In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described County Durham like this:
Durham.-- co. palatine and maritime co., in N. of England; is bounded N. by the Derwent and the Tyne, beyond which is Northumberland; E. by the North Sea; S. by the Tees, beyond which is Yorkshire; and W. by Cumberland and Westmorland; greatest length, 48 miles; greatest breadth, 40 m.; length of coast line, 32 m.; area, 647,592 ac.; pop. 867,258. The western portion of the co. consists of hill-ranges, enclosing fertile valleys; the eastern portion, in which the prevailing rocks are magnesian limestone and new red sandstone, is more level; in the central districts are the coal measures. ...
In the valleys, and in the neighbourhood of the rivers, especially the Tees, the soil is very fertile. The chief corn crops are wheat and oats; the chief green crops are potatoes and turnips. A hardy breed of horses is raised on the moors in the west, and in the fertile pastures of the valleys a breed of cattle which is unsurpassed for dairy purposes. (For agricultural statistics, see Appendix.) The principal mineral products are lead, iron, millstone, and coal. The coalfields are the most important in the kinngdom. The principal mfrs. are chemicals, glass, and earthenware; shipbuilding and sail-making; paper-making; woollen and worsted stuffs, &c. There are also large ironworks and machine factories. Durham has great facilities of transport. The co. comprises 4 wards, 269 pars., the parl. and mun. bors. of Darlington, Durham, Gateshead, Hartlepool, South Shields (1 member each), and Sunderland (2 members), the greater part of the parl. and mun. bor. of Stockton (1 member), and the mun. bor. of Jarrow. It is entirely in the diocese of Durham. For parl. purposes it is divided into 8 divisions, viz., Jarrow, Houghton le Spring, Chester le Street, North-Western, Mid, South-Eastern, Bishop Auckland, and Barnard Castle, 1 member for each division.
For an overview of how the county has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern of County Durham -- but you should check this covers the area you are interested in.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of County Durham | Map and description for the county, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 23rd May 2013
Click here for more detailed advice on finding places within A Vision of Britain through Time, and maybe some references to other places called "County Durham".