Aldhun (DNB00)

ALDHUN, or EALDHUN (d. 1018), bishop of Durham, a monk of noble family, was appointed to the Bernician see of Chester-le-Street, Durham, in 990. In order to escape the ravages of the Danes, Aldhun, accompanied by the whole body of his monks, left Chester in 995, and carried the body of St. Cuthberht to Ripon. This migration was, according to Simeon of Durham, the result of a divine warning. After the departure of Olaf to Norway England enjoyed a respite from invasion. Seeing that the danger was past, Aldhun with St. Cuthberht's body left Ripon after a stay of three or four months. He and his monks did not take the straight road back to Chester-le-Street, but went to Werdelau Hill to the east of the present city of Durham. There the carriage which bore the incorruptible body of the saint stuck fast. From this it was inferred that it was the will of St. Cuthberht to remain there. Unfortunately the place was uninhabitable. It was, however, revealed to one of the brethren that the body was to be taken to Durham. The choice, whether it was made by Aldhun or his patron, was a wise one, for the place was very strong. It cost no small pains to make it fit for the habitation of the bishop and his monks. Only one level spot was there in the neighbourhood where men could drive the plough. There Aldhun at once began to raise a large and stately church of stone. All the rest of the land was covered with trees. Uhtred, the Northumbrian earl, and all the people from the Coquet to the Tees, came to help the monks. The trees were grubbed up, dwellings were built, and in three years' time (998) the church was consecrated, and received the body of the saint. Thus it was that after 113 years Chester-le-Street ceased to be the see of the Bernician bishop; and thus Aldhun planted church and city on the height above the Wear in a place of strength which has in no small degree affected the history of the bishopric. Many and rich gifts were made to the church of Durham during the episcopate of Aldhun. Some lands, however, were alienated to the Northumbrian earls to help them in times of need. Aldhun had a daughter named Ecgfreda, whom he married to Uhtred, son of Waltheof, the earl of Bernician Northumbria. On her marriage the bishop granted to her husband six of the estates of his church, to be held by him so long as he lived with his wife. Uhtred gained great glory by a victory over the Scots, and was made earl of both the Northumbrian earldoms. He was now rich enough to resign the bishop's grant. He sent Ecgfreda back to her father, and restored the estates which he had received with her. Both he and Ecgfreda married again. Aldhun is described as religious, humble, and gracious in word and deed. In 1018 the whole strength of the Bernician earldom was destroyed at Carham by Malcolm, king of Scotland. Nearly all the thegns of the north fell in the battle. When Aldhun heard of the piteous slaughter of the people of his bishopric, he prayed that he might not survive them longer. He fell sick, and in a few days he died. One tower only of his new church remained unfinished at his death.

[Simeon of Durham, Hist. Dunelm. Eccl., De Ucthredo Comite, Hist. Regum.]

W. H.