Durham is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in North East England. The county town is Durham. The county has an industrial heritage and its economy was historically based on coal and iron mining. It is an area of regeneration and promoted as a tourist destination.
The culture of coal mining found expression in the Durham Miners' Gala, which was first held in 1871, developed around the culture of trade unionism. Coal mining continued to decline and pits closed. The UK miners' strike of 1984/5 caused many miners across the county to strike. Today no deep-coal mines exist in the county and numbers attending the Miners' Gala have decreased significantly over the period, although recent years have seen numbers increase, and more banners return to the Gala as former collieries restore former banners. There have been calls for several years now, that the labour leader follows tradition and attend the event. Despite being an MP with a constituency in the area, Tony Blair resited calls to stand on the balcony of the Royal County Hotel as his peers have done for hundreds of years. Gordon Brown has yet to buck the trend set by his predessor.
The territory that became known as County Durham was originally a liberty under the control of the Bishops of Durham. The liberty was known variously as the "Liberty of Durham", "Liberty of St Cuthbert's Land" "The lands of St. Cuthbert between Tyne and Tees" or "The Liberty of Haliwerfolc".
The bishops' special jurisdiction was based on claims that King Ecgfrith of Northumbria had granted a substantial territory to St Cuthbert on his election to the see of Lindisfarne in 684. In about 883, a cathedral housing the saint's remains was established at Chester-le-Street and Guthfrith, King of York granted the community of St Cuthbert the area between the Tyne and the Wear. In 995 the see was moved again to Durham.
Following the Norman invasion, the administrative machinery of government was only slowly extended to northern England. In the twelfth century a shire or county of Northumberland was formed, and Durham was considered to be within its bounds. However the authority of the sheriff of Northumberland and his officials was disputed by the bishops. The crown still regarded Durham as falling within Northumberland until the late thirteenth century. Matters came to a head in 1293 when the bishop and his steward failed to attend proceeedings of quo warranto held by the justices of Northumberland. The bishops' case was heard in parliament, where he stated that Durham lay outside the bounds of any English shire and that "from time immemorial it had been widely known that the sheriff of Northumberland was not sheriff of Durham nor entered within that liberty as sheriff. . . nor made there proclamations or attachments". The arguments appear to have been accepted, as by the fourteenth century Durham was accepted as a liberty which received royal mandates direct. In effect it was private shire, with the bishop appointing his own sheriff. The area eventually became known as the "County Palatine of Durham".
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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