In the northern city of Durham, the River Wear snakes around to carve out a U-shaped peninsula. This was an ideal natural defense for both the city’s medieval Norman castle and cathedral. Today, one can stroll along the banks of the river in a three-mile circular walk, taking a little over a mile. Nestled between the St. Leonard’s School Boat Club to the north, and the 18th-century stone Prebends Bridge to the south is a rather odd-looking structure with no information provided as to its purpose or meaning.
Google Maps lists this monument as “Stone Gargoyle Chair” but it goes by many other names. Many locals refer to it as “The Storyteller’s Chair,” as it is used as a place for teachers to sit when giving lectures to children on a variety of subjects in and around the river. It is also referred to as “The Peace Seat” or “Order and Chaos.” But Colin Wilbourn, the artist who made the piece, called it “Kathedra.”
Wilbourn is an English-based multidisciplinary artist who focuses on sculptures. He says the piece is meant to represent the idea of sanctuary. The work makes reference to the Bishop’s throne of judgment or cathedra, which is normally located where there is a Cathedral of a Diocese. “Kathedra” is one of two sculptures Wilbourn made during his time as artist-in-residence at Durham Cathedral in the late 1980s. His other piece, which was entitled “The UpperRoom,” was unfortunately dismantled after it fell into a dilapidated state.
Know Before You Go
The statue is near Prebends Bridge. From South Bailey, exit to the left and follow the slope to the Count's House. Turn right at the river and cross under the bridge. The chair is adjacent to the footpath.