The King's England: County Durham

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The King's England: County Durham"There have been many books on County Durham, but never one like this”. Thus began the publishers’ advertisement for the first edition of this book, originally published in 1953. In their heyday, Arthur Mee’s guides were held to be "the indispensable companion of the Motor Age”, and, as such, Arthur Mee’s Durham provides a detailed picture of the beautiful county that lies "’twixt Tyne and Tees”, as it was at that time.

Many things have changed in County Durham since Arthur Mee’s day, however, with some of the places mentioned having been transformed by the coming of new towns, motorways, or the decline of traditional industries. Thus the guide, illustratd with over 70 period photographs of County Durham taken in the 1940’s and early 1950’sgives the modern reader the added perspective of seeing the tremendous change which has taken place in the area over the last forty years.

Yet, the photographs are only part of the book’s appeal: the author never fails to find some local anecdote, or present a familiar scene in a new way, as he relates the story of Durham’s towns and villages, and their inhabitants.

Durham, with its splendid Cathedral, figures strongly in the text, but we also hear of the many other gems the county has to offer: Wearside Escomb, with its tiny Saxon church; raby and the Vane family; Bishop Auckland and Brancepeth with their castles, and Blaydon, made famous by a song. Durham’s worthies also receive their due mention; not only Bede, whose "lamp of learning ... irradiated from the cell of Jarrow the Saxon realm of England with a clear and steady light” and St Cuthbert, but also more recent luminaries and visitors: Sir Walter Scott, listening to the ladies of Ravensworth Castle singing The Campbells are Coming "in a tone which might have awakened the dead”; Robert Surtees; Edward Pease, railway promoter of Darlington, and Billy Purvis, Clown and Jester of the North, whose tombstone declares”we shall not see his like again”.

Essential reading for all those who know and love the county, this facsimile reprint will appeal both to those who remember the author’s remarkable work, and those who have newly come to see the "Land of the Prince Bishops", through his eyes.

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