"Durham is, unquestionably, one of the most impressive sights in Europe. Yet the motorist travelling on the A1 within a mile and a half of its centre can easily fail to notice the place at all, for it lies in a bowl of hills and is screened from the road by modern ribbon development. Perversely enough it is from the railway, which has ruined so many English cities - from the Flying Scotsman and the Talisman gliding by over the viaduct - that the best grandstand view is to be had of the complex of Norman castle and cathedral lining the promontory above the river and the small grey town below."
The Companion Guide to Northumbria. Edward Grierson. 1976.
One of the Wear's oldest bridges, it was originally built in the 12th century at the order of Bishop Flambard and rebuilt about 1400 after a flood. The present bridge was widened in the mid 19th century. Since the 1970s it has been pedestrian only but prior to that traffic from North Road crossed the bridge and went up narrow Silver Street to the Market Place where for some years before closure and the opening of the New Elvet bridge in 1976, traffic was controlled by a policeman in a small police box. The bridge is Grade 1 listed.
From the bridge the castle and cathedral form a backdrop and there are riverside walks on each bank. The bridge once had a chapel and fortified gatehouses and towers. A third arch is hidden under Silver Street's buildings. A 1960s view of the bridge and cathedral is shown below.