Travels with Richard Armitage: To Deeming’s Durham


(This is the second in a series of planned posts exploring the cities, towns and counties inhabited by RA and his ChaRActers . . . your comments and additions are very welcome, too!)


Durham (Photo credit: williamsdb)

Durham at Night

Durham at Night (Photo credit: sokabs)

In the northern part of England lies  County Durham, bordered by the counties of North Yorkshire to the south, Cumbria to the west and Northumberland to the north. And in the northeastern portion of this county you will find the city of Durham, This is the county town of the larger ceremonial county and hometown of the enigmatic rebel, Ricky Deeming, leader of the 60’s motorbike gang, the Durham Defenders.

It’s a part of England where practically every village once could boast of its own coal mine, where mustard making and carpet weaving were among the  important industries.  Once possessing a thriving population of many medieval weavers, Durham in the 19th century became the home of Hugh McKay Carpets, famed for its axminster and tufted carpets until its closure a few years ago.

This 1963 photo of early morning in the County Durham town of Hartlepool offers an image that likely was familiar to Ricky.

Ricky Deeming, Geordie biker from Durham, played by Richard in "George Gently."

Long before the TGV in France, the Transiberian Railroad or bullet trains in Japan, there was the very first train to make the first journey on the first public railway in the entire world. And it happened on Sept. 7, 1825 in the little County Durham town of Darlington. Locomotive #1 carried nearly 600 passengers at an astonishing average speed of 12 mph. And the world was never the same.

County Durham is also home to the world’s first railway bridge, the Causey Arch, built in the mid 1720s. For more than 30 years, it was the longest single span in Britain. This simple, graceful arch was considered the most ambitious feat of engineering since Roman times. Contrary to local legend, it’s unlikely the stone mason of the arch, fearing it would collapse like the previous timber bridge, actually jumped from it to his death. But it makes for a colorful story.

Causey Arch over Causey Burn. A previous timber bridge collapsed, but Causey is still standing after nearly 300 years. In the '80s, the bridge was restored and reinforced. A nearby quarry is popular with rock climbers.

The River Wear winds through the county and city, and Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle sit high on the banks overlooking the river. The beautiful cathedral, considered one of the finest examples of Norman architecture, is better known as “Hogwarts School” to many fans of the Harry Potter films.

Durham Cathedral, aka "Hogwarts School," overlooking the River Wear.

Right next door to the cathedral is Durham Castle, an 11th century Norman motte-and-bailey structure which is the home of University College, Durham. It’s the only college entirely confined within a castle’s walls and the only Norman castle keep that never was breached.

Durham Castle, home to 100 students of University College, Durham.

The Great Hall of Durham Castle dates back to the early 14th century, and was long presided by the Bishop of Durham. Today university students and faculty eat their meals here.

Now owned by the National Trust, Washington Old Hall, located in the Durham mining village of Washington, is the ancestral home of America's first president. A portion of the manor house dates back to medieval times. Washinton Old Hall also features a Jacobean garden and wildflower fruit orchard. It plays host to school groups, community and corporate events and weddings.

The newest member of the Durham Defenders has undergone a ceremonial dunking by its leader, Ricky, in the chilly surf of Seaham Beach.

A beautiful shots of the waves crashing along the coast of Seaham.

Seaham Beach on the northeast coast of County Durham is renowned for its “end of the day” sea glass. In Victorian days, a bottler was located nearby and bits of glass left over “at the end of the day” were dumped over the cliff and into the sea. Collectors have come from far and wide to seek out this gift from the sea, with the colorful pieces of  vintage sea glass  often used to make unusual jewelry.

More fun facts about Ricky Deeming’s home county:
In 1720 Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe in the ancient town of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. Gateshead was largely destroyed by fire in the mid- 19th century. Not long afterwards, a Gateshead house became the first home in Britain to be lit using electric bulbs. Gateshead,Tyne and Wear is also the home of the contemporary steel sculpture The Angel of the North.

Defoe penned his classic novel in Gateshead.

The Angel of the North, designed by Antony Gormley and completed in 1998, is now frequently used by film and television productions to represent Tyneside.

*Stockton-on-Tees has the widest high street in England, at at No. 58 you will find the shop where a chemist invented the first friction match in 1827. Stockton is also the birthplace of famed furniture maker Thomas Sheraton.

*The first “keep fit” class for housewives in England was held in Sunderland in 1929. Sunderland FC was also the first football club to tour overseas, visiting America in 1894.

*During the Napoleonic Wars, a French warship was wrecked offshore from Hartlepool and the only survivor to reach land was the ship’s monkey. The citizens manhandled the poor monkey into the village square and hanged him as a spy.

*High Force on the River Tees, near Middleton, with a drop of 70 feet, is not the highest, but it is the biggest waterfall in England in terms of water flow.

The spectacular High Force waterfalls.

There is a lot more to learn about Ricky Deeming’s home county. Use the links provided for further reading. The information shared in this post came from Christpher Winn’s I Never Knew That About England supplemented by Wikipedia.

9 responses »

    • Thanks, KG. I ended up working on it off and on for three days. We had storms throughout the night last night triggering the weather radio alarm on several occasions. Needless to say, it was not a restful night. So I was a bit of a zombie today. 😉 Thank goodness we escaped any damage but Pike County to our south, where we attended university, got lots of high wind damage to homes and structures that may have been a tornado.

      I really enjoy looking up the photos on the various places in Durham. I would love to go hunting for sea glass at Seaham! As with teaching, I find writing a blog is also a learning experience.

  1. Very interesting. All of those Mills remind me a little of old pics of Pittsburgh! I’m glad those images in both places are history! The rest of the pictures are beautiful! Thanks for the travel log! Can’t afford to go any more! But I still enjoy learning about new places!

    • Durham has some really beautiful scenery, that’s for sure. 😀
      Many of the mills that thrived in Birmingham, once known as the Pittsburgh of the South, are gone now, too. It used to have some of the most polluted air in the nation, as I recall.

      I remember how much my late MIL used to love watching the Travel Channel. Her health and finances didn’t allow her to travel much, but she so enjoyed visiting places armchair-style. 😀

  2. Thank you Angie, what a great and informative post! A friend of mine’s daughter is currently studying Maths at Durham University. I had no idea the University was located within the Castle, how cool is that? Fantastic!Interesting story about the bridge! I really want to go and visit these places… Maybe one day…Btw, I’ve always thought the match was invented by a Hungarian, János Irinyi, so after reading your post, I googled it and apparently Irinyi “only” invented the noiseless match ten years after John Walker of Stockton-on-Tees invented the friction match in 1826! Every day you learn something new, so thank you for this, Angie! 🙂 Sorry to hear about the high wind damage in your neighbouring county!

    • You’re welcome, Judit. Yes, apparently Walker lost interest in his invention after just a few years, but as Christopher Winn said, Walker had the initial spark. 😉

      At least it doesn’t appear anyone was injured or killed in the storm damage in Pike County. One older lady said she hid behind the sofa with a pillow over her head and prayed hard.

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