Wear Valley was a local government district in County Durham, England, for over thirty years. Its council and district capital was Crook.
The district encompassed much of the Weardale area. In the west it was parished and rural, whereas in the east it was more urban.
The district was formed in April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, by the merger of the Bishop Auckland, Crook and Willington and Tow Law urban districts, along with Weardale Rural District.
The district stopped being a district as part of the 2009 structural changes to government in England, becoming part of the Durham County Council unitary authority.
After deciding on a new waste collection policy involving fortnightly collections under a Labour government in 2007, the local elections in 2008 turned the council over to Liberal Democrat control, who promptly reversed the policy – meaning that 15,000 of the £560,000 order for new tweenie waste bins sitting in a local farmers field at a cost of one grand per week.
Wear Valley had a population of roughly 65,000 in 2001.
Durham was founded by monks. A man named Cuthbert was once Bishop of Lindisfarne. After he passed away in 687 people claimed that miracles took place by his grave (people believed that dead bodies could work miracles). In 698 his body was exhumed and they discovered that it had not decomposed. Afterwards many people came to visit the body.
However in the 10th century the Vikings raided the coast of England. So in 985 the monks who kept Cuthbert's body decided to move from Lindisfarne to a safer location. For 10 years they wandered from place to place but eventually they settled at Durham.
The name Durham means hill on an island. It's derived from the words dun meaning hill and holmr meaning island. The body of Cuthbert still attracted visitors and a town grew up around it. It was a good location for a town as it was easy to defend. It also had an important attraction for visitors. The Scots attacked Durham twice, in 1006 and 1038 but both times they were driven away.
Of the three Durham Dales (Teesdale, Weardale and Derwentdale) Weardale, at the centre of the county is historically most closely associated with the Prince Bishops. Eastgate and Westgate, two small areas in the upper part of this valley once marked the edge of Stanhope Park, the Prince Bishop's hunting ground and it was here that the famous `Great Chases' were held. The Great Chases were the hunting expeditions, led by the Prince Bishops and were by all accounts grand occasions, celebrated with much pomp and pageantry. Such was the scale of the Great Chases that all the folk of Weardale were needed to provide hounds for the hunt, along with large quantities of food, wine and beer for the hunters.
The Weardale population was also required to help with building a large temporary hunting lodge, a chapel, a kitchen and a larder, which were all deliberately built for the `Great Chase'. Bishop Pudsey's Boldon Buke of 1183, (Durham's equivalent of the Domesday Book), gives a good insight into the preparation for a Great Chase, most significantly under entries for West Auckland and Stanhope. The following passages from the Boldon Buke mention the Great Chases and have been translated from the original text which was in Latin. The first relates to West Auckland;
"All the villeins of Aucklandshire, that is North Auckland and West Auckland and Escomb and Newton, provide 1 rope at the Great Chases of the Bishop for each bovate and make the hall of the Bishop in the forest 60 feet in length and in breadth within the posts 16 feet, with a butchery and a store house and chamber and a privy. Moreover they make a chapel 40 feet in length and 15feet in breadth, and they have 2s as a favour and they make their part of the enclosure around the lodges and on the Bishop's departure a full barrel of ale or half if he should remain away. And they look after the hawk eyries in the bailiwick of Ralph the Crafty and they make 18 booths at St Cuthbert's fair. More overall the villeins and leaseholders go on the roe hunt on the summons of the Bishop"