A little-known street with a host of history

FAMILIAR SIGHT: Colpitts Corner with its distinctive appearance

HOSPITAL: Allergate Infirmary

First published in Past Times by

ALLERGATE is one of the least known of Durham's Streets, but also one of the oldest where people have lived since at least the 1200s.

Along with Crossgate and Millburngate, it formed part of the "Old Borough" that belonged to the Priors of Durham in times gone by.

In appearance, Allergate closely resembles neighbouring Crossgate but is a much shorter street and there are no pubs.

Some houses in the street date from the 18th century, but there are some earlier features behind the facades.

One house of particular note is 22 Allergate - of great interest because it incorporates a late medieval timberframed building. In medieval times, this house stood on the very fringe of Durham's builtup area.

Timber framing in the house dates from the late 1400s or early 1500s and I believe the original roof timbers are still intact. A 17th century kitchen wing and late 18th century staircase were added later, at the rear.

Not far away, at 7 Crossgate, is a similar, but smaller, medieval building. This one has an 18th century rear staircase extension.

Of course, the timber framing in these houses is no longer on show today.

Allergate's name is something of a mystery. In early times, it was called Alvertongate or Allertongate, from some uncertain connection with the Yorkshire town of Northallerton.

Northallerton was formerly called Allerton or Alverton and the surrounding district, called Allertonshire belonged to the Bishops of Durham in medieval times.

Allergate could mean road to Northallerton, but this is a bit of a puzzle since the street has an east-west orientation.

Perhaps Allergate was once longer in extent, and was connected via Grape Lane or some other route to South Street, which was part of the ancient thoroughfare en route to Yorkshire.

It is possible that the name Allertongate was shortened to Allergate through association with the French "aller" meaning "to go".

Allergate is more or less an offshoot of neighbouring Crossgate and, where the two streets join, they are also joined by little Neville Street, which links Crossgate and Allergate to North Road.

North Road didn't come into being until the 1830s and Neville Street was built slightly later in the 1840s.

Neville Street is rather an attractive street for the 19th century, especially when it is compared to North Road.

Fortunately, it doesn't detract from the two earlier streets to which it is joined.

In times gone by, most of the houses in Allergate were situated on the north side of the street and behind them were long gardens and plots of land that terminated on the banks of the stream called the Mill Burn.

East Atherton Street now occupies most of this area and the stream now runs in a culvert beneath the ground.

The stream ran parallel to the land plots and was once the boundary between the Durham Prior's Borough of Crossgate and the Bishop's Borough of Framwellgate. In Victorian times, much of the land behind the houses on the south side of Allergate belonged to Durham's Poor Law Guardians who operated the Union Workhouse in Crossgate, but on this same side of the street Allergate had an institution of its very own.

This was Durham's old hospital or infirmary, established here in 1793. It originally opened as a dispensary in Silver Street in 1785, but proved such a successful venture that the trustees moved to the large Allergate site seven years later.

A wealthy benefactor presented them with the land - then occupied by a house and garden. Two surgeons served the hospital and there were two physicians. One of the physicians was William Cooke, who resided at Belasis House in the Quarryheads Lane area of the city.

The Allergate Infirmary served Durham for 60 years, but it was decided in about 1849 that a new, larger hospital was required.

This resulted in the opening of a new Durham Infirmary in open countryside to the north in 1853.

This building, built in Jacobean style is now the County Hospital in North Road.

At its western end, Allergate terminates at Alexandria Crescent, near the Colpitts Inn. The course of this crescent links Sutton Street and the upper part of Allergate with Crossgate Peth and Margery Lane. The crescent is now part of the A690, but in the 1850s it was an undeveloped country lane.

At the Colpitts, we have left Allergate and the medieval part of the city behind and once again entered the developments of the 19th century, near the entrance to Hawthorn Terrace and The Avenue.

In the early 19th century, a brick works stood near here and clay was excavated in the region of John Street near Hawthorn Terrace.

Neighbouring Cross Street was the site of the mill that became Harrison's organ factory.

The Colpitts pub and adjoining Colpitts Terrace date from the 1850s and are named from a local family who were public house proprietors in Durham City.

The first proprietor of the Colpitts Inn was George Colpitts but, at about the same time, John and Thomas Colpitts were respectively landlords of the Puncheon (later the Criterion) on Framwellgate Bridge and Wheatsheaf on Elvet Bridge.

John was also involved in brewing, while another Colpitts called James was proprietor of the lucrative True Briton coach service that transported passengers from the Waterloo Hotel in Old Elvet to Newcastle.

All three men hailed from the Bishop Auckland area.

The Colpitts family were no longer landlords of their eponymous pub at the end of the 19th century, but still operated the Criterion at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Colpitts family then described themselves as a wholesale and retail wine, spirit, ale and porter merchants involved in the bottling of Bass's ale and Guinness's stout.

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