A Tale of England
Kynren is a tale of England, seen through the eyes of Arthur, the young son of a mining family from
the north east. The story begins when, dreaming of becoming a professional footballer, Arthur
accidentally kicks his ball through a window of a hunting lodge in the grounds of Auckland
He encounters the Bishop, who urges him to think beyond football alone, and offers to take him on a
journey of 2,000 years of British history and legend, opening his eyes to the greatness of his
The opening scene echoes an event that really did take place in the 1880s, when a young cleric’s
exuberant kick ultimately led to the Bishop banishing football in the Castle grounds. This prompted the
birth of ‘The Blues’ – Bishop Auckland FC – the most successful amateur football club of all
The Gatehouse of Time
By passing through the Gatehouse of Time, the young Arthur is able to journey through history.
The Gatehouse on the Kynren stage is a replica of the Robinson Arch which marks the formal entrance to
the grounds of Auckland Castle, a Grade-I listed building built by Thomas Robinson in 1760 for
Joseph of Arimathea
Having offered his own tomb for the burial of Jesus following the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea
went on to became a missionary.
Legend has it that he travelled to England carrying the Holy Grail
and his pilgrim’s staff. Arriving at Glastonbury, he struck his staff in the ground at Wearyall
Hill; the following morning it had taken root and blossomed into a flowering thorn tree, the Holy
Knights of the Roundtable
The legend says that Joseph of Arimathea buried the Holy Grail beneath Glastonbury Tor and went on to
found the first Christian monastery, which later became the Abbey, whose majestic ruins stand to
this day as a scheduled ancient monument.
The young Arthur in Kynren is named after King Arthur, whose principal quest, with his Knights of the Roundtable, was to find the Holy Grail. It is said that his final resting place is Glastonbury – also known as Avalon.
The Little Centurion
In Kynren, you see young Arthur as a Roman Centurion fighting in honour of Emporer Constantine.
Remains of Roman Britain lie at our feet - Dere Street, one of the six Roman roads in the country
crosses the Kynren site, connecting Bishop Auckland to Binchester Roman Fort and town (Vinovia)
where excavations are still in progress today.
The famous Hadrian’s Wall was the northernmost frontier of the mighty Roman Empire for nearly 300
years, stretching 73 miles from Solway on Cumbria’s west coast to Wallsend in the east, punctuated
with impressive milecastles, barracks, ramparts and forts, many of which can still be seen today.
The building of the Wall commenced in AD122 when the Emperor Hadrian was in Britain and took six
years to complete.
Hadrian’s time in England was followed almost two centuries later by another great ruler, Constantine,
who came over on campaign against the Picts in AD306. While he was in York, his father died and he
was proclaimed Emperor, prompting his return to Rome.
“Non Angli sunt, sed angeli”;
“They are not Angles, but angels"
So said Pope Gregory allegedly, when
he first encountered pale-skinned English boys at a slave market, sparking his dispatch of
a Benedictine monk, St. Augustine, to England in AD585 to spread Christianity throughout this pagan
land. (St Augustine later became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.)
St Aidan, an Irish monk from Iona, founded a monastery on Lindisfarne in Northumberland in AD635,
with St Cuthbert becoming Bishop of Lindisfarne in AD685. But rather than live there, he preferred
the solitude of the Farne Islands amongst the sea birds, where he died a hermit a year later. The
Lindisfarne Gospels, a beautifully illuminated manuscript produced in around AD700 in St Cuthbert’s
honour, is on display in the British Library.
The Dream of Durham
When the Vikings raided Lindisfarne in AD793, the monks fled with St Cuthbert’s coffin. Their journey
was a long and hard one, but they successfully brought the relic to its final resting place in
Durham, where the Cathedral stands today.
The Battle of Stamford Bridge was the last battle fought by Vikings on English soil. King Harald
Sigurdsson, the Viking King successfully invaded the city of York. He had 300 ships and 9,000 men,
and marched them north to Stamford Bridge where he didn’t expect to be challenged - but King Harold
Godwinson surprised him there. A single Viking held the bridge, killing all the English soldiers who
tried to pass, until one got under the bridge and speared the Viking from beneath. This allowed the
English army to cross and vanquish the Vikings. The few surviving Vikings sailed home in just 24
Three days after the battle of Stamford Bridge, William, Duke of Normandy landed his army on England’s
south coast unopposed. King Harold’s exhausted Anglo Saxon forces had to march south from Yorkshire
at speed, by which time William’s forces had moved inland into strong defensive positions. Harold’s
army encountered the fierce Norman troops on October 14th and the famous battle of Hastings began.
Harold’s eye was pierced by an arrow, killing him. His troops dissipated and William became known
thereafter as ‘The Conqueror’.
On Christmas Day 1066, William was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey, thus putting an end
to the dispute for the crown of England, which began when Edward the Confessor promised it to
William in 1051, a promise which was construed rather differently by others, especially Harold
The Great Medieval Festival
Anthony Bek was elected Bishop of Durham in 1283. He relocated his main residence from Durham Castle
to Auckland Castle thanks to its proximity to his vast hunting estate – which included the land on
which Kynren is now staged.
It subsequently became the Palace of the Prince Bishops, who were charged with defending the
kingdom’s boundaries to the north and were held as powerful as the King of England, with the ability
to mint their own coins and raise their own army.
The chapel that provides the backdrop to Kynren was originally the Great Hall, a place of merrymaking
and entertainment in medieval times.
In 1346, the Prince Bishop and his knights were called to help the King of England fight the Normans
in France; with their attention taken away from defending the northern border, the Scots took this
opportunity to attack; an army of 12,000 men wreaked havoc through Northumberland, arriving at the
outskirts of Durham on 16th October.
An English army of around 3,000 men was mobilised from the northern counties of Cumberland,
Northumberland, Lancashire and Yorkshire, camping overnight in the park at Auckland Castle before
taking on the Scots at Neville’s Cross on the north east edge of Bishop Auckland. Despite being far
fewer in number, the English outmanoeuvred the Scots, who fled back to Scotland.
The Field of the Cloth of Gold
In June 1520, Francis I of France invited Henry VIII to meet in a valley near Calais, aiming to
enlist his support against Charles V, the new Holy Roman Emperor, to help preserve peace in
Over the course of 16 days, the two kings indulged in jousting, games and festivities, accompanied by
their queens and courtiers, all attired in gold, velvets, silks and decorated with sumptuous
embroidery, pearls and jewels. The valley became known as the ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’ as a
testament to the extravagance and riches on display.
The Queen and the Poet
The great poet and playwright, William Shakespeare, was born in 1564 during the reign of Elizabeth I.
He was supported by the patronage of many noblemen of the day, but his most famous patron was the
queen herself, a great lover of theatre. She was generous in her support and Shakespeare’s thespian
company was regularly invited to perform in the royal court. In Kynren, Elizabeth and Shakespeare
meet at Auckland Castle, as part of Arthur’s dream.
The Civil War of 1642-1649 was a complex and bloody rift between the Cavaliers, royalists loyal to
Charles I, and the Roundheads, parliamentarians seeking a constitutional monarchy. Charles I
believed he had the ‘divine right of kings’ to rule outright with disregard to Parliament who
represented the people of England.
Parliament on the other hand accused him of being a “tyrant, traitor and murderer; and a public and
implacable enemy to the Commonwealth of England”. Charles I was the first English monarch to be put
on trial for treason, and it ultimately led to his execution on 30 January 1649.
The Georgian period in the 18th century was a time of great change as the country shifted away from
the importance of kings and embraced the power of parliament. The economy moved away from
agriculture and became more centred on commerce and an emerging industrial core, facilitating great
wealth for some, while terrible poverty and working conditions were suffered by many.
The patronage of the wealthy facilitated the creation of great literature and poetry, classical architecture and fine art. Many of Britain’s great artists are associated with this period, adept at capturing the gentle beauty of the British countryside and depicting life as a rural idyll, despite the harsher reality. During
this period, Bishop Trevor established a large collection of religious art at Auckland Castle with
Francisco de Zurbarán’s ‘Jacob and his Twelve Sons’ collection of paintings which hang there
A train celebration
The Stockton Darlington railway was the first public railway in the world to use steam locomotives
instead of horse power, connecting to the collieries at Shildon, only a stone’s throw from Bishop
Auckland, to the port at Stockton-on-Tees from where the coal was shipped; passengers occupied the
front carriages, with coal wagons added on behind. George Stephenson, the engineer of the line, also
created ‘Locomotion’ with his son Robert, the first locomotive to run on it.
The official opening of the line took place on 27th September, 1825.
Trains and Mines
As the Industrial Revolution accelerated, coal became king in the North East of England. Entire
villages sprung up around the collieries and nearby towns around Bishop Auckland grew as the
importance of coal mining took hold. The coal from collieries such as Lambton, Dawdon, Lanchester
and Elemore was considered amongst the finest in the country.
However, the coal industry claimed the lives of many men and children who worked in the mines, both
through ill health triggered by appalling working conditions, and terrible accidents, such as the
Trimdon Grange explosion. The mining scene in Kynren is intended as a tribute to those who died as
they earned their daily wage.
Queen Victoria’s Jubilee
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 was a splendid affair, a ‘Festival of the British Empire’
with delegations coming from the far reaches of the world to celebrate the monarch’s 60 years on the
throne. At the time the British Empire covered more than a quarter of the world’s population and
over 14 million square miles of territory.
The highlight of the day was a six-mile procession through London, with delegations from colonial
countries and the Indian states sporting colourful national dress. The day was not only celebrated
up and down the country with street parties and festivities, it was also marked throughout the
The Christmas Truce
When war broke out in 1914, people were initially optimistic it would be a short campaign. It was not
to be. The battlefields of France and Belgium became mass graves as machine guns mowed down soldiers
the moment they raised their heads above the rat-infested trenches. It must have been an eerie sound
that greeted British soldiers on Christmas Eve 1914; the guns had fallen silent and the night air
carried the sound of carols, sung by German troops.
Seasonal greetings were exchanged across the opposing trenches and, on the morning of Christmas Day,
the British and German soldiers met and mingled in no man’s land, exchanging gifts and taking
photographs of each other, with some even playing impromptu games of football. They also took time
to bury their dead and repair their trenches. All too tragically, fighting resumed the following
The Miners’ Gala
The 1920s was a golden age, with a flourishing of prosperity after the First World War. The Miners’
Galas were highly anticipated annual celebrations, and none more so than the Durham Gala, which
became a national institution, and is still celebrated today on the second Saturday in July.
Everyone turned out in their finest attire and celebrated with their families and friends, meeting up
with people from the surrounding villages to celebrate with singing, dancing, processional bands and
parades, each mine proudly parading its ceremonial banner.
Their Finest Hour
There is no more poignant way to reflect on the sacrifice of World War II than through the sentiments
expressed in Sir Winston Churchill’s war-time speeches. Although his ‘Finest Hour’ speech in the
House of Commons on 15 August 1940 was made to inspire the pilots of the RAF to victory in the
Battle of Britain, it has come to reflect the pride felt in all those who gave so much in the
conflict overall. As German bombers caused devastation throughout the country, Middlesborough
miraculously escaped the bombing, said to have been protected by a thick fog sent by St
Hope and Glory
The closing scene in Kynren is a celebration of English history in all its colour and richness. We
have chosen Land of Hope and Glory as the chorus of our Finale music, a fitting and uplifting anthem
to celebrate all that is great about the British nation.