Skip to content

Framwellgate Bridge

Framwellgate Bridge, Durham Castle and CathedralCLASS: Structure (Bridge)
PERIOD: 12th Century (c. 1128)
LOCATION: Durham City (NZ 272424) OS Explorer 308
ACCESS: Public
Framwellgate (or Framwelgate) Bridge was built circa 1128 on the orders of one of Durham's most colourful bishops, Ranulph (or Ralph) Flambard. It marked the first permanent crossing of the River Wear in Durham and as such was defended by a gatehouse and tower at the east end. Like many other bridges of the period, including Elvet Bridge, it also included its own chapel, in its case half way across.

Much of its structure was subsequently destroyed in a great flood of 1401 after which the present bridge (as seen from downstream) was rebuilt during the early part of Bishop Langley's tenure (1406-37). The bridge then had three spans (the eastern span is under the present day buildings and is shown from Thomas Girtin's painting of 1799 to have had a Norman arch).

Before nearby Milburngate Bridge was built in the 1960s Framwellgate Bridge was one of the main routes into the city. To cope with Durham's growing population, the tower and gatehouse were demolished in 1760 and the 27 metre roadway was subsequently widened from 6.2 to 8.6 metres in 1856.

The Pevsner Architectural Guide to the buildings of County Durham describes the bridge we see today quite simply thus:

"Two tremendously wide elliptical arches, of three orders, closely ribbed."

In December 1318 the Bishop of Durham's steward Richard FitzMarmaduke was murdered on Framwellgate Bridge while on his way to hold the County Court by Robert Neville 'the Peacock of the North' and his brother John. Robert was later slain at Berwick by James Douglas known as 'the Black Douglas'. John was eventually pardoned for his part in the murder.