Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When Bishops Were Soldiers and Taxmen

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

When Bishops Were Soldiers and Taxmen

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tony Henderson

Environment Editor Tony Henderson visits a centre of power and prayer.

About 3,000 people congregated in the grounds of Auckland Castle in County Durham as the BBC's Antiques Roadshow came calling a week ago.

No doubt most would have been clutching their treasures and hoping for good news.

But inside and around the castle in Bishop Auckland, the visitor can be sure of striking it rich.

The castle, seat of the Bishops of Durham, is more of a residence and ecclesiastical centre.

Inside, the eyes of, literally, the great and good look down from the many portraits of bishops from the last 500 years.

The castle stands strategically above the River Wear, which meets the River Gaunless near the castle.

It has long been a centre of power as well as prayer.

Only the king carried more political weight than the Prince Bishops of Durham. Their power ( handy for defending England's northern frontier ( included the right to raise an army, pass laws, levy taxes and mint coinage.

Anthony Beck, bishop in 1283, took an active part in Edward I's wars and what is thought to be his sword is held in the castle.

Many of these activities would have been directed from Auckland Castle, which was the bishops' principal country seat.

William van Mildert, bishop from 1826-36 and the last of the Prince Bishops, founded Durham University in 1832.

He gave what had been the bishop's main residence, Durham Castle, to the new university as its first college. Auckland Castle is now sole residence of the Bishop of Durham and also his office and the diocesean administration centre.

The imposing gatehouse, which fronts Bishop Auckland Market Place, was built in the mid-18th Century and houses a 15th Century clock.

Parts of the castle date are 800 years old.

Bishop Hugh de le Puiset turned the fortified manor house on the site into a country seat in 1183.

Additions over the centuries have produced an intriguing complex. …

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