The history and antiquities of the county palatine of Durham, England
The human genius knows not a nobler effort than that of collecting the various events of distant times, and placing them in such successive order and arrangement, as to exhibit a perfect delineation of the rise and progress of states, the civilization of mankind, and advances of science By the labors of the historian are transmitted the great vicissitudes which have attended on human affairs, and the knowledge of those principles which influenced the prosperity, as well as decline of empires; from which affecting examples, wisdom forms her noblest precepts. In such a review we become interested in the fate of the several personages, who first attempted to release mankind from darkness and babarism, and our hearts participate the joy of those, whose wisdom tamed the ferocity of savage habits, and cultivated the human mind in the school of science and the liberal arts.
>br?Whilst through oral tradition alone interesting events were communicated, history was dark and uncertain; affected by the fortunes of men, and suffering mutilation by the fall of states, much obscurity frequently enveloped the most important changes; for before the invention of letters, public monuments were the chief means of saving the greatest achievements of nations, and the most wonderful acts of providential interposition from oblivion.
To such we are obliged to resort, when we discuss those distant aeras, in which letters did not prevail, or in countries where they had not acceptation.
The work of the historian, in the first ages of literature, was laborious and unpleasant; much depending on the uncertain definition of emblematical images, and mysterious traditions; whilst a retrospection through uncultivated ages, with the progress of ignorant and uncivilized nations, furnished disagreeable scenes. It is some happiness to us, that compassionate angels have withheld the humiliating picture from our eyes.
A multitude of records lies before me for the present work: It is a field in which I am the first adventurer: The toil of arranging such a chaos of materials, will, I flatter myself, prevail with every liberal mind to overlook errors and inadvertencies, into which I may have fallen. So far as progress is made, I have at least opened the passage to some abler pen, that may perfect the work.
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Durham is a maritime county, and takes its name from the city of Durham; commonly called the bishoprick, and sometimes the county palatine.
The description given by Camden is to the following effect: "It lies north of Yorkshire, and is shaped like a triangle, the apex or top whereof lies to the west, being formed there by the meeting of the north boundary and the head of the river Tees: The southern side is wholly bounded by the course of the Tees: The nothern side, from about the point of the angle, forms a line to the river Derwent, and then is bounded by "that river" (till it receives the rivulet called Chopwell or Milkburn,) and so full north to the river Tyne: The basis of this triangle, to the east, is formed by the shore of the German ocean."
Modern geographers have laid down the abuttals so variously, that in regard to the north-west point, we can in general only say the river Tees totally separates the county of Durham from Westmoreland and Yorkshire, and a very narrow point of Cumberland intervenes between that river and the confines of Northumberland, a space in which the proprietors are not well ascertained of their real boundaries. On the other sides, Camden's description is accurate.
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Their permanent habitations were in the forests, crowded together without order or regularity. The village, or rude assemblage of huts, was defended by a mound of loose stones, piled up in a ridge, which was strengthened by a ditch on the outside, and logs of timber heaped up in confusion, by way of barricade, formed the out-work. One of these fortifications m this county, shall hereafter be described, the rampart of which it is not easy even at this day to climb. Their summer huts being erected for the convenience of pasturage, consisted of a few poles, placed in a circular form, wattled with branches, and covered with turf.