The history of the Durham Road, a route which has lasted for over 1000 years

The Durham Road, or officially known as the A690, connects Sunderland to the City of Durham. Spanning all the way from the city centre, it passes the Barnes, Humbledon Hill, Plains Farm, Farringdon, Thorney Close, Herrington, Houghton Le-Spring, the Raintons, Belmont and Gilesgate before entering the great Cathedral city itself.

Although seen as a modern creation, the current Durham Road is a continuation of the de-facto route that has linked the two areas for over 1000 years. Long ago, it presumably started off as a dirt track and later a cobbled road. Its function was to connect the Cathedral city with the village of Bishopwearmouth (which is where it ended) as in the age of Prince Bishops, all business and politics centred around the city of Durham itself, so it was important to get back and forth on horseback.

However, as the modern era emerged and commerce increased, no longer was the Durham Route suitable as a narrow country lane. In the year 1815, following the defeat of the French in the Napoleonic Wars, prisoners of war were used to carve out a greater space for the road in a narrow valley which it passed through, which we know today as the Houghton Cut. Over the coming centuries, this cut was widened again and again, first in the 1930s, and then again from 1968-1970.

Herein marked the construction of the Durham Road as we know it today, as modern motorways and dual carriageway roads were built throughout Britain. The Durham Road’s journey was thus one of a small country lane linking two settlements into one of the most significant routes in and out of Sunderland today, along with all the subsequent villages and towns which grew up on it.

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