JARROW. A TALE OF BRITAIN THEN AND NOW BY STUART MACONIE.

I’m reading a book on my kindle which involves history, the working class and is centred in my own region , so I am enjoying myself. [You see how up to date I am, no dog-eared paper- backs for me]   The book is very well written. Jarrow is a few miles from where I was born in Sunderland. There was a time when both these towns were in County Durham but for some reason that I fail to understand they are now in Tyne and Wear. There has been no geographical earthquake, Jarrow is still on the south bank of the Tyne and Sunderland is on both banks of the River Wear. Its probably down to some administrative convenience. 

    Jarrow and Monkwearmouth,( the district of Sunderland on the north bank of the river ) have a relationship going back many centuries. In AD 674 Benedict Biscop gave land on the north bank of the River Wear to build a monastery, from that time to the present day that district of Sunderland incorporated the word monk into its name, becoming Monkwearmouth. This is where I went to school although at the time I had no idea that the reputation for great learning went back eleven hundred years. King Egfrith of Northumbria gave a grant of land in AD 674 to Benedict Biscop to build a monastery on the banks of the River Wear. St. Peter’s was so successful that the King gave Benedict more land and in AD 682 St. Paul’s was built on the bank of the River Tyne. These two monasteries were always considered as one foundation though geographically about seven miles apart. Benedict Biscop appointed Ceolfrith as the superior and with twenty monks he left St. Peter’s  to start the foundation in Jarrow.  Builders in stone and glass-makers from France to create a building to glorify God. Benedict Biscop died in AD 689 and was buried in St Peter’s church.

    His  student Bede began to write a complete edition of the bible in Latin. This bible,’ the Codex Amiatinus ‘ was presented to Pope Gregory 11, it is now the world’s oldest complete Bible and is now housed in Florence. Bede continued to write his work was thoroughly researched in Greek and Latin texts. Most of Bede’s work was written in Latin at that  time the language of the Christian Church, he was a skilled linguist and translator. His book, ” The Ecclesiastical History of the English People”  was the first book written on this subject. Bede is therefore regarded as the Father of English History, he also made a great contribution to English  art and literature. Such is the high regard that the Catholic Church has for Bede’s work that in 1899 Pope Leo XIII declared him  a Doctor of the Church, the only native of Great Britain to achieve this honour.

     The author goes on to describe the towns he passes through as they are today and the people he meets on the road. He wonders how much the north-south divide continues to exist. My own understanding from the number of jobs offered in the London area and the paucity of jobs in the north-east, the divide seems to be as strong as ever.

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