SSNS Funding – Durham Research Trip

SSNS Funding – Durham Research Trip


A brief summary of a research trip to Durham by Avery DeMarco, which was funded by SSNS through a PG/EC Research Grant. 

Below is a brief report, authored by Avery DeMarco (University of Aberdeen), on a research trip to Durham undertaken with the support of SSNS through its Postgraduate/Early Career Research Grant.

My Research trip to Durham to view the collections at both Durham Cathedral University libraries proved successful in achieving early research goals. This trip provided me with an overview of the libraries’ collections and access to out-of-print material that may not be readily available at other universities or libraries. Experiencing the culture of Durham and its connection to the Community of St Cuthbert, who are central to my research, also aided in my understanding of their history and development.

I spent the first two days researching at the Durham Cathedral Sharp Library, which houses the main collection of the Cathedral. I looked at modern research to develop a historiographical understanding of the early Christian presence in Northumbria. My two primary sources were Margaret Gallyon’s The Early Church in Northumbria and G.B. Thornton’s Gods, Saints, and a Scholar. These books both provided overviews of the early interaction between Christians, both Celtic and Roman, and early English, and how these people influenced the cultural development of the north. Thorton’s work proved especially useful, as he focused on both the literary and archaeological aspects of the development of Christianity from the Roman occupation to the adoption of Christianity by King Oswald of Northumbria. In all, these two aided in developing research focusing on the Christian presence in this region long before the official missions by both Rome and Iona.

The next two days were spent at Durham University’s Palace Greene Library, where I was able to research the collection of manuscripts held jointly by both the University and the Cathedral, along with the history of the Benedictine library of the Cathedral. Sadly, the manuscripts I was planning to view were in poor condition, but despite this I was able to get more out of my time at Palace Greene than I expected. The Manuscript Books Draft Catalogue that is held by the University contains an extensively detailed list of all the Cathedral’s manuscripts, alongside details of where to research them further. I used the list to both gain an understanding of the earliest manuscripts in the collection and create bibliographic reference to scholarship that details the history of these artifacts. Alongside this, I also viewed A.J. Piper’s pamphlet ‘The Libraries of the monks of Durham,’ which contained a history of the Benedictine’s collection of books. While not within my research period, it aided in my understanding of how and why certain manuscripts form the early English period survived. What was even more valuable was the ability to then go to the Cathedral and view the places where the library was held, something that proved invaluable to my understanding of history.

In all, this trip was a remarkable success both in the research I was able to carry out and the development of the theories that will aid in directing my studies. I am grateful for the support offered by Scottish Society for Northern Studies and their benefactors.

– Avery Demarco, 28 June 2023

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