buildings).

Saddler Street: Text


St Mary the less was founded in 1150, destroyed in 1841 and rebuilt on the same spot [5]. The Rectory was held in sequestration from 1572 to 1742 or rather the profits were so small that whoever had the keys of the church left to him by his predecessor became minister without let or hinderance [22]. In the church yard was an excellent copy from an old, coped tomb. Author (Ornsby) states "How comes it that we seldom see these antient memorials made the objects of imitations. These are examples in endless variety and their superiority to the vulgar headstones which crowd our churchyards is too obvious to require a comment" [21].


It is hard to see now that St Mary the less was of Norman origin as its features ''were almost obliterated in the restoration of 1847 - 9, save the round headed window opening on the south of the chancel. The original chapel was built on the orders of the Nevilles of Brancepeth in the 12th century [44]. The Elizabethan woodwork is worthy of note. This rebuilding was done by the Nevilles on the original foundations in the Neo-Norman style. Mary the less became the Chapel of St John's college in 1918 [12]. In 1966 the double parish was united with St Oswalds by the new footbridge.

Close to Cosin's Almhouses, but in Owengate, was a Whitesmiths shop where John William Henry Lambton, father of the illustrious John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, served his apprenticeship as a Smith preparatory to becoming a Freeman of Durham. The house with the distinctive white/black markings is the only Tudor house in Durham where one can see the whole Tudor building [3]. (Most of the others have been covered with 'newer' buildings).

Saddler Street: Text

One of the few Tudor buildings still visible - this one is in Owengate

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Saddler Street: Image

Plaque marking the site of the theatre that stood at 44 Saddler Street

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Saddler Street: Image

Hatfield college is on the site of the Angel Inn [11] (other references say the Red Lion [3] & [44]). Inside the College gates is the Chapel built in 1853 built just after the College opened [44].

The Chapel of Hatfield College was erected in 1853 and opposite are the Assembly Rooms (of ill contrast with the older buildings in the vicinity). This was the site of the old Dancing Rooms where the Duke of Wellington was entertained by the Prince Bishop. Sir Walter Scott was present and recorded this great occasion.

The theatre at No 44 Saddler Street was erected in 1791 by subscription. It was a commodious structure with an elegant Grecian facade of the one-time pay box and entrance. This still survives today as does the narrow vennel alongside [15].

The theatre at No. 61 Saddler street had a manager of note in Mr Stephen Kemble, whose sister Mrs Siddons frequently appeared [3]. Stephen Kemble, who was 30 stone, was buried at the Cathedral. He was known for his portrayal of Falstaff without padding.

Drury Lane leading off Saddler Street is named after a theatre that stood there from 1771-1791. At the rear of the previous premises of Grey's the outfitters, there can be seen a little building that once was the stage with the natural gallery formed by the hillside.

There were two newspapers published every Friday in 1827. The Durham Chronicle (est. 1820) by J.H. Veitch at the head of Elvet Bridge and the Durham County Advertiser (est. 1814) by Francis Humble in Queen Street or Owengate. On the east side of Saddler Street is the shop of the Durham County Press where the city paper, the Durham County Advertiser was printed and published for many years. It is now printed on premises lower down the Street just off Moatside Lane. Beginning in 1812 as the Newcastle Advertiser it became the Durham County Advertiser, Literary, Commercial and Agricultural Gazette after being acquired by well-known county men as a Tory organ. It was sold at 7d because each copy bore a Government stamp.

There were also two subscription new rooms, one in Saddler Street and the other in the Market Tavern “both well supplied”[ 22].

There was two other Libraries besides the one of the Dean and Chapter on the Palace Green. The Mechanics Library in Saddler Street was established in 1825. Members had access on every Monday and Thursday evening from 7 o'clock to 9 o'clock. The Subscription Library in Saddler Street was established in 1802. The first stone of this replacement library was laid 4th April 1821 on the site of old Gaol [22], and this new building was opened in 1827.

Saddler Street: Text

Subscription library at the corner of Saddler Street and Owengate

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Saddler Street: Image

Small vennel courtyard that houses small businesses with no mustard in sight

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Saddler Street: Image


Along the vennel running north off Saddler Street are buildings that surround a small courtyard. This is perhaps where Ainsley made his mustard in the 19th century. The houses as usual are stone on the ground floor and timber framed on the upper floors. Mrs Clemens also ground mustard at a mill behind No 73 Saddler Street (or Fleshergate) [19].


The New Exchequer buildings were erected in 1830-1840 and have a direct link with the Prince Bishop's. The Durham Court of Chancery, which went on operating after the Palatinate rights were taken over by the Crown in 1836, is a relic of the ancient powers exercised by the Count Palatinate. It is an original and independent court against which no appeal can be made from the equity side except to Parliament. (Equity is a system of law suspending common and statute law). The only other Chancery Court is in Lancaster [3].


The building that is now used as a Mission Hall was at one time linked by an overhead bridge with rooms on the other side of the street, used by Salvation Army Citadel. The Durham City Corps (No. 156) of the Salvation Army was one of the earliest established in the country. It was housed in a cellar under the shops of Elvet Bridge being known 'as the 'Old Glory Shop'. Later the Corps had a building in Claypath since removed by the new Sunderland road. It later crossed the river and occupied the old Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Old Elvet until it moved to its present premises in Saddler Street in 1925.

Durham County Council had their first offices at these Exchequer buildings. The first Clerk was Ralph Simey, and he had the assistance of only four “youths”.              

The Post Office originated from the site of the old Golden Lion Hotel in Saddler Street and opened in December 1880. Telephones were installed in 1898 [16]. When the Post Office moved in 1927 to Claypath the building became the Ministry of Employment Exchange. Opposite the previous site of the Post Office in Saddler Street was the City Library. Before the Library moved there it was the City Police Offices before the amalgamation in 1920 of the City Force with the County Constabulary.

Magdalene steps could be named after the nearby medieval hospitium. It was originally an enclosed vennel that was opened up and the steps built-in 1895. Another reference [44] suggests the name is derived from a “Maudlingyld house”.

Saddler Street: Text


St Mary the less was founded in 1150, destroyed in 1841 and rebuilt on the same spot [5]. The Rectory was held in sequestration from 1572 to 1742 or rather the profits were so small that whoever had the keys of the church left to him by his predecessor became minister without let or hinderance [22]. In the church yard was an excellent copy from an old, coped tomb. Author (Ornsby) states "How comes it that we seldom see these antient memorials made the objects of imitations. These are examples in endless variety and their superiority to the vulgar headstones which crowd our churchyards is too obvious to require a comment" [21].


It is hard to see now that St Mary the less was of Norman origin as its features ''were almost obliterated in the restoration of 1847 - 9, save the round headed window opening on the south of the chancel. The original chapel was built on the orders of the Nevilles of Brancepeth in the 12th century [44]. The Elizabethan woodwork is worthy of note. This rebuilding was done by the Nevilles on the original foundations in the Neo-Norman style. Mary the less became the Chapel of St John's college in 1918 [12]. In 1966 the double parish was united with St Oswalds by the new footbridge.

Close to Cosin's Almhouses, but in Owengate, was a Whitesmiths shop where John William Henry Lambton, father of the illustrious John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, served his apprenticeship as a Smith preparatory to becoming a Freeman of Durham. The house with the distinctive white/black markings is the only Tudor house in Durham where one can see the whole Tudor building [3]. (Most of the others have been covered with 'newer' buildings).

Hatfield college is on the site of the Angel Inn [11] (other references say the Red Lion [3] & [44]). Inside the College gates is the Chapel built in 1853 built just after the College opened [44].

The theatre at No 44 Saddler Street was erected in 1791 by subscription. It was a commodious structure with an elegant Grecian facade of the one-time pay box and entrance. This still survives today as does the narrow vennel alongside [15].

The theatre at No. 61 Saddler street had a manager of note in Mr Stephen Kemble, whose sister Mrs Siddons frequently appeared [3]. Stephen Kemble, who was 30 stone, was buried at the Cathedral. He was known for his portrayal of Falstaff without padding.

Drury Lane leading off Saddler Street is named after a theatre that stood there from 1771-1791. At the rear of the previous premises of Grey's the outfitters, there can be seen a little building that once was the stage with the natural gallery formed by the hillside.

There were two newspapers published every Friday in 1827. The Durham Chronicle (est. 1820) by J.H. Veitch at the head of Elvet Bridge and the Durham County Advertiser (est. 1814) by Francis Humble in Queen Street or Owengate (or even ####). On the east side of Saddler Street is the shop of the Durham County Press where the city paper, the Durham County Advertiser was printed and published for many years. It is now printed on premises lower down the Street just off Moatside Lane. Beginning in 1812 as the Newcastle Advertiser it became the Durham County Advertiser, Literary, Commercial and Agricultural Gazette after being acquired by well-known county men as a Tory organ. It was sold at 7d because each copy bore a Government stamp.

There were also two subscription new rooms, one in Saddler Street and the other in the Market Tavern “both well supplied”[ 22].

There was two other Libraries besides the one of the Dean and Chapter on the Palace Green. The Mechanics Library in Saddler Street was established in 1825. Members had access on every Monday and Thursday evening from 7 o'clock to 9 o'clock. The Subscription Library in Saddler Street was established in 1802. The first stone of this replacement library was laid 4th April 1821 on the site of old Gaol [22], and this new building was opened in 1827.

Along the vennel running north off Saddler Street are buildings that surround a small courtyard. This is perhaps where Ainsley made his mustard in the 19th century. The houses as usual are stone on the ground floor and timber framed on the upper floors. Mrs Clemens also ground mustard at a mill behind No 73 Saddler Street (or Fleshergate) [19].

The New Exchequer buildings were erected in 1830-1840 and have a direct link with the Prince Bishop's. The Durham Court of Chancery, which went on operating after the Palatinate rights were taken over by the Crown in 1836, is a relic of the ancient powers exercised by the Count Palatinate. It is an original and independent court against which no appeal can be made from the equity side except to Parliament. (Equity is a system of law suspending common and statute law). The only other Chancery Court is in Lancaster [3].


The building that is now used as a Mission Hall was at one time linked by an overhead bridge with rooms on the other side of the street, used by Salvation Army Citadel. The Durham City Corps (No. 156) of the Salvation Army was one of the earliest established in the country. It was housed in a cellar under the shops of Elvet Bridge being known 'as the 'Old Glory Shop'. Later the Corps had a building in Claypath since removed by the new Sunderland road. It later crossed the river and occupied the old Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Old Elvet until it moved to its present premises in Saddler Street in 1925.

Durham County Council had their first offices at these Exchequer buildings. The first Clerk was Ralph Simey, and he had the assistance of only four “youths”.              

The Chapel of Hatfield College was erected in 1853 and opposite are the Assembly Rooms (of ill contrast with the older buildings in the vicinity). This was the site of the old Dancing Rooms where the Duke of Wellington was entertained by the Prince Bishop. Sir Walter Scott was present and recorded this great occasion.

The Post Office originated from the site of the old Golden Lion Hotel in Saddler Street and opened in December 1880. Telephones were installed in 1898 [16]. When the Post Office moved in 1927 to Claypath the building became the Ministry of Employment Exchange. Opposite the previous site of the Post Office in Saddler Street was the City Library. Before the Library moved there it was the City Police Offices before the amalgamation in 1920 of the City Force with the County Constabulary.

Magdalene steps could be named after the nearby medieval hospitium. It was originally an enclosed vennel that was opened up and the steps built-in 1895. Another reference [44] suggests the name is derived from a “Maudlingyld house”.

Saddler Street: Text
Saddler Street: Welcome

Lost businesses

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]

North of England Café Co

Café in 1923, and the site of the new building housing the Co-op bank in 2023 at 5 Saddler Street

Fred Doherty, Livery Maker at 6 Saddler Street

Morgan & Saynor, Electrical engineer and plumber in 1923

Nkd Bird, restaurant in 2023 at 32 Saddler Street

Bee Hive, Public House in 1923

Waceland, clothing outlet in 2023 at 34 Saddler Street

Grey and Son, Tailors in 1923

Circle Vintaage, clothing store in 2023 at 41-42 Saddler Street

A Ellis, Chiropodist in 1923

Zizzi, restaurant in 2023 at 43 Saddler Street

Cathedral View, Souvenirs in 1923

Georgian Window, Souvenirs in 2023 at 50 Saddler Street

Art Shop, Fancy goods and art lessons in 1923

Hatters, Cafe in 2023 at 51 Saddler Street

E Brooke & Sons, Fruiterers and Florists in 1923 at 52 Saddler Street

F Bellward, Millinery in 1923

Waterstones (University branch), bookseller in 2023 at 55 Saddler Street

Bainbridge, Dressmaker in 1923 at 57 

Saddler Street

Buffalo Head Inn, Public House in 1923

Site of previous La Tasca restaurant at 59 Saddler Street

T Rushworth & Sons, Carvers and picture guilders in 1923

Urban Base, Estate Agents and Lettings in 2023 at 61 Saddler Street

J Spencer Adamson, Photographer in 1923

Waterstones (main branch) in 2023 at 69 Saddler Street

J.F. Hillier & Son, Pianos in 1923

Edinburgh Woolen Mill, clothing in 2023 at 71 Saddler Street

Andrew and Co, Bookseller (est 1808) in 1923

Newcastle Building Society in 2023 at 73-75 Saddler Street

Tailors Arms, Public House in 1923

Bells fish restaurant in 2023 at 79

Saddler Street

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