I spent a very happy year in Durham in North-East England whilst my husband finished his theology studies at St John’s College, Cranmer Hall. We had some friends who lived in a tiny cottage just beyond Prebends Bridge, which is the crossing closest to the furthermost point of the loop in the River Wear upon which the ancient city of Durham stands. From the bridge you can see one of the most famous views of Durham. This same view was painted by J M W Turner (above), who depicts the weir and fulling mill on the river bank far below the Galilee Chapel at the west end of the Cathedral, with a distant Framwellgate Bridge seen through the mist.
I used to enjoy pausing to lean on the parapet of Prebends Bridge, admiring the scene and reading these lines by Sir Walter Scott inscribed there, in fact the view is sometimes known as ‘Scott’s view’.
Grey towers of Durham
Yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles
Half church of God, half castle ‘gainst the Scot
And long to roam these venerable aisles
With records stored of deeds long since forgot.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) – from ‘Harold the Dauntless’, a poem about Saxons and Vikings set in County Durham (1816)
Durham was a wonderful place to live and is well worth a visit. I fully agree with the author Bill Bryson, the current Chancellor of Durham University, who writes in his book ‘Notes from a Small Island’:
I unhesitatingly gave Durham my vote for best cathedral on planet Earth.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
An English Romantic landscape painter, watercolourist and printmaker born in Covent Garden, London. He was considered a controversial figure in his day in both technique and subject matter, but is now regarded as the artist who popularised landscape painting and is commonly known as “the painter of light”. His work is regarded as a forerunner of Impressionism. Although his oil paintings are most well known Turner is also one of the masters of British watercolour landscape painting. Turner travelled widely in the UK and Europe, initially to France, to study in Paris and Switzerland, as well as making many visits to Venice. In later years he became increasingly known for his eccentricity. Turner’s last words were said to have been: “The sun is God” and he is buried, at his request, in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.