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Towns in County Durham
Chester-le-Street Business Directory

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Chester-le-Street<< back to towns

Chester-le-Street has a history dating back to the Romans, when there was a fort called Congangium. The main road in the area ran from Newcastle through Chester-le-Street south through Durham. Many artefacts from Chester-le-Street and the fort, found during archaeological excavations, many are now hosed at the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle.

In 883 AD the Monks of Lindisfarne brought St Cuthbert’s coffin from the Island to Chester-le-Street. The first Cathedral was built in Chester-le-Street where, for 112 years it was to be a shrine to St Cuthbert until, in 999 Ad, his coffin was once again moved by the monks to Durham Cathedral, where the shrine has remained and can be found today.

The world famous Anglo-Saxon illuminated manuscripts, 'The Lindisfarne Gospels', were also brought to Chester-Le-Street by the monks in AD 883 and it was here that a priest named Aldred who translated the Gospels from the latin script in to 'Old English'. They became one of the most important manuscripts in the development of Christianity in the British Isles. The Lindisfarne Gospels are normally on display at the British Library in London, but from 7th October 2000 - 7th January 2001, they were on view in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle Upon Tyne. The original Lindisfarne Gospels are now back on display at the British Library in King's Cross, London.

Two facsimile copies of the Lindisfarne Gospels were produced by Swiss Company - Faksimile Verlag Luzern and in 2003 one was presented to the Dean & Chapter of Durham Cathedral as a gift from the British Library, the other was presented to the Heritage Centre on Holy Island'. The production of these facsimile copies and the research behind them will now benefit scholars and historians the world over and is on display to the general public. In March 2005 a further facsimile was placed in St Mary & St Cuthbert's Parish Church, Chester-le-Street. This was achieved through public subscription and donations and the endeavors of the local Heritage Trail Society. The Gospels are on display to the general public whenever the church is open and under trust of the Ankers House Museum.

Chester-Le-Street remained a principal town of the County of Durham, one of the largest ecclesiastical parishes, a centre of legal, administration and manorial functions. From the 14th century the church was a college of clergy who provided the Bishops with their civil service. This was also a neighborhood which provided the county with two of its leading gentry and later peerage families, namely the Lumleys and the Lambtons; who had a powerful influence on the political and economic affairs of the county between the 14th and the 19th centuries. John George Lambton (1792 - 1840) became the first Earl of Durham and also the first Governor General of Canada. Both of these families built castles in the area, and Lumley Castle is now an exclusive hotel. Lambton Castle is still private.

The population of Chester-Le-Street through the 16th to 19th centuries was about 1000. Then in the middle to late 19th century the extraordinary upheaval of the Industrial Revolution occurred and Northeast coal was in great demand. As a result Chester-Le-Street area saw the most radical changes to peoples lives, based on industry rather than agriculture. By 1880 the population had risen to 6700 and by 1900 to almost 12000 as the coal mines expanded in the Chester-Le-Street district. In addition to the mines, further employment was brought to the by a brewery, engineering works, toffee manufacturer, a dress factory and a bus depot, as well as local shops.

Part of Chester-Le-Street's heritage, is the current day Anker's House which is annexed to the beautiful parish church of St Mary & St Cuthbert. This was the home of the Anchorites, who lived in the area in ages past, as religious and holy men, living their lives in prayer and meditation. They depended for survival on the generosity of the local people, whom they repaid with kindness, advice and help. This heritage is preserved by the Anker’s House Museum, one of the United Kingdom's smallest museums, which maintains on display, various aspects of mediaeval and Anglo-Saxon history, also antiquities dating from the Roman occupation of the region. The museum is open daily throughout the summer providing added historical interest of the towns' heritage for the benefit of local people and visitors.

Today Chester-Le-Street is a quiet dormitory town, with a population of approximately 22,500. As with most areas of the North East all the coal mines and factories have closed and many new housing estates have been developed. In addition Chester-Le-Street is the focal town for the surrounding villages, and has a thriving outdoor market which is held weekly on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. The town has the River Wear flowing through and the Riverside Development has made it an attractive play and leisure area for locals and visitors. The Durham County Cricket Club also have their ground and leisure facilities here and with the A1(M) motorway, the main railway line to Edinburgh and London and Newcastle Airport nearby, it is proving a desirable place to live in the 21st century.

The song of the Lambton Worm One Sunday morn young Lambton went a-fishin' in the Wear; An' catched a fish upon his huek, He thowt leuk't varry queer, But whatt'n a kind a fish it was Young Lambton couldn't tell. He waddn't fash to carry it hyem, So he hoyed it in a well.

Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs, Aa'll tell ye aall and aaful story, Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs, An' Aal tell ye 'bout the worm.

Noo Lambton felt inclined to gan An' fight in foreign wars. He joined a troop o' Knights that cared For neither wounds nor scars, An' off he went to Palestine Where queer things him befel, An' varry seun forgot aboot The queer worm i' the well.

But the worm got fat an' growed an' growed, An' growed an aaful size; He'd greet big teeth, a greet big gob, An' greet big goggle eyes. An' when at neets he craaled aboot To pick up bits o'news, If he felt dry upon the road, He milked a dozen coos.

This feorful worm wad often feed On calves an' lambs an' sheep, An' swally little bairns alive When they laid doon to sleep. An' when he'd eaten aal he cud An' he had has he's fill, He craaled away an' lapped his tail Seven times roond Pensher Hill.

The news of this most aaful worm An' his queer gannins on Seun crossed the seas, gat to the ears Of brave an' bowld Sir John. So hyem he cam an' catched the beast An' cut 'im in three halves, An' that seun stopped he's eatin' bairns, An' sheep an' lambs and calves.

So noo ye knaa hoo aall the folks On byeth sides of the Wear Lost lots o' sheep an' lots o' sleep An' lived in mortal feor. So let's hev one to brave Sir John That kept the bairns frae harm Saved coos an' calves by myekin' haalves O' the famis Lambton Worm

Noo lads, Aa'll haad me gob, That's aall Aa knaa aboot the story Of Sir John's clivvor job Wi' the aaful Lambton Worm


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