How Dun Cow Lane lead the Community of St. Cuthbert to Durham, and How the Lane has Changed Years Later
Cuthbert’s journey to Durham has two different variations, but one that is most popular is the story of Dun Cow. The way the story goes is that when the monks were making their journey back to Chester-le-Street, a small town in Durham, with the body of St. Cuthbert, the cart that had been carrying the coffin on this journey had stopped, and was unable to be moved. The leader of this small community at the time, Bishop Aldhun, had had a vision of St. Cuthbert wanting to be taken to “Dunholme”, but no one amongst them knew where this place was.
At that very moment, a cowgirl had passed by them and asked another young woman if she had seen a lost dun cow. This young woman said she had seen the cow go in the direction of Dunholme, and pointed in the direction the monks had been looking for. The monks heard their exchange and decided to follow the cowgirl in the direction of Dunholme. When they tried to push the coffin along with them, they found that the coffin could indeed move in that direction. They continued down that road and got to Dunholme, which now has the name of Durham.
Because of this encounter, the lane that the coffin had stopped in has been named Dun Cow Lane, and it takes the name from the Dun Cow that had helped to lead the community of St. Cuthbert to Durham back in 995.
At one time, Dun Cow Lane once separated the inner and outer Baileys. There had been a gate through the lane, as well as a gate in the middle. Today, Dun Cow Lane is much more accessible and leads to Durham Cathedral. Though, you can still see some remains of the wall incorporated into the Abbey House structure. But this is not one of the only attractions to see on this lane.
Although many people may not notice this, the building that the corner of Dun Cow Lane does have a quite intriguing architectural feature. This building has an angled corner. Many times, when buildings are located at an intersection, the corners will be angled in this same way so that they do not scrape across the corners.
Dun Cow Lane has many things to do and see, as well as much history to be learned through the Dun Cow that had led the way to Durham for the community of St. Cuthbert. There are many architectural and historical features to explore next time you pass through.