Fri 22 Nov 2019 06:26

This Saturday the Blood and Sand host Darlington Mowden Park, the Wanderers and 3rd XV currently have the week off (unless they have organised friendly games I am not aware of).

Darlington is of course the largest town in Country Durham, the land of the Prince Bishops. The unique role of the bishops of Durham dates to 684 when King Ecgfrith of Northumbria to Cuthbert on his election to the See. Cuthbert was of course later canonised. His shrine is at Durham Cathedral of Christ, The Virgin Mary and St Cuthbert.

After the Norman Conquest Durham was nominally placed in Northumberland - but in practice the Bishop continued to exercise authority. At the end of the 13th Century Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots wanted to regularise the courts. Running a local court and keeping the fees and fines was a important source of revenue and the King wished this to come to his coffers.

The Bishop was summoned by the Sheriff of Northumberland - but took his case direct to the Parliament who affirmed Durham's position as a County Palatine - with the Bishop answerable only to God and the King. Although somewhat constrained by the Tudors, the special status was not rescinded until the nineteenth century.

The Palatine status also meant County Durham was not separately represented in Parliament - other than the Bishop sitting in the House of Lords. Durham only gained MPs in 1648 when the city gained one and the County two. Darlington did not get separate representation until after the reform acts.

Darlington Mowden Park trace their history to 1946 when old boys of the grammar school returning from service started to organise ad-hoc rugby matches. Darlington Grammar School Old Boys were formally admitted as a member club of the RFU by 1950 - playing on the school fields - though they eventually acquired their own club house.

However, by 1970 with more schoolboys disappearing to further education, the club - like so many others - was forced to go open to survive. Their club houses was due to be demolished for a ring road and the school was threatened with merger into a comprehensive.

To survive the club bought land that had belonged to Mowden Hall - formerly home to the Pease family,the bankers who had backed Stephenson - and to reflect their new status changed the club name first to Mowden Park and later to the current form Darlington Mowden Park in order to ensure everyone knew their home town -though it does occasionally lead to confusion with the town's other club Darlington - which had been the senior club in the town until 2005 but now play down in Durham and Northumberland 2.

Their final move was to sell the ground in Yiewsley Drive to housing developers and buy the Darlington Arena - originally built for the towns soccer club. They have been at the arena for six years now.

They run three regular men's side with league commitments, plus development and vets XVs playing ad hoc. They also have a ladies section playing in the Tyrell's Premier and Mini and Youth sections.

Cambridge won both games against Darlington MP last season. So they are a team we know how to beat. If we can repeat the ferocity we showed at Moseley maybe we can record our first bonus point win at home this season.

Do come down and roar the boys on to victory.

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