Early Beginnings

What began as 21 local municipalities in the counties of Ontario, Northumberland and Durham, eventually became known as The Regional Municipality of Durham.

A brief history
Choosing a name
The Region of today

A brief history

The Regional Municipality of Durham's Coat of Arms.

The Regional Municipality of Durham's Coat of Arms.

By proclamation in 1788, Lord Dorchester, as Governor-in-chief of British North America, divided the Province of Upper Canada into districts.

In July 1792, John Graves Simcoe (the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada), issued a proclamation dividing Upper Canada into 19 counties, including Ontario County. This county was created as an electoral division, with representation in the government of Upper Canada.


In 1798, the counties of Northumberland and Durham were included in a group named the Home District. They were then separated from this group in 1802 to form the District of Newcastle, which roughly comprised the counties of Northumberland, Durham and part of Peterborough, Victoria, Hastings and Ontario County to North Simcoe.

Local government was introduced in 1841 via the Act of Union. This meant administrative powers were given to a district council, which was made up of a warden (who was appointed by the Governor) and councillors who were elected by their respective townships.

One of the earliest families in the Durham area was the Baldwins of Clarke Township. An offspring, Robert Baldwin, became a premier of Upper Canada in the 1840s. He would later become “father of responsible government in Canada,” via the Baldwin Act of 1849, and this Act laid the foundation for Ontario’s system of municipal government. This act gave counties the role of an upper-tier municipality.

Under one of the provisions of this Act, Northumberland and Durham counties, which formed part of the old Home District with Upper Canada, became a united county.

Ontario County, part of which is now included in Durham Region, was united with York and Peel counties for a two-year period in the early 1850s. On Dec. 30, 1853, Ontario was separated from the others, and from that date until the present, the County of Ontario and the United Counties of Northumberland and Durham has remained unchanged.

Tools to create the Region's corporate seal on items.

Tools to create the Region's corporate seal on items.

Choosing a name

When Colonel Simcoe divided the districts into counties, he named Northumberland and Durham after two adjacent counties in the North of England. Simcoe himself was born in the English County of Northumberland. And, Durham was a county in England that had been named by Simcoe.

Downtown Beaverton, which is part of Brock Township.

Downtown Beaverton, which is part of Brock Township.

The Region of today

One of the many farms in Durham Region.

One of the many farms in Durham Region.


One of Durham Region's walking paths down by a river.

One of Durham Region's walking paths down by a river.


A family enjoys a canoe trip on Lake Scugog.

A family enjoys a canoe trip on Lake Scugog.


The waterfront trail in Ajax.

The waterfront trail in Ajax.


A Durham Region Transit bus.

A Durham Region Transit bus.

In the late 1960s, the Province of Ontario noticed a large population growth (mainly attributed to the post-World War II baby boom), which also meant increased density in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

And, as the GTA population grew, so did the need for expansion of existing water and sewer facilities, roads, and public transportation systems. As a result, it was determined that an upper-tier level of government should be formed, within various locations across the GTA, to provide and streamline additional services.

Durham Region was created on Jan. 1, 1974, under The Regional Municipality of Durham Act, 1973. The Act had received royal assent on June 22, 1973. The name Durham was chosen over names such as McLaughlin, Oshawa and Pickering. And, the first meeting of Durham Regional Council was held at G.L. Roberts Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Oshawa, on Oct. 15, 1973.

The new bill introduced an upper-tier level of government, which would house eight area municipalities, now known as: the cities of Oshawa and Pickering, the towns of Ajax and Whitby, the Municipality of Clarington, and the townships of Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge.

Plus, it created the largest geographical jurisdiction in the GTA, encompassing an area of just under 2,600 square kilometres (1,000 square miles).

Stretching from Pickering in the west, Newtonville in the east, and Lake Ontario in the south, Durham Region reaches as far north as Lake Simcoe.

Today, Durham Region is one of six Regional governments in Ontario. The others are Halton, Niagara, Peel, Waterloo and York.



Family enjoying activities in Durham Region.

Families enjoy activities in Durham Region.