Robert Surtees, Antiquarian 

Robert Surtees was born in Durham in 1773. He was educated at Kepier School in Houghton – le – Spring (founded by Bernard Gilpin in 1574 and still going strong although in more modern premises!) before attending Christ Church, Oxford. He studied law but never went on to practice law instead opting to become a celebrated English historian and antiquary of his native County Durham. He spent most of his adult life at Mainforth Hall, near Sedgefield (the building was demolished in 1964 – http://www.lostheritage.org.uk/houses/lh_countydurham_mainsforthhall_info_gallery.html). He married Anne Robinson or Herrington in 1807 and had no children.He will be most remembered for his encyclopaedic work The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham, published in 1816. The four volume tome is a descriptive history of most of the historic County Durham compiled from original record preserved in public repositories and private collections. He began this gargantuan labour in 1804 and the final volume was published, posthumously in 1840.

Robert suffered from sustained ill health throughout much of his life. He complained of a cold in January 1834 and following complications he died on 13th February 1834 with his wife by his side. He was buried at Bishop Middleham churchyard.

I managed to get an early edition of the first volume a few years ago and I’ve shared a few photographs below which give a flavour of its contents (totally biased towards Sunderland!). The full four volumes can be read online here https://archive.org/details/historyantiquiti03surt along with many other digitised historical publications. Well worth a look!

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