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Durham – Did you know…?
In medieval times Durham was a major centre of both political and ecclesiastical power, mainly due to its strategic importance near the border with Scotland. County Durham was a palatinate, ruled by Prince-Bishops who had secular authority and considerable autonomy from Westminster, minting their own coinage, dispensing their own justice and with the right to maintain their own armies. Every Bishop of Durham from 1071 to 1836 was a Prince Bishop except for the first Norman-appointed bishop Walcher, who was an Earl-Bishop. (The term Prince Bishop, while a useful one, is not one which the Durham Bishops themselves would have recognised.) Henry VIII curtailed some of the Prince-Bishop's powers, and smashed the shrine of Cuthbert in 1538. Finally, the public climate surrounding the Great Reform Act of 1832 removed the Bishop's extraordinary powers.
In 1832 the University of Durham was founded, which has several buildings on the peninsula and on Elvet Hill on the other side of the river. The 19th century also saw Durham grow as a centre of the coal mining industry. The first Durham Miners' Gala was held in 1871, and remains a popular annual event.
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