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Issue 7 - July 1972
The Canny Bits & The Alternative Durham

The original fountain statue in Durham Market Place used to be that of Neptune the sea god. Apparently a council of the last century decided that Durham should be a sea port and decided to dredge the river down to the sea and give out all the sales talk that councils do and they erected Neptune in the Market Place to prove it.

However the next council, or one of the next councils, thought different and removed yer Neptune and erected Londonderry. Londonderry was one of yer terds, yu know. He owned a lot of pits and even said that nine year old bairns enjoyed working in them, but no doubt he had his reasons?

Thus, Durham has bounced from one financial miscarriage to another. We managed to keep our heads above water, however, until about ten years ago, very little change from the coming of the conqueror to the advent of the bulldozer.

The river meandered and made all manner of oxbone dooberries and the course was extremely canny, then another councillor, a man, according to legend, named Icy Smith built some fish traps and dams in the river just below Durham, thus raising the height of the river above. Apparently, according to me dad (a canny lad) who lived in Spennymoor at the time of this happening, the river was raised considerably at Tudhoe and flooded the local ford and stepping stones there forever.

Below the dams the river course has altered considerably. Possibly for the worse as a lot of land has subsided into the river since.

Our mate 'Icy' (remember 'Icy'?), well he then took over the Ice Rink which was built by the Canadians just after the war and these fish traps and dams were then invaluable to his Ice Rink and they haven't been shifted yet.

Then came some other financial concern and bang went our free orchard and down came a footy ground. A vast expanse of river bank covered in fruit trees which was public property vanished beneath the crunch of footy boots. (Still that's culture!) Then came massive improvements on the surrounding countryside, Mr Leech leeched the land next to the footy ground and built houses on this land and chopped a few trees and built a few fences and all that kind of stuff and he certainly made a vast difference to the lay of the land. However, talking to a couple of yer local lads in the pub, these houses are built upon many a multitude of yer crunchy ethnic fresh water springs. Mr Leech tapped these springs and drained them, but the lads themselves say, with a quiet chuckle, "Aaaah, but they'll have problems with them before long." So there's hope yet? (chuckle chuckle).

Then there came a genius idea to make a bypass round Durham to take the traffic out of the congested Market Place. Yet somehow, the bypass seems to go straight through the town itself. It cuts Durham in two places in a mad loop, at Claypath and Gilesgate (the two hills immediately out of the Market Place). Any old ways, the Market Place is still congested and people still do battle with traffic every day to cross less than five yards of road at Silver Street.

Just out of the Market, towards the cathedral, behind the Bailey is an old theatre built during the days of Shakespeare. A dilapidated ruin even the locals don't know about; this is beyond repair but there would be no point repairing it any old ways, because the university reckon they're going to build behind this historic street. They have promised not to damage the appearance of the front of the street but still they'll be ripping off even more of Durham's skyline and medieval aura.

But still, there's plenty of jobs in Milburngate House - savings bank, files and figures factory. It is in the same building as the dole. And the dole just loves to send its customers up stairs into the ranks of files and typing pools of the National Savings Bank.

If people really want to work in a place like that, it shouldn't bother me, as long as they're not subtly forced to, by devious means of the Social Security and economic pressure and ego. But when it affects my skyline I do object. It really has made a horrible clash against old Durham. It is a huge monstrous concrete block, almost overshadowing the cathedral.

Now they say they're going to rip off more orchard to build luxury houses at Kepier. People do need houses but I wish they wouldn't build them to look so nasty and so that they look like the progressive scab that they really are (and population's another problem).

All Gilesgate is now covered with modern and council houses from the top of Gilesgate Bank to beyond Carville and the same is happening on the other side of the valley at Framwelgate; crawling over the hills and down the valley to the river where they probably meet in not so many years to come.

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